My Response: Jamie Brown’s “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State Of Evangelical Worship”

Why Accessibility Can Be An Overstated Value Killing Our Creational Voice

It’s a blog post that has been showing up a lot on Facebook recently, in worship leader groups of which I am a part. It’s well-written, honest, from a guy who is clearly the real deal, and it’s worth a read before you read my response below. I love 90% of it, and deeply appreciate the effort behind it. But, if I’m honest – I’m surprised by many Christian leader’s blanket endorsement of the post. There is a theological direction within the post – shared by many of us who are pastoral leaders – that I believe can be, left to itself, theologically disoriented, historically dismissive, and creationally diminishing. Here are my thoughts.

screenshot of Jamie Brown’s post page

In summary, Jamie Brown (a blogger and Associate Director of Worship and Music at an Anglican community called The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia), shared his experience at a recent the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine. My friend David Santistevan and many others are now also interacting on the topic of Jamie’s post.

While Jamie’s experience at the NWLC was positive, eclectic, and helpful on some levels, he lifted out a common thread:

“It’s the theme of performancism. The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall.”

His raw, passionate plea? For today’s modern worship leaders to “identify and kill performancism while we can.”

He is worried about what worship leaders are “doing to themselves and their congregations,” and his remedial rant seems to have stirred a large batch of comments:

“Sing songs people know (or can learn easily). Sing them in congregational keys. Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God. Serve your congregation. Saturate them with the word of God. Get your face off the big screen (here’s why). Use your original songs in extreme moderation (heres’s why). Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on. Keep the lights up. Stop talking so much. Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel. Point to Jesus. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology. Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can. Lead pastorally.”

I’ll let you read the rest here. And you should. I love Jamie’s pastoral heart and insights.

But hidden in his great, pastoral thinking is a small problem. It’s a “creational” problem, and it’s a problem that is killing the church as much as any weak theological song.

My Response To Jamie Brown’s “Are We Headed For A Crash: Reflections On The Current State Of Evangelical Worship

While I can be verbose, as many of you know, my response is fairly straightforward. I’ll summarize it in bullet points below after one sentence that sums up my position.

We can be creational, innovative, and express greatness (musically, technologically, oratorically) without forsaking community, intimacy, and Body life. Accessibility is not the only value in worship that should be elevated by a creational, artful, proclaiming Church. Our Story is much, much bigger than that.

  1. Jamie is generally correct, but his heightened accessibility conclusion is problematic. I’ve written about accessibility a thousand times, and have taught it for 20+ years, but it can be elevated to a place of toxicity when our desire is to express Kingdom greatness. More below.
  2. I’ve had the exact same experience, and conclusion, at least 26 times in the last 5 years. I’ve been in the middle of this battle for 20+ years.
  3. I love the pastoral heart of his post, but wish “performancism” was not the term he chose.
  4. I’d note that many have seen and spoken into the “performance-centered” trajectory of the contemporary worship scene, and have been identifying and fighting for change in this for 20+ years. In other words, this is not a “new” problem, but rather a fresh and timely discussion.
  5. Performance is not a problem. It’s application is (Jamie identifies this in his post, specifically at events). A malformed worship worldview (or desire set, a la James K.A. Smith) is a problem. Performance (and its accompanying drama) can be good, especially when it rises from the soil of community. Our current lack of skill on local levels is often shrouded in our elevated language of “community.” (Hence the current Christian movies we must both appreciate and tolerate.)
  6. Creative leaders have been performing in the church, in and for their communities, for millennia. We have to be careful what we say and what we mean or we write off everything from Handel’s Messiah, to Michelangelo’s Dome, to the inspiring presentations of great choirs and orators  – and anything that is not “corporate and accessible” in nature.
  7. Our problem is that we have shrunk worship to the size of our services and musical expressions, and that has made our vision of worship very, very small. I unpack that here.

One remedy to the malady of which Jamie Brown speaks is, indeed, to renew the pastoral heart in our worship leaders. Yes. Another is to dismantle much of what we see perpetuated by a revenue-generating worship music industry. Sure.

But eradicating performance, screens, and craftsmanship is not the remedy. In fact, as N.T. Wright said to me in his living room in Westminster Abbey, our craving for “informality” can be as deadening to our creationality and progress as disciples as the overstatement of worship stage drama Jamie is getting at in his blog.

We lack innovation in the church because we’re confused about what God is really after, from communities that follow him in the 21st century. That was what my post about Jon Foreman was getting at some weeks ago.

We can be creational, innovative, and express greatness (musically, technologically, oratorically) without forsaking community, intimacy, and Body life.

A Way Forward

Blogs are largely opinions, spoken at a time and place. So, here is mine.

  1. Our worship definition is jacked up, and is stifling Kingdom greatness. We need a new definition big enough to live in.
  2. The entire worship music industry, radio industry, and Christian college world feeds the problem, while also providing a weeding ground for songs and inspiring leaders. We have to fix a few things; we don’t want to lose Chris Tomlin, but we also need an industry that serves the church rather than the church serving it. Here is my straight-up reflection on 7 ways we can change that.
  3. Having lived with informality and communality sitting at center for much of my Christian life, I am convinced that great visuals, great music, and even performance can feed disciples in a way that the great art of the last two millennia has done. Greatness in art matters. Sloppiness in the name of loving community diminishes what Christian community is intended to be. See N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope for a broader call to action in the arts.
  4. I am also convinced that Jamie is correct; we are fixated on it in our conferences and current contemporary Christian presentations of worship. Why? Because going to a conference is not you being in community. Not really. The people with whom you live and die each week are your community.We come to those events to learn songs, be encouraged, be inspired, and maybe be equipped with some new tools. The problem is that people walk away with the model and try to reapply it in their church, without a strong worship philosophy guiding them. The Pastor often feeds that for church growth sake. And from experience, creating a sense of “community” in a conference setting is nigh on impossible. A song can come close to creating a sense of love for one another, but we all know we’re walking out at the end and coming home to people who know us. It changes the conference song, and creates more of a worship cubicle for us rather than a Body engaged on all levels in worship. Every church needs a worship philosophy, and a worship leader who incarnates it.
  5. Many of our modern worship “chants” or “simple songs” are creating a modern silence for us, a service that tools like lectio divina provided for us hundreds of years ago. A simple song can create an atmosphere of reflection, that can lead to an experience with God, in a way that rich theological phrasing cannot. We need both. And we need instrumental music. My goodness, our communities need beautiful instrumental music, without words telling them what to say to God (or what God is saying to them).
  6. I am also convinced the industrial-spirit of the modern worship industry has pushed many worship leaders away from leading to ultimately serve our communities (though we talk a good game), toward serving our communities to ultimately achieve something beyond our shared experience – a career in worship music writing or leadership. Ouch.

Back To Jamie’s Question

Thanks, Jamie, for provoking the question again, “Are we headed for a crash?”

My short answer is, “Yes, absolutely, but it will just be culmination of a slow motion crash that has been happening since an industry was tied to worship music. And the crash? What shatters will be good for us all. But I’d rather see our disconnection from community shatter than our achievements in remarkable beauty and greatness in all our art forms.”

I believe we can host rich community, pastoral leadership, and creative greatness in the same room.

Thanks, Jamie, for stimulating this conversation again.


[ Most of these ideas above I explore in Worship White Noise: Tuning In The 7 Worship Culture Shapers In The Chaos Of The Contemporary Worship Movement. It’s there that I propose radical, concrete steps to change for worship leaders, pastors, songwriters/artists, the Christian Music Industry, the Christian Radio Industry, Christian colleges, and average worshippers.]

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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21 thoughts on “My Response: Jamie Brown’s “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State Of Evangelical Worship”

  1. I love your post and your heart for a many faceted and varied vision of what worship is and can be. I think your response to Jamie’s post reflects your passion for this bigger vision of worship. I’m starting a new series this week on Worship and a lot of what you are saying in this post resonates and will be filtered in to my messages. But I also want to echo, as a pastor, Jamie’s call in his post. When my regional leader encourages the use of auto-tune for our worship teams so we can compete with the bigger churches (“’cause they all do it”), we’ve crossed a line from performance to performancism. Personally, since this is opinion space, I believe much of this is driven by consumerism more than anything else and I hope we can all rebel against that. But I do hope we can pursue the art of worship and, as you say, expand to a larger sense and value of what worship really is.

  2. Dan, thank you for that well thought out response. I agreed with pretty much everything you said. (OK, everything.) I do need to say though, that I think everyone is missing what to me is the biggest factor in this whole issue, and you did mention it, but buried at the very end of your post: it’s the “industrial-spirit of the modern worship industry”.

    You see, back in the ’80s and 90s there was a thing called CCM where artists toured and made money and sold records and some people were pretty successful. Churches held concerts where these artists came to perform. Then along came Michael W. Smith, Newsboys, Third Day who decided to cover worship songs and all of a sudden they sold a couple million records and so the Christian music labels, who by that time had mostly been bought up by secular industry conglomerates (EMI for example), jumped on it like hot cakes. Does anybody remember the storm created in the early 2000’s by the “Third Day Worship Tour Sponsored by Chevrolet”? Today that would be no big deal at all.

    So jumping to the present, CCM has pretty much come and gone, and in it’s place are “worship artists” who go around doing “worship concerts”, and because now there’s money to be made, those very same people are the role models for aspiring singers and songwriters in churches everywhere. As well as role models for pastors who want a hip and modern church.

    So yes, in my opinion the biggest danger we face in the Contemporary Worship world is money, pursuit of commercial success and the need to look, sound and be like our role models in the industry. Like you said, Dan, this is nothing new but is a crisis that’s been 20 years in the making.

    And it is what it is – an industry through and through. Today we have Christian songwriters who gather here in Nashville trying to co-write the next “Breathe” as if it were the next Country hit. We have “worship schools” where they teach you how to “perform” on stage, how to dress, how to stand, etc. We have Pro Audio companies who have cashed in by adding a “House of Worship” division to sell us lights and projectors and fog machines. And the sad news for me is that if you want your church to even be considered contemporary you almost have to go down this road. But like you said, many are copying the presentation, and only that.

  3. Great words Dan. I’m kind of tired of the “performance” stuff being brought up over and over again.I’ve have seen so many worship leaders obsess over “not making this a performance” only to still be judged by others for doing it. It’s as if there is some invisible line in the sand that must not be crossed. The music must be good but not too go. The worship space should be beautiful but not distracting. The volume level, the lights, length of songs, instruments used, the color of the carpet….. Who gets to draw the line in the sand that Jesus himself will not. The way “performance” is used in these conversations is both subjective and moral. Honestly I don’t think the Church as a general rule is full of bad hearted worship leaders seeking to steal God’s glory for themselves. Most of them are pastors who care deeply for their people. The “performance” conversation places someone in the seat of judgement who cannot see into the hearts of men anyways. The outcome is sadly often a culture of fear created for the worship leader as he or she navigates expectations that vary in the heart of each individual all the while expected to make interactive art…dancing in a minefield. Rant over 🙂

  4. Hi Dan,

    Thanks so much for your good perspective, helpful insight, and wisdom on this topic. I appreciate you continuing the conversation and offering your thoughts.

    The word “performance” is so loaded, because yes, it can be a good word to use when describing our role, and it can also be a not-so-good word to describe our role. My made-up word “performancism” seeks to get at the not-so-good use of that word, which is to lead worship in such a way that, ultimately, not only draws attention to us and thereby away from Jesus, but also muffles conjugational involvement.

    I think the reason why I’m hammering “accessibility” so hard is because I see leading worship in an accessible way, though I might use the word “pastoral” or “inviting”, as fundamental to our role. If we can’t get the basic idea down of leading in a way that helps people follow us, and ultimately see past us, then we’re in trouble. I know you know this. And I know you’ve been hammering this for longer than I have. Thank you for that.

    Your “way forward” is spot-on. I agree with you. My passion, especially coming out of the conference I attended, is to see the platform extend into the congregation, and the congregation extend into the platform. The wall that’s being built up is unhealthy. The bright light being shone on stage is causing a faded light to shine on the congregation, and a murky light to shine on Jesus. I want to shine the light on Jesus, and have the “performers” and the congregation together join to proclaim his glory and greatness and wonder and worth.

    By the way, we have a mutual friend in Tim MacGowan. Tim has been my mentor, friend, role-model, and hero since I was 7 years old.

    Thanks for your ministry and for this encouraging post,

  5. I was debating leaving it to entertain the visitors. I even looked it up again to make sure Webster hadn’t changed the definition. Then I assumed you were being super smart and firing up the vivid analogies. Then I thought – “He meant ‘congregational.'” And Tim MacGowan is the bomb. We share a remarkable thread in him.

  6. I love everything you just wrote, Jamie. We’re on the same page, on many levels.

    Andrew on Facebook suggested I might be missing that your goal was not to dismiss performance, but rather the fixation on it you named “performancism.” I agree,

    Here was my response however, which may speak more to my sense of calling than to your post. My heart breaks over our general evangelical distrust of strong gifting, remarkable quality, and contextualized, striking performance.

    “I hear you, Andrew, and I agree that Jamie’s post is a powerful, pastoral affirmation of accessibility. Here is where I disagree. The goal is not ALWAYS congregational singing (and believe me, I am a great advocate of congregational singing).

    In my life I have been deeply formed not only by corporate, accessible worship, but also by the performance of great writers, orators, musicians, choirs, songwriters, painters, and architects. Performance has its profound place in the formation of the affections (James K.A. Smith). When the priest breaks the bread and lifts the cup, reciting the Scriptures, it is performance.

    Jamie’s quest is to remove “performance-ism” from corporate musical worship. I.e. A fixation on performance. Agreed.

    But while I affirm that, I don’t always expect an accessible, communal worship experience at an NWLC, nor do I believe Phil Wickam leading a few thousand of us in a new song he’s written that barely anyone knows is ALWAYS a problem.

    I know Jamie is not saying that, but here’s where I come from. Along with Jamie, I’ve led the accessibility charge for a long time. I still do. But performance-bashing in the name of community-building is not the right worship math, at least not in my head.

    [Jamie is not performance-bashing, but the reader is left, without written qualifications, with a bad taste about performance, lighting, and visuals in their mouth. Again.

    I agree with everything he says, and would say the same. But it’s untenable to me to leave it there. Jeremy Begbie, at Duke University’s Theology And The Arts program, and N.T. Wright as author of Surprised By Hope would, my guess is, practically faint. We must affirm greatness in BOTH communal worship AND aesthetic, prophetic, dramatic, not-always-corporate-in-embodiment proclamation. If not, we end up with communal “beige” – and that doesn’t always glorify God in my experience.]

    Using all our tools wisely, to serve a gathered community, and with unapologetic aesthetic greatness when we can (whether leading in a hospital room, gymnasium, cathedral, or arena) is the worship math I affirm.

    Having said that, what I love about Jamie’s post is his call for worship leaders to emulate pastoral greatness. Faces on screens and flashing lights can send the wrong message, and usually do. I’ve been at more of these types of events than I can count, and each time I long just to lead my own community in accessible worship.

    But I won’t personally write a post that leaves “performance” in a negative light, even though I’m happy Jamie did. Jesus didn’t have everyone get up to teach with poetic, parablic mastery on a hill; he performed it for the changing of us all.

    Good worship leaders and pastors can do the same, without missing that we are here to serve our communities and win as a Body.”

  7. After wading through all of the neo-intellectual words and phrases that this generation has developed to explain what “worship” and “worship leading” are, I guess I will sound like the poster child of an archaic league of Music Ministers! However, unlike many of my peers I see worship leading differently. In John 4:24 The Lord of all true worship leaders said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Hold on to your latest worship books while I state the obvious: We do not worship with music, songs, instruments, or anything that is physical! We use the physical to praise the Lord, but we WORSHIP HIM in the Spirit (personal communion) and in truth (true belief that HE IS). With that in mind let’s consider the mindset of God as revealed in the words of Jesus. He said, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” Will we please God or seek to please men? Worship of God has at its core a merger of heart and mind with Him where we become one in divine communion with our Creator. That is the essence of worship. The words “corporate worship” are an invention of man. We will only corporately worship our Creator when we are with Him in the eternal realm. While on earth our finest moments as His creation are when we are ONE with Him in heart, mind, and spirit. Him…that’s worship! Therefore, the best I can do is to lead my congregation to His throne where each person will become a worshiper of God. Leading some will be easy due to their ongoing personal relationship with Him. Leading others will be difficult because of their disjointed and irregular relationship with Him. Leading others will be impossible because they do not know Him! However, I will not fail in my calling because of my personal relationship with the Lord through personal true worship of Him. He knows my heart, and He knows the hearts of all people. He knows when I am just trying to be a people-pleasing appeaser! It is a tough job to lead the 21st Century congregation to His throne. We are experiencing the greatest generational gaps ever concerning styles of Christian songs. What is needed most today is a huge serving of HIS GRACE.

  8. I confess, I don’t fully understand this post. Dan, I hear you reacting to others in framing ‘performance’ in a bad light. But you admit that Jamie is most likely referring to kinds of performances that more often than not simply import ‘secular liturgies’ in to the church—thereby commodifying Jesus while (con)forming us to the world. You, on the other hand, want to protect craftsmanship and intentional art—formational worship leaders and artisans. You rightly note that worship, even that small part that includes music, is always performative. Of course it is, but the key is in what the form of our worship is actually saying at its most basic and ideological level. It is here that I think we rightly worry about ‘worship’ as being performance-driven, the seeking after an immediate and affective effect—without care for how this in turn shapes our affections. Unfortunately this critique always seems about differences in degree rather than differences in kind (e.g., performance versus ‘perfomancism’).

    My worry, against all you’ve said Dan, is with evangelical’s new found penchant for eclectic picking and choosing of ancient High-Church liturgies, this postmodern bricolage of traditional elements that is markedly out of sync with the former metaphysics and values which birthed them in the first place. How often have I seen a community (say a Vineyard community) feel that something no longer ‘works’, or perhaps out of boredom, dresses up or redresses the service (yet again) now with the latest en vogue trends, e.g. candles, incense, stations of the cross, etc. My complaint is that these appear cut adrift from the worldview and ideas that brought these practices forth. It reminds me of the intro to MacIntyre’s book ‘After Virtue’ where he posits a thought experiment of a post-apocalyptic world making sense of the few surviving fragments of scientific literature. We end up with a veneer of aesthetics and a simulacra of formative theology.

    I wouldn’t call it a call, but my prescription for a better path would be to rework a clear line between the sacred and the profane, and to intone an intentional relationship between the two. I know there are many styles of worship, perhaps some are even a ‘communal beige’, but as long as people are being formed in real sacred (maybe even aesthetical jarring and simple) liturgies, then there should be nothing stopping artists and artisans formed in that world from taking their work and presence out into the everyday, the secular.

    But maybe I, too, am confusing form with style… But why not actually attending a Catholic church and be formed by her sacred liturgies? Why not then just be an artist and allow how you’ve been formed to imbue the world around you? I get that many caught up in the machinery of low-church ‘community churches’ would find such a suggestion impossible and impractical, but I think we just repeat the same old mistakes with new clothes. To me, the collapse Jamie has mentioned has already occurred and evangelicalism is just playing roughshod with those post-apocalyptic fragments.

    The trend that I see over and over from people who have been formed by the ever changing styles and forms of church is that more and more people eventually lose their faith altogether. One of the most frequent signs that the end is near is that familiar statement ‘this is church’ after being at a ‘real’ concert. How did we learn this epistemic perspective? Who taught people this? Who failed to challenge it? We rightly see that the mall and the stadium are liturgical, but we cannot discern the differences in the message…(because maybe there are none)

  9. Ryan, I love your comment, and it welcomes a thoughtful response. I don’t respond normally on Sundays, but I will early this week. Thanks for diving in.

  10. Thanks to both of you for amazing comments and reflections. I am humbled by the way you have tackled this both in love and admiration. That really blesses me.

    My personal opinion is if we focus on being AUTHENTIC, to ourselves, and then to our congregations, our expressions of worship will be beautiful and acceptable in the sight of the Lord.

    For some, authenticity IS the stadiums of the world – that is what they were born for. So when they worship, in that forum, it’s beautiful to the Lord.

    For others, they are called to release worship expressions in a local congregations, small groups, hospitals and the like. One is not more important than the other. The focus is what is authentic to you?

    I feel the problem arises when people look at how someone else leads worship and think thats how they have to lead. Then we have people leading in gatherings that are not authentic to them or to the people they are supposed to be leading. I speak from personal experience!

    I think authenticity is essential. I sometimes wonder how that looks in more ethnic forums and countries outside of the western world. One of the things that saddens me is when countries think the answer to a great worship experience is they need to sound like the latest worship artist. I love that we have frameworks to learn from, but I really hope it’s not at the expense of our own style and sound. Personally, I feel if people worship in their own style and sound with a heart to serve, God loves that, and it brings renewal to their people group and themselves.

  11. Ryan, you are correct, and I resonate with 98% of what you wrote. The metaphor of MacIntyre’s book is haunting.

    I am indeed reacting to the evangelical church blaming our worship formation issues on an obscured and malformed meaning of “performance.” And you are also right, our messages may often be the same messages as the liturgy of the mall, or the stadium (other friends, read Jamie Smith’s Desiring The Kingdom in the Cultural Liturgies series.)

    But it’s better than that. Jesus is being formed in people. I’ve seen it for decades in my pastoral work. Imperfectly, but it’s happening. I don’t think it’s all “in spite of” the experiments and excesses; some of it is “because of it” and some formational power behind certain contemporary worship liturgies. It’s not ALL malformation, is what I am saying.

    You are also correct that the novel application of historic liturgies and practices is often divorced from their original theological and formational intent. Many evangelical churches eschew rhythms fearing we will grow dry from repeating formational practices too frequently. Very short-sighted, as any parent knows. Your challenge to this is shared, but I don’t think one must return to “all it meant” for it to have current meaning. It’s not all surface or strange application.

    But I will contend this. All that the contemporary worship “experience” has to offer? As a participant, I will be slow to judge. In my worlds, I have watched dramatic transformations occur in people, in the midst of an extended singing of a chorus (a modern musical lectio possibly), as the Holy Spirit leveraged their honesty and vulnerability and took them to a place of healing no decades of creed-repetition could take them.

    An affectional anthropology, a la Smith, demands what happens in the sights, sounds, and approaches that have been a tool in the hands of the Spirit to catalyze, I contend, systemic emotional healing in the church at large.

    The excesses nauseate me, as the excesses of historical worship practices have the equal capacity to do, but I’ll stay in the contemporary worship ballgame after watching decades of miracles in peoples’ eyes and hearts unfold before my eyes.

    The poverty of “application without understanding” of historic practices? That’s just a bummer. But I remain glad the attraction is at least there, so the worship theology and praxis of each community today at least stands a chance of inviting course correction.

    As for your idea about artists in your last sentences, one would think that our theology would enable us to cross the sacred/secular lines easily, but we are completely jammed up by our dualism, and we won’t get anywhere using the same popular terms with malformed meanings.

    Here I suggest an alternate approach:

    And here is an ebook I’ve written to deal with some of our confusion, that I believe arises from an impoverished way of talking about worship in contemporary circles, and even liturgical circles (more phenomenological approaches).

    It’s late, so if I’m missing clarity places, my apologies. Just wanted to respond as promised.

  12. Isn’t there a key question around the term “worship leader”? Don’t we realize that when use the term “worship leader” and then we have a time of sung worship we are reducing worship to just that part of the service. Yet all of life is worship and all of Sunday services are worship too. In essence using the term “worship leader” undermines what you wrote in “A New Definition Of Worship Big Enough To Live In”. “Performancism” flows out of someone who has been given the role of being the “worship leader” with the weight of expectation of how good the music aspect of the service will / must be. We need a different name for those who lead the sung / musical aspects of Sunday worship.

    With others I agree that the word “performance” is a loaded one that stands beside the word “excellence”. These often have to do with creating an image that looks really good at the expense of authenticity and realness. Too often for me, and from what I have observed, the word “performance” has to do with being slick and ultimately fake.

    So there are my thoughts. Sorry if they’re a bit rushed as they’re written on the fly.

  13. You say that “performance is not a problem. It’s application is.” Performance is not a problem in it’s place. Handel’s Messiah and choral numbers are performance (whatever else we may call them), but they are known to be special events or times within a worship service. It’s when the whole presentation of worship (and when “worship” is considered to be only the musical portion, or the introduction to the “main event” – the sermon) is performance a problem, as I believe was Jamie’s point. It’s not even a problem of creativity, and it IS a problem of participation.
    I attended a conference in which “worship” consisted of snippets of songs, interlaced with long instrumental interludes and a lot of chatter from the “worship leader.” About the time we’d get a phrase or two into a hymn, along came another interruption. There was no real flow and no real intent for the audience (which is what we were) to participate in any meaningful way. Not only was it easier to simply sit down and tune out, but the drums literally drove me out of the “sanctuary” (sorry about the quote marks here, but the room ceased to be a sanctuary in any meaningful sense).
    When “worship” becomes more about the creativity of the performers and less about the participation of the congregation, there is a serious problem. If the congregation is not able to participate, either because of the novelty or the atmosphere, it is a problem. And I have been in far too many of those sorts of services to count. It is time to step back and re-evaluate what worship is, who the intended audience is, and even why we do it. I might add that, following in the footsteps of George Whitefield, many pastors appear to treat their sermons as performance – and perhaps, strictly speaking, they are. We tread this ground with great caution. As part of moving forward on this, may I recommend A. Daniel Frankforter’s “Stones for Bread” and Michael Walters’ “Can’t Wait for Sunday”. And, I long for the day when the “worship wars” are over.

  14. Good article…I agree with much of what he said… I don’t have a problem with traditional or contemporary music, or what the instrumentation is…I think as servants on the Worship Team, we need to realize what we are there to do…I believe we are there to help our Brothers and Sisters “go vertical” and direct their attention to God and His Amazing Glorious Presence!!
    If we are doing anything which takes away from that, maybe we need to think and pray what God would have us do and what would be pleasing to Him…
    Are we calling attention to ourselves with excessive theatrics, lots of instrumental solos, playing mostly our own original songs instead of keeping with songs that most of the people know, and in a key they can sing them in?
    Are we there to serve or do we have something else in mind?
    I think the thing that bothered me the most, was some of the harsh comments made by my Brothers and Sisters that didn’t care for what the writer had to say…
    Please let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, and believe we are all on the same side just trying to Worship The King, even though we may not all agree with each other on the very best way to do that…Peace.
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