Your Worship Feels Like a Concert
"Your worship feels like a concert."
My response: "Thanks!"
No, I'm not trying to impress you. No, I'm not trying to feed my ego. No, I'm not only here to entertain you. But I don't think that's the case for real concert-playing musicians either. When I go to a concert:
I'm overwhelmed with the artistic passion and expression. Visually and audibly.
I feel community when (at the good concerts with the good crowds) we all sing along. These are our songs. They say the things we want to say in a way we want to say it.
I'm convinced the band means what they're saying. You can see it on their faces and in their body language. You can hear it in their voices and in how hard they play their instruments. They mean it. And that equals honesty.
I'm not jerked out of the experience by awkward musical flubs. They know their music - they're not spending their energy remembering chords or words. They're making eye contact with me. They're speaking to me. We're here together and I feel connected.
Sometimes I have a spiritual experience. Yes, even at a "secular" concert. When a good musician/band is expressing great art, there's no denying it: this is from God. Some great bands put evil spins on it. But great creations originate from the Great Creator. "Let's create something different than 'the world'". We say. "We're the Church, after all".
Consequently, when I attend most worship services:
I feel underwhelmed and bored by the 1-dimensional, predictable, unoriginal music and the extremely poorly executed audio and lights.
I feel a lack of community when I look around and see people with their arms crossed and half-singing (but who can blame them - how much can you get into "God is always good" - especially when that's not your experience).
I feel a huge disconnect between what the band is saying and the way they look. They look bored. Reserved. Nervous. Their heads are buried in music stands. They sound reserved too. The drummer is barely touching his drums. The guitar player is afraid to play.
I'm constantly jerked out of the experience by forgotten lyrics, missed chords, band members dropping in and out. It's obvious the band is mimicking something they heard on an mp3, but are a far cry from the mark. Vocalists are out of tune. And the mix is terrible. Nothing like how music sounds the rest of the week in my normal life. I'm distracted.
If I have a spiritual experience, it's going to be in spite of things going on in the room.
But you don't want a concert at your church. So mission accomplished I guess. Be honest. Is it because there's something intrinsically wrong with secular concert elements, or is it because you're scared? It always feels more safe to create clear lines between "us" and "them". To use complaint-reduction as a decision-making tactic. To do things in a way which removes any possible questioning of your motives or character. More safe for you. But extremely harmful to the Church.
My suggestion (plea): CHANGE this now. Learn from professional musicians and audio/light engineers and incorporate the amazing power of what they've learned into the worship experience at your church. Unleash the passionate musicians and techs in your church to do their thing all of the way. Take the leash off. Teach them to do it better - not by "church standards" but by real, world-class standards. Hire "secular" people to train them. And when the "too loud" and "this is a concert" complaints come in (and they will, I promise), learn how to address them with respect, but without changing course. If you're a worship pastor, your job is not to eliminate complaints (not you either, sr pastor ;)). Your job is to identify, give real authority to, and release the artists in your church to do the thing that God made natural inside of them.
Let's stop controlling and start releasing.
Stop stifling and start pushing.
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