In the last 6 months I’ve taken on the task of leading the musical part of our worship services for our church’s contemporary service. It’s been quite the adventure with all the other things I’ve been doing. And if you’ve ever worked with musicians then you know it’s something to do carefully. I should know, I’m one! But my greatest challenges haven’t been with team members, it’s been with the “audience.”
I intentionally used that loaded word there because I think it leads well into the challenge I want to bring up. There is a very tricky balance that the worship leader needs to strike if they’re going to use music and the arts to lead people into awe and wonder of God.
You need to be meeting the need for depth for those seasoned saints. But you also need to make sure it’s easily accessible and relatable to the unbeliever. You need to make sure that you keep the style such that it connects with a variety of different ethnicities and musical preferences. You remember the stylistic battles we’ve historically had about contemporary worship choruses verses those old hymns, right?
Then there is ordering the service to avoid those awkward pauses or moments. See, that’s what it seems so many of us church leaders want. We want to make sure that people feel comfortable in our worship services. We want awkward-proof worship services. We want to make sure that we make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.
It’s for this reason that I know some church leaders have even argued that it’s best to only do maybe 2 songs, 3 at the most, in a service where unbelievers may be in attendance. “They’ll feel out of the loop and feel awkward otherwise.”
Do we not remember the worship service on the Day of Pentecost where unbelievers were brought to believe en masse because of a very awkward moment where everybody’s speaking in different languages? Do we not remember the man God said was a “man after my own heart” embarrassing his wife one time when he got to dancing in worship of God? Do we not remember the woman who with tears and her own hair wiped the feet of Jesus in worship?
Maybe it’s my young pastor angst, but I’m really wrestling with the church’s desire to create awkward-proof worship services. For one, I think it’s nearly impossible to do anyway. Secondly, I’m not sure it’s even a goal worth striving for. I can’t imagine the first church looking to make that part of their agenda. I can’t imagine that polls were being handed out at any other time in church history to plan for the most optimal music selection (not saying I know of anyone who’s actually doing that).
I’m just saying that I purposefully do things as a worship leader that I’m not entirely comfortable with. We do songs I don’t necessarily care for or in ways I don’t care for. There are parts of our church’s services that I kind of want to tidy up. But maybe our greatest aim shouldn’t be somehow perfectly crafting a worship service that everyone likes. (Not sure that’s even possible!) But maybe our goal should be to continue to teach ourselves and our congregations that worship and life are not products here for our own personal pleasure. We live and we worship for the glory of God. Or at least we should.