Music has always been a point of contention in the church.
Hundreds of years ago church members argued over singing in harmony instead of unison (bye-bye, Gregorian chants!), then we argued over whether-or-not to use instruments, then over what instruments are appropriate for church music. Today we argue over word repetition, loudness, lights, fog, word repetition (see what I did there?), you name it.
Maybe I'm naïve, but when it comes to music I seldom see the church arguing over anything that's actually worth arguing over.
So what is worth arguing over – or at least taking seriously – when we’re talking about worship through music?
We need to understand the differences between music for worship and music in performance.
Worship Is Different
I'm a huge fan of music for performance. Some of the most enjoyable, memorable evenings I've ever spent have been at concerts listening to musicians entertain us, inspire us, and make us gasp in awe at their artistry.
But worship music is something else, entirely. Whether the musical style is classical, pop, southern gospel, adult contemporary, choral, or spiced with a lot of salsa or soul, there should be some clear lines drawn between worship-based music and performance-based music.
Here are 6 of them:
1. In performance, the focus is on the musicians. In worship, the focus is on Jesus.
This is a given. Or it should be.
If the focus is on the musicians instead of Jesus, it’s not worship, no matter what we call it.
This doesn’t mean there can’t be a stage, or lights, or a worship team, or a robed choir, or microphones. But it does mean that everyone on stage should be using their artistry to point to Jesus, not themselves.
The fact that someone is on stage with amplified sound and lights doesn’t mean they’re drawing attention to themselves. If someone is going to lead in worship through music, the leader(s) need to be identified and heard. Lights, mics and a stage help that happen.
But let’s not pretend that being on stage doesn’t come with temptations. Whether it’s a robed choir singing hymns, a worship team blasting out the latest worship song, or a pastor with a mic, we must be vigilant to use that stage to point to Jesus, not ourselves.
One great current trend is multiple lead singers on worship teams. This is a simple, subtle way to take the focus off one main singer and cue the audience that we’re all engaged in worship together.