Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Corporate Worship and the Praise Team

When I think about corporate worship -- and in a broader sense, the church in general -- the thought comes to mind that it is ideally much like an orchestra or a choir. The body of believers are the members, each performing his assigned part, while God directs the performance. As long as each individual does his part and follows the direction of the Director, the result is beautiful.

Now, a difficult question comes to mind. If each individual fails to perform his part, is the symphony ruined? In the case of a choir or orchestra the result is often less than satisfying -- perhaps incomplete would be a better description. In the case of the church does the same hold true?

I ask the question because God, being all-powerful, really has no need for us to fill all of the parts because He can supply anything that is missing and turn imperfection into perfection. But, does He? Or, does He choose to allow imperfection in order for those who are doing their part to grow by reaching out to those who are failing in their own?

When we hear a symphony or other type of musical performance we form a judgment. We either like/enjoy it, or we do not. Often our enjoyment is a function of our own attitude upon listening. However, there are times that we can come with low expectations and be lifted above our "mood" and into the realm of ecstasy. This typically occurs when a performance is executed virtually flawlessly -- technically, artistically, "energetically" and intellectually. It appeals to our sense of perfection, it pleases us aesthetically, it energizes us and it exercises our intellect.

One of the keys is that the parts are blended together in a balance that pleases our senses. If any part is not in balance with all of the others it distracts from the overall perfection of the piece. It distorts the performance.

In my post yesterday about "Energy and Music" I referred to our Praise Team in a manner that was less-than praiseworthy. I focused on the issue of energy. Perhaps part of the "draining" effect is due to a lack of balance. If each part is not performed in a manner that blends with the other parts, could that be the source of the draining effect?

Now, a critical question. Is it due to leadership style, lack of technical expertise, failure to follow, or some other factor? I don't see technical expertise as the issue. The level of talent in our Praise Team is exceptional. Leadership style could be a factor because there seems to be an unwillingness to confront the issue of individualism. It should be a corporate performance -- not a simultaneous set of individual performances. Ego comes into play. With the abundance of talent, it seems there is a universal attitude of "I'm the best so I need to really get-out-front on the music." That brings us to the issue of "failure to follow."

As I read the Gospel and focus on the ultimate message of Jesus I find that in a large sense it can be wrapped up in the statement -- it's all about denying self and glorifying God. Matthew 22:36-39 sums it up.

If we do this -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...and love your neighbor as yourself." -- we solve the issue of "failure to follow." Because we then realize that each of us must do our part and not "run over" others who are seeking to perform their part. We blend into the symphony rather than distract from it.

I don't know -- maybe my rambling is a bit of a stretch. I just know that it could be better. To get better one must first identify the problem.

If you ask someone on the Praise Team they are likely to say that it is a lack of participation on the part of the audience/congregation/worshippers. Could it be that they are merely a reflection of what is going on up front?

Much prayer is needed.


Cimarron said...

I personally preferred the days of no praise team. For me, it's simply an unnecessary distraction. If you're looking at it from a non-worshipping standpoint, it's nice to be able to hear all the parts. However, activities such as choir, a small choral ensemble, etc. are better avenues, I think, for using your talents in a worshipful manner. I think the "praise team" has grown to be something more than it should be.

But, that's just my personal opinion... :)

Danny said...

At our church in Rockwall, the Praise Team is wonderful. Well orchestrated and they put lots of heart and energy into everything they do. It's loud, it's rocking, it's relevant. I can't remember a service in which I wasn't moved in some way by the energy of the Praise & Worship team. Often it is my feet moving (oops! hope that isn't considered dancing), or my hands clapping or just my heart singing along in worship to my King!

Anonymous said...

Um, you're not supposed to be moved by the energy of the praise team. You are supposed to be moved to worship a holy God. So sad that music has replaced worship as church relevance. Some day American "relevance" will be stripped away.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the person who wrote this, but I can say that it seems he has fallen into the lie that it is some type of experience we have at church.
Actually, worship has NOTHING to do with people, and it has everything to do with God. Worship is making much of God and bringing attention to Him and Him alone.
It is not a "team" experience or a "product of emotion","energy" or "heart" as this person writes. In fact, worship even in a corporate setting, is an individual effort. Worship only happens when a person or group of people show and tell the Lord how amazing He is. This can happen with or without music, and it can definitely happen without anyone ever knowing that it is happening. I just don't think you can look at someone and judge whether their "heart" is right. In my experience it takes getting to know people very well before you truly understand their motives for doing what they do. If you are in a church with people who volunteer to sing in a choir or a praise team, my guess is that some part of them is there to bring glory to the Father. If not, He will take care of it and you won't have to worry.
I was most astounded as I stumbled upon this blog because I could not believe how presumptuous the writer is to compare the way other people worship. Honestly, it is none of his business. The so called "worship wars" ended years ago. What kind of church are you in where this is still a discussion? Who knows? The people in the choir, praise team, AND congregation could all be there for the wrong reasons. It's really only between the individual and God. I've seen the Lord take the worst motives and turn them into something that brings Him Glory anyway.
No one but God alone has the ability to judge a man's heart. The person writing here has just judged an entire group of choir members, a praise team, a band, and a congregation. Wow!

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Anonymous: Thank you for your comments. You might want to re-read the post and perhaps meditate on it before jumping to such a judgmental conclusion. It also might help to read the previous post referenced in this one.

As to the identity of the author -- it is on the blog and on this comment. I prefer to let folks know who I am rather than hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

Singer said...

I don't believe that Mr. McClure was judging anyone. He was simply expressing his thoughts and feelings. He asked for prayer. Did you pray for him, his praise team or his church?

John Johnson said...

In my opinion, and you can take it for what it is, is that it does not matter to God whether or not the music is in sync or not, whether the voices are in perfect key or not, or how big or small, talented or untalented the praise and worship team is.

What matters to God is what is in the heart of the individual. A person can have the most beautiful voice in the world, and if his heart is not right with God, that is, if he/she is just singing to be heard by man, then it is not pleasing to God.

However, a person with a raspy, out of key voice, singing with a passion of love and adoration for God; any person who sings and praises God because of the wonderful and glorious things tha He does for us, is pleasing to God.

I attended a church, and was a song leader there, where a young boy of 8 was about to lead the congregation in a song. One of the elders stood up and stopped him, saying that he could not because he was not saved. At that point, I replied,"How can I, a sinner, lead a congregation in song worship, and a child who is perfect in the eyes of the Lord not be permitted?" I stepped down as a song leader at that time, and I soon found another church to attend. I know that their hearts were not right before God, and therefore, their worship was not acceptable.

It is not perfectness of the pitch, nor in the rhyme of the words, but in the message that the words convey from our hearts. There are some of us out there who do not have the capability to write the words or a melody to a song, but as we listen to those that were written by another person or person, we can be stirred to a very emotional state, which can allow the Holy Spirit to enter into us, and can open our hearts and minds to God. He knows what is in our hearts before we ever utter a single sound.

I love to sing, and to me, that is my worship. Sitting and listening to a sermon is edification, but my worship comes from my heart in song. When I work in daily life, I sing worship songs, and as I sing, I listen and understand the words that I am singing. I may not sing out loud, where others can hear me, but singing in my heart and mind is worship. God knows that I am worshipping Him, even tho I am not uttering a sound.

What we need to remember is this: Our voices and music and instruments are physical, our worship to God should be spiritual. It is our spirituality that God hears, and responds to with grace and love and blessings in return. The Bible tells us to separate the physical from our bodies, and dwell in the spirit.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Mr. Johnson: Well said.

Anonymous said...

To John Johnson:
Where is your Biblical basis for saying that "and a child who is perfect in the eyes of the Lord..."

You need to be careful what you state as truth:

Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".
According to your theory...we are born sinless and perfect and at some point along the way - lose our salvation...