Empty stands

Recently I got to go to a Tennessee Titans – New York Jets NFL game (It helped that kickoff was at 3:00pm that Sunday) and as a Titans fan my wife and I really enjoyed the game.  It’s fun to win even in the intermittent drizzly rain.  I could not help but notice, however, that the stands were never completely full, and kept emptying as the game went along.  I don’t think the exodus was related to the weather.  There have been articles written and TV interviews and reports given of late dealing with a declining stadium attendance and shifting interests in America’s pastimes.  Even sitting in the stands on that Sunday afternoon I started to wonder if attendance at sporting events might be going the way of church attendance.  Continuing my analogous quest I began to note that deafening crowd noise was notably absent in comparison to games I recall from past experiences.  I also noted, however, that the media system-induced hype continued right on.  Indeed, decibel level need not be diminished by half-empty stands as long as the amplifiers remain at full power and the jumbotron stays fully illuminated.  Technological advances have given us ability to substitute virtual crowd noise for the real thing when it is missing.

I wonder if worship music leaders have taken a page from professional sports stadium media operators.  Is that how we cover when our worship spaces are absent of congregational participation?  Even when the crowd is not singing our worship songs, we can nevertheless fill the room with decibels generated from musical instruments and electronic mechanisms.  What does this accomplish?  Are we reinforcing to people that worship is about helping them feel a certain way as opposed to helping them know that our worship is about surrender to the King of kings?  Are we masking a hard reality or multiple factors that we just do not want to have to face?  Is this phenomenon in some way akin to the time when Moses came down from the mountain and covered his face to disguise a fading glory after his direct encounter with holy God?

When worship focuses our mind’s attention and heart’s affection on a feeling in the moment rather than surrender of life to the Master of eternity we are likely to find the experience to be a proverbial dead end.  The Apostle Paul had something to say about what happens when our encounters with God are truly transformational.  Instead of fading glory, reflecting Jesus’ glory results in “ever-increasing” glory.  The reason is that this worship indeed does not just convey our own exuberant experience, which is tentative at best and idolatrous at worst, but rather mirrors the Christ that we worship.  And is not that, after all, what true Christian worship is in the first place?  And when we desire to be attractive as a church let us remember Jesus’ own words, “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:32-33)  If we are to follow Jesus in attitude and spirit of our actions, will we not, then, be looking to give ourselves as living sacrifices by serving?  This seems the better test of how worship is affecting our lives.  After we have worshiped, do we act more like Jesus?  Do we have more of His likeness?


And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  — 2 Corinthians 3:18

            As we gaze on Your kingly brightness

            So our faces display Your likeness

            Ever changing from glory to glory

            Mirrored here, may our lives tell Your story;

            Shine on me.  Shine on me  –Graham Kendrick

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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