I like viewing the arts.  Art varies in the eye of the beholder but I used to really enjoy watching our kids high school choir concerts.  They were always good because my kids were singing but sometimes they were just good.  I can listen to a symphony but I really prefer watching it as I listen to it.  I enjoy listening to opera but I really enjoy seeing it more.  There is a visual side to the auditory side that really enhances the experience.  Probably that’s why I enjoy live concerts wherever they might be found.  The visual enhances the experience. 

 

 

 

 

Of late I am wondering if I am attending a concert when I meet with God’s gathered and we engage in what we call worship?  I know that worship is more than music/singing.  I probably play that horn louder than most.  All of God’s people gathered is doxological.  I even think proclamation is doxological.  But specifically, I am wondering about what happens when God’s people gather and some form of music and singing is the focal point.  It feels a lot like I am watching a concert.  The musicianship is sometimes outstanding (okay sometimes it’s not great) but there are some talented people out there holding guitars, playing keyboards and singing into microphones.  The videography via powerpoint rivals National Geographic photography.  The sound systems are usually above adequate.  It reminds me of some concerts I have been to.  It’s auditory as well as visual. 

 

 

But is it worship?  I know the answer to every question in the 21st century is “it depends”.  Let me be bold and say “no”.  There’s a couple of reasons.  One of them is the simple understanding that in our tradition the centre of the worship is in the worshipping community.  As people sing, as people say “amen”, as people experience the presence of the Holy Spirit–there is worship.  If the centre is on the platform or at the front then we’ve moved the centre.  If people aren’t singing, then it’s moved from worship into performance art.  Another reason it might not be worship is because people are like the unlearned in 1 Corinthians 14, they don’t recognize the tune and because of that cannot say “amen”.  That’s a bad thing according to Scripture. Creativity is good, but if we are so creative that we move beyond the worshippers and their ability to enter in, we’ve lost worship.  Another reason is that we have simply outvolumed the worshipper with amplification and electronic systems.  No longer can the worshipper hear himself sing.  The speakers drown him out.  It’s not intended to but it silences the worshipper.   I think that devalues worship.  Maybe a final observation about worship in our faith communities is that we’ve lost the idea of leading the congregation in worship.  We invite people to stand, sit, lean, or “do whatever you feel to do”.  I think the choirs of heaven which are our doxological model are a little more disciplined than that.  As a worship leader, I need you to guide me into appropriate behaviour as I worship.  Inviting me to stand, or remain seated– is guidance.  Inviting me to sing quietly– is guidance.  Inviting me to praise God with a loud voice– is guidance.  Don’t leave me to do what I want to do.  I know where my heart is. 

 

 

So, is this a diatribe?  Or a lament?  Or a chastisement?  Or an appeal to some common sense?   I appeal to the congregant.  You ARE there to express ultimate glory to a Holy God.  It’s His expectation, not your personal gratification.  I appeal to the worship leader.  You are there to lead people to throne of the Holy God.  It’s not “their” problem if they don’t worship.  An old friend of mine used to remind me that a teacher hasn’t truly taught until the student has truly learned.     A worship leader hasn’t truly led until the worshipper has truly worshipped. 

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