Worship or Lead?

Apologies to those of you who have just found this blog, and are looking for gear reviews and such, but sometimes things take a serious turn over here, as well. Well, kind of serious. It’s me. And it’s really hard for me to do anything serious…without at least one movie reference. There’s just so many good ones (and dumb ones, which are infinitely better to mention) out there. But most of the posts here lately have been gear-centered, and as it has been a very disappointing month for me for new gear, I’m going to slightly shift gears for a bit. (Seriously…ever have those months where it seems every pedal that comes in sucks? My last six new pedals have been found very wanting. Dr. Scientist Tremolessence should be here in a couple days…that’s like, the worst pedal name ever…but it’s my last hope for March pedal try-outs.) But it hit me the other night, as I was playing with a band for a youth retreat. And after one of the evening sets, I’m walking back to the cabin they housed the band in, and it’s pretty cool. It had been a really good set, the road is long and dark, smells like mountains as you walk instead of whipped engines as kids rev up mommy and daddy’s vans at stoplights to race to the next stoplight to show off their ‘I’m a BMX racer’ skills (seriously, living in the Inland Empire sucks), and it’s always nice to be out in cold air after sweating through a passionate worship set. (Okay, I know that sounds really gross…but hopefully some of you can relate…it’s a good feeling.)

And as I’m walking, God’s glory kind of hits me, and I start singing the song we ended the set with, ‘Mighty to Save’. And it’s pretty cool. But as I’m singing, I start to realize that this is the most intense worship I’ve had all night. Better than all the rocking songs, better than all the intimate acoustic stuff, better than all the ripping-off-of Hillsong-United-who-ripped-off-U2 songs……I was worshiping more intimately and more intensely when I wasn’t playing. Even though I felt like I had worshiped pretty intensely while I was playing. 

(Gorgeous pedal. Except mine’s purple. Which is even better…it’s right next to my desk, but I was definitely too lazy to take a picture of it. I was so stoked to get this thing…but it’s broken. What a pedal month. However, the builder did offer to fix it for free, even though I bought it used…so many props to Copilot FX. Maybe there’s still some hope for this one.)

So, of course, my next logical course of action is to never use a band again for worship. But that’s selfishness. Yes, my best time of worship that night between me and God was without a band. But when we’re leading worship, it’s not about our best time between us and God. It’s about leading people as we worship. Otherwise, it’s just selfishness. Otherwise, we’re forsaking the ultimate act of worship, loving God by following His command to love others, so that we personally can feel God through some little time of music. It’s not about our feelings…entirely. Feelings are great, and even necessary. It’s also not possible to lead worship properly if we’re focused so much on leading, that we don’t connect with God ourselves. But most of us don’t struggle with that as often as we do with just having our own private little worship sessions on stage, and totally leaving the people, that at that given moment God has entrusted to us to lead, completely behind.

Ya, my best worship experience that night was on my own. But that was my best worship experience. The people not playing instruments? There’s was probably during the worship music. As leaders, sometimes we have to take on a greater responsibility. Here’s what I mean. We all need to have personal worship times where we are just focusing on God, and nothing else. And most of us get that during church services. But once you step in to start to lead worship music, you should no longer be using that time as your personal worship experience……because now you need to worship God by loving others, and helping them connect with Him. Yet that does not let you off the hook of having your personal worship experience, too. As leaders, we can’t be lazy. You gotta know that, ‘Okay. If I decide to use these worship times as my service times to God’s people, then I have to now take on greater responsibility and set aside my own times, apart from when I’m leading, to worship God…either on my own, or at some church where I have no responsibilities. Otherwise, it really is selfishness. People have told me before, that our mentality as we lead worship needs to change; that we need to stop focusing so much on people, so that those of us on the worship team can worship (or, feel good), too. And my response, Im afraid quite unlovingly at times, is always, ‘Oh, so you’re saying that your personal worship time at home is more intense than when you’re here?’ And the response is always, ‘Personal worship time at home?’ Don’t shirk your responsibilities as leaders of people in the church so that you can get the warm fuzzies that you’re too lazy to get on your own personal time. 

And then at the same time, it’s not really the point of this particular article, but it has to be said……Don’t be so focused on leading, that you lose all touch with what you’re supposed to be leading them to. It’s like the pastor who got so excited about all the incredible teaching methods that communicate God’s Word so well, He forgot to use God’s Word. But at the same time, most of us worship leaders lead so little and try to ‘worship/feel’ so much, that we become like a pastor who’s up on stage, saying nothing for minutes at a time, because he’s teaching himself new things he just found in the Bible. That’s good, but a corporate setting may not be the place for the one called to ‘lead’ to be doing that. Same thing with the worship music. We’ve got to be totally lost in it; but in the corporate setting where we’re supposed to ‘lead’? Ya, not so much. And, it’s been my humble experience, that the ones who fight against this the most (including myself, when I was one of the ‘have to feel it at all time, congregation can follow if they want’ worship leaders), are the ones who have no personal worship time of their own.

Now, are there times to put down our instruments in a corporate setting and just sing to God? Yes. But usually after the work of leading has been done, God’s used us as much He wants, and He decides to now take over. And of course, sometimes everything I said needs to go right out the window, if the Lord is truly leading differently at the time. But…uh…sometimes it doesn’t need to go out the window.

When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple. What shows God more worth? Loving His people by leading them in singing songs of love to Him, or leaving them behind so that your ‘worship’ can be intense, because you were blogging during the week, instead of having your intense times of personal worship then? 😉 And I say that to myself as much as anybody…because I’m definitely blogging right now, and then about to go watch ‘Unforgiven’. And maybe I should be doing something else. Nah, I’ll just get my personal time in with God tonight at our service, while people are watching.

(Caught a half hour of this on tv last week…really good. So I had to rent it. And say what you want about Clint’s acting…I defy you to find somebody cooler. 😉 But it looked like, at least from the parts I saw, that his acting was pretty much tearing it up in this film. My favorite part about Clint is how his mouth never opens when he talks. His lips part and his Adam’s apple moves, but his teeth just stay together in this sort of perma-growl. He is the personification of toughness.)


55 thoughts on “Worship or Lead?

  1. Great post Karl. If I had to say what my two weakest points are in leading worship it would be 1) too glued to the music stand and 2) too many new songs. Actually the two go hand-in-hand don’t they.

    Our congregation seems to like most of the new ones I bring in, but as in almost every other church, they will sing and worship better if they know the songs.

    Our youth pastor is just over half my age but takes a better and more mature approach to leading. He has quite a few more years of experience ( even at his age ) than I do but he brings in fewer new ones and also strings several together in the same key.

    As a tenor I think the keys he uses ( which are usually the same as the album or at least the same key he found the chord chart in ) are too high for many men but keeping the same key allows for more seamless transitions and less capo-fiddling. I transpose almost everything to a key that works for my voice, but I have been going out of my way lately to at least have no capo or the same capo position for the first 3 songs. At that point we usually pray before starting the last 3 songs of the set so I can mess with the capo easily there.

    I’ve actually been taking an informal survey of our congregations’ musical tastes ( starting with the high-school/college age folks ) and so far most don’t listen to much Christian music during the week — yikes. If this is somewhat true for all ages then it doesn’t bode well for using too many of the contemporary Christian songs I hear on the radio or purchase. At least in terms of the congregation already having some familiarity with them.

    I checked out that Copilot fx briefly just now — I don’t think I have much use for anything resembling an autoWah at this point 🙂

    Sometime I’d like to post my pedalboard here and get some feedback on the individual pedals/components, and on the signal chain.


  2. Karl,

    I know exactly what you mean Karl. Leading worship usually means service, not necessarily worshiping. It’s not a bad thing, there’s just alot going on during worship, and to devote yourself to bringing a congregation into a place of worshiping and praising God requires us to focus on their experience.

    We put alot of effort into the nuts and bolts of music/drama/whatever production to create an environment which is free of distractions and allows people to let go in a way that can be foreign to the rest of our culture.

    To be able to do all that, plus be in that same place of worship the rest of the congregation is in is a lot to ask for. God is big and omnipotent, and can bring us to that plac ein spite of that, but as Christians, the relationship with Jesus is not a one way street. It goes both ways.

    With that in mind, I agree with you. We all need a time to be in that place, free of distractions. A place where we can just be with God both alone and corporately. A special time in which we put worldly concerns/responsibilities aside.

    I’ve been thinking about that recently.


  3. great thoughts, bro! it’s amazing how most worship leaders (i mean everybody in the band, not only the lead vocalist) feel and experience these things. i feel very blessed that i have had great worship experiences during both my personal time (sometimes even driving alone or just listening to my ipod in transit) and corporate worship (both while playing and not playing). i know some musicians find it hard to do it during service because they get too caught-up in the technicalities of music, i do too. and sadly, this is becoming more often than i would like it to be 🙁

  4. Thank You Karl for your very insightful entry today.

    I have been struggling with my placement in praise team, but with your help, my perspective has been renewed.

    Thank You.

  5. Randy–yes, transitions are huge…but so is singing in keys everyone can sing. I try to keep things in the same key and capo as much as possible, but I’ll usually error on the side of lowering the keys, rather than raising them, in order to get everything in the same key. And great idea on surveying the congregation! I do the exact same thing. Because after all, we’re there to serve them! 🙂

    And ya, the Copilot Gyroscope is moreso for the step filtering, and less for the auto-wah stuff. And I’ll use it for when my lead guitar ventures at different churches and venues…definitely not for my leading endeavors at my main church.

    And ya! Feel free to post your pedalboard at any time! Us gear junkies love seeing that stuff! hehe

    Nate–great comment. It totally can be a lot of work…and work that we need to do, in order to worship God by loving people. Great thoughts, brother! I like the part about our walk with God not being a one way street. It takes work on our parts, too.

    James O.–thanks, brother.

    Rhoy–that’s a good point, too. Sometimes we’re at a completely separate place and not focused on leading or worshiping. The music, which has its place, and that we’re using for God, can bog us down sometimes. For me, I find that it happens when I haven’t put in the time to practice. Then I’m thinking way too much about what I’m doing on stage, instead of being able to just let some of it flow, because I’ve put in the service earlier by practicing it all. Great points, bro!

    James–well, I’m glad my ramblings could be of some help and encouragement. I definitely don’t know it all, but if we can discuss and help each other, then it’s all worth it. So thank you for the encouragement, and it’s great to have you here! 🙂

  6. My motto in leading worship is:

    “If nobody’s following, you’re not leading.”

    I think the most important thing is to make people feel absolutely comfortable so that they can move their focus away from the worship leader and band and just worship.

    When you play and sing, “lean back” not “in” to the music.

    Let the people leading feel your confidence. They’ll be on edge if they feel you’re the slightest bit uncomfortable. When they don’t notice your existence, you’re doing it right.

    Err toward simple arrangements that you can pull off comfortably over complex arrangements that you’re struggling with. Even if you can pull off the complex arrangement and look confident, if it’s taking everything you have it’ll show as striving not as “leaning back”.

  7. I wrote something kinda like this a while back on my blog. I think that on many occasions we (as lead worshippers) have to sacrifice our own personal emotional worship experience while leading in order to effectively lead others. What’s more, I think that the act of sacrifice *is* worship.

    Off topic – did you notice the typo on that pedal? They misspelled Depth as “Depht.” Professional…

    I also think that Clint is a great actor. I would watch him read the phone book.

  8. good post, Karl. I was going to post a sarcastic response about the typo, but the depth of this topic made it seem wrong.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Coming from a total acapella church, possibly in the transition of going instrumental I feel like I’m on the total other side of this. In my experience, I have found that the more things that are introduced into the service, the more distracting it becomes, to someone, somewhere.

    Don’t get me wrong I think instrumental worship can be a good tool, I’m just not sure its really necessary other then to fulfill the needs of the players. I think can be moved by a performance, but it seems like that experience is so temporary.

    What if suddenly there was no power, and no way to get an instrument going (play along for a second) how does that change the experience? I’m actually running sound right now at this very moment for church. This morning the monitors are dead, so the singing group is having a hard time hanging. I asked, why not just have one person leading songs? Is it that important to have 8 other singers up there?

    They looked at me like I was an idiot.

    Instruments, power point, worship teams etc have become crutches that have the ability to take us further away from the goal. Not that they can’t be good tools to enhance the experience, but when you get to the point that you are a lost person without them, you’re more lost then you think.

    Suddenly the context is more important then content.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way karl, as its just an observation, but I was blown away by the full length mirrors in the bathroom at your church in the mens room. I guess for me, going to church these days only seems to take me further and further away from god, I’m not even sure I recognize the message anymore. Our new preacher has been more concerned with the new logo then actually making eye contact with the members of his congregation.

    Sorry to have totally ranted, lol I’m in a weird place right now, and this blog has been helpful to see other peoples thoughts and opinions on this stuff.

    Carry on.

  10. kenrick, what do you do with the psalm passages where david says to worship with instruments?
    I guess anything has the potential to be an idol, worship music included.

    I guess the upside of going acapella is never being told to turn down, you’re too loud!

  11. Kendrick –

    I can understand where you are coming from. I grew up in the a cappella churches and have served as the Worship Minister for 2 a cappella churches before moving onto a staff @ an instrumental church this past summer. While I’ve never shared some of the beliefs others from my heritage do in regards to the “sin” of IM music, I do understand the different philosophies. And some days I do miss just having to manage pitch pipe instead of an pedal board 🙂 lol But since I’ve now experienced both from the congregation member perspective and staff perspective, I can say that both have advantages/disadvantages. I’ve led where I’m the only voice leading hymn and have no instrumentals, a “praise team” of 8-10 singers doing contemporary a cappella music and now with a full worship band doing modern worship music. Which is more spiritual, more biblical, more worshipful? All and none of them @ times. I think you hit on the core issues with this statement:

    “Suddenly the context is more important then content.”

    This is true no matter how you choose to lead worship. This is also true in ANY area of ministry, especially areas associated with the arts. Is the Sr. Min so taken with the new logo that he is forgetting why he wanted a new logo? (to aid in reaching the lost, etc) If so, then he’s lost perspective. Are there floor length mirrors @ a church so the band can see how great they look in their stage clothes, or so they can make sure their appearance doesn’t potentially distract those they are leading?

    Now this may sound crazy from your perspective, but I actually feel things are often “less” of a performance in my current church with a full band rocking out than my time in a cappella churches. When I worked in a cappella churches, especially those who had to have the praise team sit down front (not on stage, especially no women on stage :(, for some it was all too easy to focus on ME…the leader. And this really only makes sense when you think about it…they don’t see THE CHURCH BODY (not yelling, just can’t do italics 🙂 leading them, but a single individual. I often said I felt like I was on American Idol 🙂 One of the things I LOVE about worshipping in a band situation is that THE BODY is using the gifts God has given them (whether it’s beating a drum, singing, or running the board) to lead THE BODY.

    That’s probably more than my 2 cents worth and surely more than you cared to read 🙂 I could go on and one with these thoughts, as I’ve wrestled with many of these issues over the years. I’d be happy to chat more if you’re at all interested. Where are you located? The a cappella circle is fairly small, we may even know each other 🙂 I certainly don’t have any answers, but I can relate to some of your experiences. But know this, I totally understand where your heart is at right now.

    And I think all of us, regardless of HOW we worship need to look deep in ourselves often and see what’s driving us.

    @Don- Unfortunately, that’s not the case 🙂 I was told to “turn it down, you’re too loud” tons more often @ a cappella churches! lol

  12. I have 0 problems with instrumental worship from a doctrinal standpoint, sorry if my rant seemed like it was slanted towards that, it more about ‘church worship production’ in general.

    No, sometimes the singers want themselves sooo loud, and since they don’t have to compete with any instruments, there is alot of bandwidth for them to take up.

    The whole point I think I was trying to make, is that I would want to go to instrumental worship if it fact it would make some kind of difference for everyone present, but what it seems like is that everytime we introduce something new, it takes away more then it adds. maybe its a talent thing? I’m just really curious how churches who have big productions every week maintain focus and not get lost in the technical details.

    that make more sense?

  13. sorry one last thing. we used to just have person up front leading everyone in song, and we all used books. about 10 years ago they switched to having an 8 person praise team (2 per part), and slowly stopped using the books and is now power point only.

    heres the lame thing.

    now at every event _there_has_to_be_4_parts_ singing. always. can’t ever be just one lone person starting the song, regardless of how many people are present. I mean, whos to say that if we went instrumental that now there will always have to be a guitar etc present for it to be considered ‘worship’. that would drive me insane.

    my opinion is that the people who come up to the stage (or wherever) uninvited to sing out the parts with the song leader (not me btw) are doing it more for attention, I’m not sure how its helping in every instance.

  14. First, I wish I had spell checked my last post 🙂 I did go to elementary school. seriously ! lol

    @ Kenrick: Something just came to me…in your context, adding IM music may not be the best option. If it’s done for evangelistic reasons, cool. But if not, it will be such a major departure for everyone (leaders, congregation) and introduce so many more technical challenges, that it very well may be more distraction than worship. And if your church is anything like the ones I’ve been at, rock so many peoples worlds that they just can’t focus on worship. That doesn’t make it wrong, but perhaps not right for you people. That’s something only a Spirit led leadership can navigate through. But on the flip-side, for those churches that have a band, more “production” etc. the worship services of the typical non-IM church would be so foreign to them (and many outside the church) that it would be more of a distraction. Does that make any sense?

    …food for thought: Some of the most meaningful worship experiences I’ve had have been in the midst of “the big production”. But those who were leading so cared about what they did and using their gifts and talents to point people to Jesus, that I never noticed the technical things. That’s actually my goal as a worship leader…to do things so well and so seamless that people don’t notice me, they notice what God is doing. It’s my job to magnify God, not man, and get out of the way.

  15. @ Stevebruce & Kendrick—-
    I’m from Nashville, and was basically born with an acoustic attached. I went to an uber conservative Church of Christ college– Vocal worship ONLY.

    It was refreshing for the first year. I would worship in my band every Wed night, and sit through the vocal worship every Sunday.

    Then I realized that in this particular setting, they were making “Vocal Bands” though instruments were outlawed. Next thing I knew, we had some very gifted people in a band of 9 doing the 4 part harmony, one doing bass lines, one doing “vocal percussion” and all this other fancy vocal stuff… that sounded like….. a band. The bass lines, sounded like a bass player. The vocal percussion was a dead ringer for drums and high hat. They recorded and almost got turned down by the school to sell their cd in chapel because they thought it was instrumental music on first listen.

    point is: Wow, how 1 Sunday of change for me– vocal music– lead me into a worship experience even deeper than I knew.
    #2: how dogmatic beliefs can kinda kill those feelings…. and how silly they sound when the point of it is worship anyway (silly as in the record of vocals being so close to a real band sound, it wasn’t allowed to be played!).

    Like SBRUCE stated— most of the time the worship leaders were more ROCKSTAR than most of the bands I was with. It was the Church Idol, and “listen to me sing” (not true for all, but in a college environment… hehe, seriously, all about the babes! 😉 )
    In a band environment there is always a keyboardist, bass player or female vocalist who doesn’t give a flip about my board now running at 12v vs 9v, which in the end keeps me humble by default.
    And that is why I feel the service side more now: Let me help you worship please!!! Vs what I saw: Watch me worship with my awesome voice!!

    hehe, sorry, had to drop my 2 cents!

  16. @ Larry – did you go to DLU? The conservative Church of Christ circle is small, depending on your age, we may know many of the same people 😉

    Vocal tracks with percussion (we called it VP ;), etc. …been there, done that 🙂 That’s the first time I realized how crazy things were in my heritage. I toured with both a cappella groups and bands in high school/college.

    Funny story:…The band I was in was “kicked out” of a large youth rally cause we had instruments, but the vocal group I was in was not, but we had tracks I had recorded with all sorts of drum sounding loops, etc. lol

    I LOVE, honor and respect my C of C heritage, just as I love the Christian church I’m part of now…but I love Jesus more than either, and He just wants me to praise Him!

  17. @ Larry: OK, sad fact..DLU (along with ACU and Rochester, where I went) is considered very “liberal” Church of Christ schools 😉

    @Karl…sorry, we now return this post to it’s previous programming 😉

  18. Ha, popular post…I can’t image why.

    I had a unique opportunity this weekend. I wasn’t running sound and I wasn’t playing in the worship team. I thought I would be out of town so I told the band I couldn’t be there.

    I was seated so I could watch the “worship leader” who is also a drummer. The following views expressed are….mine. He is a good drummer. He is a good singer. When he does both, his drumming skills drop. During the songs, I watched him play and sing. I was able to note several times when his drumming was off, losing the drum pattern. While he is the “band leader” I don’t think he should view himself as a necessary singer because drumming sets the tempo and when you can’t master one, why try to do something else as well.

    Our team does have 1-2 singers who only sing. I’d rather they sing and the musicians play.

    All that to say, I think leading worship means foregoing what you might want to do in place of what you should do for the betterment of the band.

    This rant has been brought to you by the American Dairy Council and the American Dairy Association.

    p.s. I’m praying that if I’m right or wrong on this that God might show me what I should do. I’ll also take suggestions!

  19. Hey, after knocking another band member, let me toss in a bit ‘o confession. I need to really bump up my rhythm guitar skills. I find it easy to fall back into a few basic strum patterns. I also tend to be “glued to the music stand” as another noted. I have been trying to note the progression order and play along as I look out on the congregation. Sometimes that works, other times, well, ummmmm…it doesn’t. 🙂 The more I can play by feel, I’m finding the more emotion I can convey in my playing.

  20. I totally agree, and I think it’s one of the reasons you’ll find most well known worship leaders playing an acoustic guitar with root position chords using a capo where necessary. It lets them move away from focusing on the chords they’re playing, and to focus on the congregation, and where they’re going.

    We have the same thing at my church as you describe in the original article Karl, there are some great worshippers who are part of our bands, and sometimes it feels like they leave the rest of the church behind – one worship leader in particular, every worship set will invite people to “sing out their praises in tongues”, and while about 20-30 people of a 300 strong congregation do that, the remainder stand there silent and uncomfortable because they’re not quite there yet. Giving them some kind of simple lyrical hook to work from, by repeating a chorus/bridge section would be way more effective, giving those not confident enough to sing out a theme/lyric/thread to follow, and allow those that want to the opportunity to sing spontaneously.

  21. It’s kinda hard to pour yourself out in leadership and service if you haven’t been filling up all week. When worshipping God becomes about Sunday morning or about singing (with or without instruments), we have a problem. Which I think is what Karl was trying to say. 🙂

  22. Well said Mike. I think a comment I heard in a sermon about “find the ministry where you’re doing what you enjoy” can be a little misleading. You may enjoy leading or participating on the Worship Team in many ways, but you may not enjoy it in the same way as simply “getting your musical jollies” in a secular jam group or band.

    Now if what you would naturally play and enjoy coincides exactly with the songs you really should be playing to minister to your congregation, fine. If left to your own devices when jamming with friends at home would never find you playing Chris Tomlin stuff, then this term “enjoy” needs more examination.

    I think this has led to confusion on my part and that I need to draw a sharp line between pure musical enjoyment and what is called for in Worship. Now if you don’t enjoy playing worship music at all in any sense, you’re in the wrong line of work, but we shouldn’t confuse the two.

  23. Great discussion, guys! And some really good points. I usually like to respond to each comment individually, but I can’t say anything better than what’s already been said. 🙂

    And yes, the point is definitely ‘worshiping as we lead’, as opposed to ‘worshiping as we’re in front of people’, leaving them behind so that we can have the personal worship experience we should have been having by ourselves all week. When we’re in front of people, ‘worship’ should be mostly in the form of love and service, and somewhat in the form of ‘experience.’ And when we’re by ourselves, it should be all in the form of ‘experience.’ Whether that be with instruments, without instruments, with vocals, with just silence, or what-not.

    I do want to ask one question, though. @Steven: You’ve literally been told to turn your voice down? lol That’s, like, the best thing I’ve ever heard!

  24. @ Karl: Well, not exactly MY voice 🙂 lol See, there has been a on-going war within many non instrumental church of christ regarding the move to team led worship (vocalists singing 4 or more parts) as opposed to the traditional single leader. The debate is usually something like “a group up there is just a concert” type thing. So the biggest complaint at most c of c’s navigating through that is “it’s too loud”. Keep in mind here, we’re talking 4-8 voices running about 85dB doing songs like “Blessed Be Your Name”. 😉 So yes, I’ve heard that one many times. I’ve had the blessing (or curse) of being the point-person @ several of these churches during the transition…ah, good times.

    Let’s just say, as much as I love and respect my heritage (and it sure did help me with dealing with harmonies 😉 I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO happy to be part of a church that doesn’t care about that and let’s me rock out with my guitar.

  25. haha Gotcha! Ok, I can see that. And wow…I had no idea about that stuff. If people are worshiping, then awesome! But I thought 85dB was too quiet for the human ear to discern. 😉 hehe

  26. Wow, great comments. I need to put some of this stuff up. This should make it into a book.

    It’s amazing the same issues exist (concert versus worship) even without technological instruments. ?Nothing new under the sun I guess.


  27. Any time the worship becomes more of a show than an expression of our love for God, I have a problem. It’s very easy as musicians to get caught up in the technical side. The congregation however is generally clueless when it comes to musical ablility.

    I play what the worship leader wants me to play, which is generally what was originally recorded. This is not the style of music that I usually play but I’m not playing for myself. I’m playing for the One. Without the talent that He gave me, I wouldn’t HAVE the ablility to play or sing. I do it to honor and serve him. Just as I would if I was helping herd a group of second graders around in youth church or repairing the Pastors pc after he downloaded and opened an email full of spyware. When our serving becomes more about us and what we want than Him and what He asks of us, it’s no longer serving.

  28. “This is not the style of music that I usually play but I’m not playing for myself.” Mark, what style of music do you usually play? I’m just curious since I’m coming to the conclusion that you need to be playing “what you usually play” ( meaning the music you are first drawn to when you pick up your instrument ) at least some of the time or you will take your eyes off the priorities for Worship you described so well above.

    If “the music you usually play” is exactly what your Pastor or worship leader has picked, fortunate one you are !! ( sound like Yoda ) But for electric guitar players in particular I suspect they aren’t the same.

  29. Yoda…HA! Love it I do. 🙂 Luckily, Randy, I have a worship outlet for the style of music that I usually play. That being of a more R&B and blues oriented type. I have my own christian originals band for that. I would love to be in a praise and worship setting that allowed me to utilize my talents in that style but….such is not.

    But don’t missunderstand me. I have a blast playing the top 40 Christian stuff that they do at my church. I play with a bunch of, well…to me…kids (Me being 50 and own guitars older than them.). I get pushed out of my comfort zone…which I’ve found…keeps my head in the right place. So…I imagine I’m where God wants me. It sure feels like it.

  30. As a worship leader that has been in both the support role and lead role, I find that if you’re not singing, it’s really difficult to really be worshiping. Playing an instrument, whether it be drums, bass, e. guitar, or keys, there is just alot of technical stuff to be worried about (particularly on electric with a tweak heavy analog board). It’s hard enough to sing perfectly in pitch (which is a huge distraction of course if not in key), but to deal with the details of a specific part or solo… I’ve lead from electric guitar before, and I don’t know how folks like Tommy Walker can play rhythm parts, worshipful solos, sing incredibly, and minister at the same time. So it makes sense to do less, even if you can do more, so the quality is better, and the worship is distraction free. I always encourage my instrumentalists to sing during the worship. Let the words seep in… After all, without the words, it isn’t that different from secular music (though there has been a movement recently with worship musicians using their virtuosity with long sweeping grand instrumentals to bring people to worship God – but I don’t it’ll resonate in many churches).

  31. Karl – That was truly splendid…I apologize that I don’t have anything engaging to say, but, that was truly splendid! 🙂 OH, I really liked the rip off part. That was even more splendid! Ha ha.

  32. Again, awesome comments…and not much that I can say much better. Except to Chris…because he’s heard firsthand week after week how much I do rip off U2! lol! 🙂

  33. Quick aside – I tend to lead the best when I’m worshipping well. Forgetting all about the leading part changes everything. Maybe that’s why it’s so important to _know_ the songs, frees you up to do the important thing: worship.

  34. Awesome points, Wilfried. Do you think, though, that at times we can ‘worship’ more by ‘showing God worth’ (which is worship) by loving His people enough to step back from our emotional high as we’re on stage, and maybe praying for them as we’re singing, or looking at their faces to see if they’re connecting, or changing something if they’re not connecting, or what-not? Sometimes I feel like loving His people enough to lead them, is more of an act of worship than us being emotionally into the song.

    And there’s definitely a time and place to be emotionally into the song, and totally connected with God ourselves…especially if the congregation is already totally connected. But if they’re not, I feel sometimes we have a responsibility to step back and lead.

    And maybe that’s exactly what you’re saying. 🙂 Just thought I’d open the conversation a bit. Great comment!!

  35. Great Post! I am not as experienced in worship leading but feel as though I have a good grasp/understanding of what is involved. For me truly, and this is across the board, you can’t take/lead people to a place you have never been to. You want people to jump in you better know what the water feels like.
    off note: I think you have real depth, you don’t need to hide it with humour (< british spelling).

  36. Peter–great points, brother! If we want people to ‘worship’, we better know how to do it ourselves. And at the same time, we also can’t lead people somewhere when we’re so far off in the distance, they can’t even see how to get to where we are anymore. And I’d also argue that when we get that far in the distance, we’re no longer loving them–hence, they probably shouldn’t ever get to where we are, anyway.

    And on the depth thing, I do appreciate that. 🙂 But depth isn’t the point. There’s plenty of self-professed ‘deep’ blogs out there that make some great points! But uh…lol…this isn’t one of them. The way I see it, if a point can’t be communicated in a way everyone can understand, then why ‘communicate’ it?

  37. Hi all,

    Sorry for commenting on old posts, but a couple thoughts struck me while reading.

    1) Great topic–enjoyed reading through the discussion.

    2) Slightly off topic but someone alluded to the verse in Ecclesiastes (1:9; 1O-11):

    That which * has been is that which will be, And that which * has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing * new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new “? Already it has existed for ages Which were before * us. 11 There is no remembrance of earlier things ; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.

    There’s a lot there, but I wanted to throw in a p.o.v. and a question, and do so briefly if I can. First. I used to get mad at verse 9, perhaps for similar reasons as David Bazan (who I’ll quote below). Mostly I was mad because God was limiting my creativity to ways others had been creative–I don’t know that it’s utterly clear in the text how much that creativity is limited–a quick example that came to my mind would be magnetic poetry–you can construct a poem on a fridge, but only with the preselected words. I’m sure someone else can share an illustration with more poignancy (and I can see limits to my example–we’re already limited by our alphabet and particular language).

    Anyway, I don’t know that I’ve resolved all the logical tensions on the matter, but I’ve since decided at least one or two things:

    1) God is good and what He allows us to draw from to create is good–and why wouldn’t we want to create what is good? (Is it–that we don’t really believe he is “good.” Or we don’t believe that what is “good” is all that good. Read: good here means life-fulfilling and completely satisfying and beyond our wildest dreams–that’s what God is, in part). Why does it seem less “good” if others have shared in it?

    2) Logic completely aside, from a relational standpoint with God, I don’t “analyze” things as much and rather express myself freely–and I don’t even stop to say, “that’s original so it’s freeing, and that is not so it isn’t”–I mean I do at times, but not at others. Maybe not analyzing is the freest thing of all.

    So the David Bazan quote (which you probably know), from “Selling Advertising”:

    I know it’s hard to be original
    In fact nothing scares me more
    Because Jesus only lets me do
    What has been done before

    Not to pick on Mr. Bazan here, but I think he is twisting the context, while still taking on a controversial topic. If I was to take a guess about what all of these symptomatic concerns point too, I’d say it relates directly to how we perceive our identity (see: big words help mine). What gives us value? What gives us purpose? What really does this and what do we confuse with doing this so often?).

    Yeah–well–maybe a bad topic suggestion–there’s so many directions to go with it, and perhaps not altogether enough answers (look at v. 11 for instance–do all our efforts diminish when the memory of them does–obviously not to God). After reading some along the postmodern thought (see: I encounter this mostly in an “academic” setting, and not the Church), a lot of what is “original” or not has to do with whether it can be commodified. Not to offer too reductive of a solution, but the Bible can be commodified, and it points to the Word-maker and world-maker from the beginning. Perhaps the question of what’s original or not is worthwhile–but is a different question than what determines our identity–maybe this is the BIG THING that we have confused. And maybe that is why it is so desperately important for us to be original.

    Or maybe in being original we act in the way that God does. But does this determine our value?

    And no, this was not brief. Not brief at all.

  38. Big Al–so sorry to miss that comment! Hope you’re still here! 🙂

    Caleb–great points! I think originality is one of those a-moral things; not necessarily good or bad in and of itself. The problem arises when we start to place originality higher than virtue. Is it wrong to try to be original? Nope. But it starts to become wrong when we’d rather be original than love people enough to give them something to sing to the Lord with. If you can do both, then cool! But if people are just waiting to sing to two chords and a melody they know, but we’re hindering that because that’s not original enough in our minds, then it’s possible our heart might need a slight change of direction. Just my thoughts on it.

    I also hold to the theory Lewis puts forth in ‘Christianity and Culture’ that everything has already been created: every possible combination of notes, color, words, rhythms, etc. God has already created all of it; so what we see as ‘creating’, is really just ‘displaying’ something God has already created, and bringing Him glory in the process. It’s kind of an odd perspective, but it’s really been cool in helping me not take my own originality too seriously, and to keep the focus where it needs to be.


  39. Thanks for the quick response!

    Hmmm…interesting–at first I didn’t think I was going to like the Lewis point (I’m an Eliot fan myself, and the two were at loggerheads most of their lives, though became friends in the end), but I do. It’s a good point. We don’t “own” our creativity just like we don’t “own” our money. Maybe we’re stewards of both. Yeah, you’re right, that definitely cuts down on the pride thing–like “Ha, God lent more creativity to me than to you, because He is good and loving and all-knowing and blessed you with something else that is far better for you anyway.” Can’t really insult people with that line of thinking.

    Maybe I should read Lewis’ essay, after my grad school apps are done. I know Eliot wrote about culture too–sometimes I’m suspicious of the word, because of how people use it–but I like how Lewis brings it right back to God.

    Btw, I don’t know if you’d be interested or not, but almost all of modern aesthetics (at least in the poetry world) is a turf war over who’s more “authentic” or “original,” or if we can be either of those things. Of course it isn’t always phrased so reductively, but it’s fascinating and headache-inducing at the same time (I’m currently studying T.S. Eliot, Charles Olson, but my goodness! Derrida and Foucault are a handful!).

    Thanks again–actually keeping all this in perspective when we want to melt peoples faces off, well that’s different than the theory of it–but right theory isn’t a bad start.

  40. haha Your last line is killer, bro!

    And ya, it’s kind of a cool perspective; when I first read it, it really humbled me.

    And Lewis and Eliot were at odds most of their life?! hehe I had no idea, and those are probably my two favorite writers. Shows how learned I am. lol 😉 What was your major again? What you’re studying sounds fascinating! Also, I’d say all of my reading of Eliot has been on the poetry side; is there anything you could direct me to by him that are more of essays or treatises? I’d be stoked to hear what he has to say about culture! Thanks, brother!

  41. I believe the following link gives a rundown of some of their points of contention–I read it while writing my senior thesis (on T.S. Eliot) in summer of ’09. http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/16854.htm I haven’t read it since, but basically I can tell you that they mainly differed on what they considered “Classical Literature” (note: technically that would be Ancient Greek and Roman Literature, but for this discussion think of it as what deserves to be included in the literary canon). Lewis, of course, was a specialist in Medieval Literature. He also loved the Romantic poets–remember his example of Coleridge in “Abolition of Man” about the waterfall being either beautiful or sublime? Eliot, on the other hand–well, let’s just say he wasn’t overly fond of the Romantics. Aside from one of his essay titles, “The Romantic Generation, If It Existed,” he wrote his famous essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” where he basically dismantled the idea of the poet’s personality contributing anything to the poem itself. That was a big deal because for the Romantics, inspiration flowed from the self. An Eliot scholar, D.E.S. Maxwell, calls this the “romantic fallacy.” Since I just used that quote in my latest paper, I’ll include it here in full (mainly, I no longer have some of these sources on hand):

    “All the different kinds of romantic had been united by their belief that a work of art was fundamentally an expression of the artist’s personality, and that allegiance was owed not to any external authority but to the dictates of the poet’s inner voices…[examples of Shelley, Wordsworth]…In the beginning this did not produce anarchy; it resulted in the variety that was needed after classical decadence [the Augustan poets]. Nevertheless, it is obvious that if supreme authority for the individual is to be vested in the caprices of his own individuality, then the absence of any common external authority may result eventually in a loss of stability. As excess of restraint had led to death, excess of liberty might well lead to license. Because the first romantics after the Augustan tradition—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats—had been men of genius, the experiment was successful. But to continue the experiment through generations of lesser men was for poetry to condemn itself to ‘fitful and transient bursts of literary brilliance’” (Eliot, Points of View, 85).

    “With the dying of the first revolutionary passion, the inner voices lost their force. Underlying the doctrine [of the Romantics] was the assumption that man’s innate goodness would in the end overcome his weakness…On this assumption romantic theory can be justified. For if man is perfectible then he must contain within himself at least the seeds of the perfect ethic and the perfect art: to follow the guidance of an inner voice is therefore unimpeachable, and the important thing in a work of art is not the object considered, but what the author felt about the object. This is the romantic fallacy” (Maxwell 17).

    Okay. So there’s way too many directions one could take from now. But the bottom line, if I can convey it concisely–Lewis and Eliot had very different ideas of what they considered to be “good poetry,” though I believe they had some overlap (Dante, for example). Do you recall “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?” Lewis wrote a mocking rendition of the poem, saying:

    “I am so coarse, the things the poets see. Are obstinately invisible to me. For twenty years I’ve stared my level best. To see if evening—any evening—would suggest. A patient etherised upon a table; In vain. I simply wasn’t able.”

    This is just one example of their butting heads. Read the essay, you’ll see. Anyway, Romanticism was the sticking point, and they approached it very different. I skimmed that essay again, and it says Lewis saw R’s dark side but also the joy. I believe for Eliot Romanticism represented everything that would destroy literature (also private systems of rationality–which would bleed into the 20th century–Pound, William Carlos Williams, etc.). Keep in mind also that Lewis was an aesthetic objectivist. Eliot, for his apparent dogmatism, was more relaxed in his aesthetic pronouncements (see his “Reflections on Vers Libre”).

    My personal views? Lewis was the better literary critic, Eliot the better poet. Have you read Lewis’s poetry? Some of it is touching in the way Tolkien’s was–I guess I should restrain my tongue here–but none of it was even close to garnering the status Eliot achieved. So, in a sense, I would say that Lewis would have been better sticking to his specialty and leaving the poetry alone (though I suppose Medieval poetry was his specialty, but not Classical or Romantic–bah!). Which is sort of rude for me to say–Eliot was a philosophy major.

    In the end though, things aren’t quite as controversial as we would like (or dislike). I know at least for Eliot that he softened his views on the Romantics (see his 1961 essay, “To Criticize the Critic”). Eliot and Lewis ended up being friends–I believe the essay details more of that info. I would say there probably were still some significant differences between them–but they realized what were the first things, and what was secondary–in my opinion.

    Whew! Man, I can talk about this stuff as long as you can talk about gear. To answer your question, my major was Politics, Philosophy, & Economics w/a Literature minor (at The King’s College in NYC)–I specifically LOVE poetry and philosophy. Right now my studies are more focused on Eliot and a newer poet (I’m gonna refrain from using his name at the moment–it’s “original research,” so to speak), but yeah, I’ll give you some suggestions.

    >Russell Kirk’s book “Eliot and His Age: T.S. Eliot’s Moral Imagination in the Twentieth Century.” Kirk knew Eliot personally and exchanged letters with him. He suggests that the tensions between various pieces of literature can be categorized according to the moral imagination (Eliot), idyllic imagination (Romantics), and diabolic imagination (D.H. Lawrence). A big book, sort of a literary biography–more info in there than probably anyone could use.

    >The Sacred Wood. This is Eliot’s 1921 groundbreaking book of literary criticism (a year before the Waste Land was published), and in it you’ll find such standards as “Tradition and the Individual Talent” and “Hamlet and His Problems.” You can read/print the essays for free at http://www.bartleby.com/200/.

    >Notes Toward a Definition of Culture. I haven’t read this book but it is likely the one you’d be most interested in. Shares his views about society, Christianity, and culture.

    >To Criticize the Critic/The Social Function of Poetry/The Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot. Books if you have the time or want to see what scholars today think of Eliot (the last one).

    >Discovering Modernism: T.S. Eliot and his Context by Louis Menand. A book I’ve found helpful in my research.

  42. Thanks, bro!! And wow, ya, you do know a lot about this stuff! I’ll be sure to look up those references. Thanks a ton.

    And very interesting viewpoints from both guys. I’m sure I’d tend to lean more towards Lewis’ corner, but if I’m understanding correctly, it sounds like Eliot was interested in tailoring the medium so that great art was achieved regardless of individual talent. Sustainable art, maybe? As in, art that would not be dependent upon having geniuses involved in the medium at any given time. If that’s the gist of it, then I think that’s a really rad and interesting idea, albeit perhaps a little too utopian to pull off. Very cool stuff, though!

    And nice to know they patched it up in the end. Shame on Mr. Lewis for poking fun at Prufrock! That’s one of my favorites! hehe 😉 ‘I shall grow old, I shall grow old; I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.’ Just genius. 🙂

  43. Here’s another quote that may help (from Eliot):

    After admonishing those who would follow tradition with “blind or timid adherence to its successes,” indeed, Eliot speaks of the “great labor” needed to obtain tradition:

    It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to any one who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is as the same time what makes the writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity. (Eliot Selected Essays 4)

    He makes the point elsewhere that the poem shines most gloriously when the immortality of the past is asserted fully. I think what he wanted was a poetry that was connected to the past, that continued on the conversation.

    So if you think of the title, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” he wanted both–poetic history and the poet–to work together. And just for further clarification, I don’t think the medium he was advocating was easily obtained–see his emphasis on “great labor.”

    Keep in mind that later in life he mollified his harder stances on these subjects, though it’s not always clear how much or with what topic. Also, this essay inspired the New Criticism school, although Eliot was never a part of it.

    And yeah, I’m hoping to write my master’s thesis on T.S. Eliot & others, so you can tell I enjoy it. I hardly studied him at all at school, so most of it has been accumulating the info that I wish I would’ve gotten in one of my classes.

  44. Reading my last comment again in light of what I told you, yeah, I think Eliot’s views were slightly incongruous (or maybe my explanation is). The poet’s skill did matter to the poem, but his point was that a poem itself could

    a) represent something not present in the poet’s personality


    b) not represent something that was present in the poet’s personality.

    So I think he was trying to get people to avoid having to know the author’s life story to understand the poem, or conversely reading into the author’s life because of details in a poem. It’s all kind of ironic because Eliot was very private, and both of those things have been done increasingly to him in Eliot studies. At the same time as his other points, the past and having a sense of durability was important to him as well.

    Ha, too many points–guess its good my students will depend on me to pass the class! 😀 hehe

  45. Ah…so his view was more that good art should be able to stand alone, as well as gain from a historical or biographical context? That makes sense. It reminds me a bit of the Reader-Response viewpoint…that when looking at a piece from a certain point of view, it doesn’t always matter what the author’s intent was; the piece in and of itself can be something different or even greater than the author imagined or intended because of the way different people respond. And no, I don’t think it was your explanation that caused me to get it wrong…it was definitely me. hehe I’m just a lay reader, and don’t know much about such things. haha So thanks for taking the time to explain it to me! Fascinating stuff. I’ll definitely get reading on the stuff you mentioned.

  46. That sounds about right.

    A couple fun facts about Eliot:

    This quote from Tradition and the Individual Talent about the artist: “He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same.”

    He wrote Old Possum’s book of practical cats, where we obviously got Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats”. The cover art, done by Eliot, featured cats at various stages of play ascending a ladder. http://pd56.org/?p=127 Well, his second wife Valerie got the image etched on a whiskey glass for him, and she would ask him, “Which step, darling?” when he came home. He would say, “Well, one, two, or three,” depending on how bad the day was. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeNWfJyXsoY&feature=related, 5:19-5:46

    I want me a woman like that. 😀

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