An Open Letter to the Worship Leaders in the Evangelical Church

Open Letter to Wroship LeadersDear Pastor,

It is obvious to most of us that you enjoy leading the congregational worship time.  You put a lot of effort into learning new songs, and rehearsing with the band.  The PA sounds really good with those new subwoofers, by the way.  The light show is dazzling, and the fog machine was a real nice touch.  Your guitar solo’s are really smoking too!   I want you to know that we do appreciate you and all you do for us.  Most of us pray for you on a regular basis.

On Sunday mornings, you are always excited to lead us.  It must be a bit of a shock to you that most of us are not as excited about singing as you are.  You probably can’t see us, because of the bright lights in your eyes, but I sit in the back row. I often look around to observe the congregation and usually most of us are not singing.  But it isn’t because we don’t like you or God, or because you can’t sing very good.  Far from it.  We do love God and you are a fantastic musician!  A couple of us were discussing this lack of singing yesterday, and we thought you might want to know why this happens.  Just in case you do, I would like to share our thoughts with you.

First, we are not very good singers, and actually we don’t normally spend a lot of time doing it.  Don’t get us wrong, we don’t mind singing to the Lord!  It is just that it is hard for us to sing for 35-45 minutes.  The only time we do, is on Sunday’s.  Perhaps if you only had us sing for a shorter time, we would do better.

Secondly, a lot of the songs we sing don’t really make sense.   I am sure you read the lyrics of these songs and they must make sense to you.  But we don’t have an extensive background in the language of worship arts, so many of these songs are hard for us to understand.  When you combine this with the fact we are not naturally the singing type, you might understand better why we don’t sing as much as you.

Third, sometimes it seems like we are being entertained, even though this is probably not your aim.  It does feel like we are at a concert, with all the lights, fog and the killer sound system.  The worship band acts very similar to the bands we see at a concert.  We don’t normally sing when we go see Brad Paisley or Aerosmith.  Why would we sing at your concert?   Perhaps subconsciously we feel like we are at a concert and not a worship service so we act accordingly?  That is just an uneducated guess.

Maybe if we had other elements in our worship service like communion or corporate prayer or a public reading of scripture, it might help us realize we are at a worship service.  I know we don’t want to have a cross in the building because it may offend the non-Christians who might come, but it could help set the tone for those of us who are present and are already believers.  This is just a suggestion on our part, but if you designed the service for the Christ followers who are actually there, I think we might see more participation.

Well, there you have it.  Thanks for listening to my thoughts pastor.  A few others may add their thoughts on this subject in our comment section.   I hope you find this helpful.

Sincerely,

The Congregation

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on April 16, 2012, in Christianity, The Seeker-Sensitive Church Model, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Interesting way of putting it. I too almost always have issues with worship music in one way or another at every church I have attended. But when I reflect on it with an open heart, it usually has more to do with me than the music. Perhaps we all need a heartfelt study on what the Bible says about singing and music in general. Maybe, and I’m not saying I am correct, just maybe if we get our hearts right and surrender totally in worship we won’t be concerned about how loud the guitar or drums are. We won’t care how bad we or the person next to us sings. What we care about is that we are giving our time and attention to praising the Lord in a way He deems worthy. By the way, I’m not convinced of anything I just wrote. Just initial thoughts.

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    • Thanks for stopping in and adding your thoughts to the discussion. If you spend a little time on the blog, you will find a lot of serious discussion about “worship”. Sometimes I think the sound I hear in my head is the sound of a broken record!

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  2. It’s interesting, I would never have believed that a fog machine would make an appearance until I went to a High School Camp and they used one for worship on the first night. Interestingly enough they stopped using it before camp ended, not because the “grown-ups” said anything, but because the students moved to the back of the room because the fog was bothering them and they couldn’t concentrate on worship.

    Lionel Richie just released a new album and PBS had a two hour special featuring Lionel and the other artists from the album. And the audience, which was almost entirely baby boomers, sang along to every song, including my wife and I from the comfort of our couch. I think it’s less about feeling like we’re at a concert and more about being drawn in to the moment. If you’re not being drawn in why would you participate?

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    • Hi Nico! Thanks for the comments. Lionel Richie? And I thought you were from Colorado! HAHAHA. You and I both know that those who like to sing will sing almost anything. I sometimes find myself singing commercials, but I am a musician. Sit in the back this Sunday, and take a look around. You might be surprised to see so many people NOT singing. I know it certianly can be a heart issue, but the more I ponder this, the more I think it’s related to other things as well.

      I know several people who are dedicated followers of Christ who don’t find joy in personal singing. It is not a big deal to them. At any other time in church history, their devotion would not have been questioned by this lack of song. It wasn’t a big deal in the church either. It is hard for people who don’t sing or can’t sing very well to do so publicly and loudly on top of that. So, their hearts can be totally centered on the Savior. Their lives can be faithfully following Him, and yet you don’t see them singing at church.

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      • In the last three years I had the opportunity to visit many churches and you’re absolutely right, in several cases up to half and often more than half weren’t participating. The movement from observer to participant has been stymied and the question several of us are asking is why? Is it cultural, geographic, race, gender, ego, apathy, empathy….. I don’t know yet, but I do know I want to find out and breakthrough whatever the barrier is in a given situation or location.

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        • Nico,

          I think it has a LOT to do with the seeker-sensitive model that has taken root in the evangelical church. Barna came out with a rport in 2010 about the impact the church was making (or lack of impact). YOu can read my take on that here: https://notforitchingears.com/2010/12/26/george-barna-the-seeker-sensitive-church-model-dumbing-down-disciples/. We have taken a lot of the substance out of our services and replaced it with a high tech show. In our passion to reach the lost, we may just have abandoned the one thing they need: a clear presentation of Jesus and the Cross.

          I’ve been doing the same thing for the past 3 years and have seen the same thing as you. It is encouraging to know that I am not the only one noticing it. It is discouraging to realize I am not imagining it!

          You and I have both served as Senior pastors. I wonder if your travels the past three years were related to your work with the district and if the other pastors are noticing the same thing? Sometimes I think they don’t know what is going on out in the pew.

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  3. Nothing can replace the Spirit of God showing up at worship. I am OK with people doing it the way you mentioned above, but I do not agree when they think it is the only way to worship correctly and try to make you feel guilty about not joining in with the raising of hands and shouting. I raise my hand only after I am sturred to do so. Sometimes it never makes its way up during a service and at times it can not be held down. Just dont force me to mimic others and we are fine. Otherwise I feel like a hipocrite if I try to appear holy. If I can not understand the words because of the loudness, then I guess they need an interpreter as if they are speaking in tongues.

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  4. Good thoughts…… Makes me think somethings throughfor our church…. thnks……

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  5. “We have taken a lot of the substance out of our services and replaced it with a high tech show. In our passion to reach the lost, we may just have abandoned the one thing they need: a clear presentation of Jesus and the Cross. ”

    Yes!!

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  6. Haha!! This is so true!!

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  7. If I might add in as a worship leader in a very small congregation – I agree with some of the above. We, as a worship team, believe that the scripture about worshippers worshipping in spirit and in truth means just that. That the songs we lead should be firmly grounded in scripture so that we can ensure it is about HIM and NOT about us. We always pray through what songs we not only bring on a Sunday, but intend to perhaps bring – Lord is it right for now? Is it right for us? Where is it in Your word? What do YOU want us to be singing to You? Interesting point about the length of worship too – we extended ours because the congregation more and more were singing their own thing, bringing words of prophecy and exhortations from scripture. Sometimes it is 30 mins, sometimes 45, sometimes an hour. I think the crux of all matters concerning worship and teaching should always start, middle and end with Abba Father, His word and His direction. There’s my little chime in 🙂

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