I come from a family of musicians. It’s a great way to grow up, but a
problem we used to often encounter is we could not turn off that side
of ourselves in church. Some of you know what I’m talking about: the
band will start to play, the worship leader opens their mouth and
BAM—they sing a note that is nowhere near the right key. The musician in
me inwardly cringes as the worship leader attempts to try to find the
melody of the song … and fails. I know this is worship time, but I and
my family can’t help but give each other looks every time the singers
mess up their harmonies or the drummer gets a little ‘too happy’ on
It is often a challenge for church music directors to find willing
volunteers who not only want to give up their time, but actually possess
musical skill. They are often left to scramble, sometimes going outside
their church membership to hire other singers and musicians to come in.
Just how important is musicianship to the worship experience? What
attitude should singers and musicians carry when in church?
Depending on what type of church you go to, the allotted worship time
can be from 15 minutes to over an hour long in more charismatic
churches. Regardless of how much prominence musical worship is given in
your church services, it is up to those in charge to provide the right
atmosphere for those to enter into God’s presence and leave behind the
worries of the week. Worship should be a time of reverence, but commonly
we settle into a pattern of familiarity with the chosen songs, the
A-A-B-A structure or the calming voice of the worship leader as they
invite the congregation to participate. It can easily become a ritual
lacking any spiritual significance.
Yes, church music directors and praise team leaders should strive to
make great music unto the Lord—the Bible says that whatever we do, we
should work at it with all our hearts (Colossians 3:23-4)—but they also
should understand the hearts of their musicians are more important than
how many vocal runs they can produce. Worship teams are so much more
effective when the love for God is evident on their faces. As I’ve heard
someone say, they are not worship leaders, they are lead worshippers.
When praise teams are more concerned with putting on a solid performance
than with joining in worship with the congregation, there is a problem.
Church is supposed to be a community, not a business. You can always
work on improving someone’s musicality, but they have to come already
prepared with the right spirit to worship.
We can get picky over whether our church chooses hymns over the
"light rock feel" of Chris Tomlin. But it all comes down to making a
personal choice to look past the music and focus on what you are
actually singing about. A song that used to have no meaning for me was
Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name”. I had sung that song in church for
years and thought it was pretty boring musically. However, at a service
I recently attended, the worship leader explained the lyrical content.
The song says, Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me, and then the next verse says, Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering.
Oh, wait, so this song is about praising God when things are going your
way, as well as when you are in the midst of intense suffering? It’s
about being able to say, “Yes, Lord, I will worship You, I will bless
Your name no matter what my circumstances." That is a message we all
need to take in. Now when I hear that song in church, it has renewed
meaning for me; the music does not matter because I found a way to
connect with the song no matter how proficient the musicians are.
When I was fifteen, the youth pastor of our church said something
that has stuck with me ever since. He said that everything we do can be
worship to God. The words “worship” and “music” have been tied together
so permanently that people think worship time ends when the praise team
leaves the stage. But when we pray, when we tell our friends about
Jesus, when we tithe, we’re worshipping. Worship is anything that lifts
up God’s name and praises Him. The way in which we live our lives
everyday should be an act of worship.
And it doesn’t matter how you worship either. Not everyone is going
to run around a church, singing “Hallelujah!” and not everyone is gonna
stand still with their hands at their sides. I love to lift my hands
toward God when I’m singing, but I have friends who don’t do that—and
that’s fine. It does not matter what you do when that time comes; what
matters is where your heart is at. Be present in the worship. Try (as
hard as it can be) to focus on God and His awesomeness instead of how
the girl playing the piano should probably be wearing pants from that
angle. Blocking out the world (and its unseemly distractions) is part
and parcel with being able to enter in the presence of God.
My family may exchange loaded glances from time to time, but when
our focus quickly turns to worship, we are able to move on. If the music
is actually inhibiting your ability to worship, you better check and
see what it is you’re actually praising. Don’t make music your god.
Change your circumstances in order to avoid being put off by anything
that may hinder you. Maybe you will even have to purposely seek out a
different church. Whatever your options, make the changes necessary to
take your focus off the screechy soprano and put it where it belongs—on
the King of Kings.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for
the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an
inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are
serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
This article originally appeared on RELEVANTmagazine.com. Tara Burke is earning her master’s degree in Communication &
Culture, specializing in race representation and performance studies. A
writer, singer and blogger, her main aim is to make relevant,
progressive works of media and culture that point people to the love of
Christ. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Twitter: @taradotwords Blog: taraburke.tumblr.com