things go wrong  Me to Worship Leader on a Monday: “How was worship yesterday?”

Worship Leader: “It was ok, but attendance was down and my drummer was late ….again! The tech guys were not ready because we had a wedding Saturday and of course they did not put things back like we asked them to. On top of that I just feel like we have lots of people that are not really into the worship. We did a new Hillsong piece Sunday and with the drummer issues, plus the sound mix never felt right, we just never seemed to hit our stride. I am not looking forward to staff meeting cause the pastor does not like it if things do not go just right, plus when attendance is down he is always bummed. But I’m sure other people have it worse than I do, so I really should not complain.”

The feelings expressed above are real. I have had them myself. I do not want to ever cut off discussions about feelings related to responsibilities in worship leadership, but at the same time I am fearful that our bent toward performative understandings of the worship environment continues to undo us. Not only is it failing miserably, even at its intended purpose of getting more people into church and into the faith, but what is much worse, it smacks of serving directions diametrically opposed to the very heart of Christian worship itself. Namely, I refer to a grace-induced faith solidly rooted in an unfailing triumphant Christ, Who was, and is, and is to come! While we hunt for catchy new songs, the Spirit offers an ancient faith, a sure foundation. While we try to figure how we can do it better next time, He invites us to a work finished once and for all. While we strain trying to achieve the “next level,” He describes a certain eternity.

I have asked and have been asked the question many times, “How was worship?” The response in the first full paragraph above is not uncommon coming from the lips of any frustrated worship music leader. Asking a senior pastor the question may elicit similar response and focus. Problem is that our striving for some semblance of performative perfection tends to project the erroneous notion that we can pull off spiritual transformation ourselves. It implies we believe worship is up to us, and I am sadly convinced many practice just that. If we get the right song set, the most attractive worship singers, the hottest video shoots, field the most imaginative preacher, we will grow and turn people’s lives around. Mmmmmm…..really? Biblical witness and history beg to differ. The most foundational soteriology reveals the human condition and complete dependency upon God’s provision for salvation. The same is true regarding our access to commune with God in worship. In the so-called Roman Road we see the contrast between human effort and God’s provision in Jesus:

Romans 3:23 All come short of God’s glory (our effort)

Romans 3:10-18 none of us on his own does good (our attempts)

Romans 5:23 the gift of eternal life comes through Jesus Christ our Lord

Romans 5:8 God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”

Romans 5:1 “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 8:1 “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.”

Romans 8:38-39 “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Through the entire history of Christian worship two facts are undeniable:

1. We have always been prone to wander. From Old Testament idol worship to first century believers who were confused and sidetracked by Gnosticism and other false doctrines that distorted truth, human tendencies have distracted worshipers and worship leadership throughout the history of Christian worship. Review worship practice at any point in history and somewhere you will find a human propensity for moving away from Christ-centered worship. It is as if we want to return to the garden and eat the fruit again rather than placing full trust in God’s provision. 2.  God has always been and ever shall be at work. He does not slumber nor sleep. He provides the full resource for renewal at any point in history. Through long stretches of history where the heavens seemed to be silent, God was at work. In long stretches of our own spiritual deserts, God is at work in the silence. I do not pretend to understand it, but I am not called to understand, but rather to trust. Jon Bloom says it well, “And when we feel forsaken by God we are not forsaken (Hebrews 13:5). We are simply called to trust the promise more than the perception.”[1]

Worshipers and Worship Leaders, take heart! Worship in which we are in Christ, and Christ is in us is never less than miraculous. It is never “unsuccessful,” but neither is worship’s “success” ever because we did everything right. It is not dependent upon a house full of people, or upon precision performance. Authentic worship cannot be proven or disproven by how we feel.  Like salvation, it is by grace through faith, and that is a gift.  It’s efficacy is in Christ alone! So, how was worship Sunday?

[1] Jon Bloom, Desiring God, July 19, 2014.

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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  1. […] Paul Clark shares some thoughts on how we wrongly evaluate our worship services: […]

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