My 7 Pet Peeves about Worship Music in Church

My 7 Pet Peeves About How Churches Often Do Worship Music. Let's focus on God and on helping people encounter Him!

I normally talk marriage in this blog, but I’m not JUST a wife. I’m first and foremost a child of God. And I’m a child of God who isn’t exactly easy-mannered. I’m opinionated. And sometimes those opinions just have to come out. And so today I’m going to tackle a really hot button issue: worship music in church.

I’d like to share with you the seven things I most wish I could say to both worship leaders and to those in the pews who complain about music (and this isn’t directed at any particular ones from my church, or from conferences I’ve spoken at :). These are just general, universal observations!):

1. The Date the Song was Written is not Nearly as Important as Singability

I don’t care when the song was written as long as it is singable and meaningful. If I don’t know when to come in, what the melody is going to do, or what the words mean, then I can’t worship. If I’m concentrating on sounding good when I sing and on not embarrassing myself, then I’m not thinking about God.

Some worship leaders only like to sing songs out of hymn books. But just because a song is in a hymn book with written music doesn’t mean it’s musical. Those hymn book publishing companies had to fill up that book with something, and there’s only so many “How Great Thou Arts” and “To God Be The Glories”. So around 1912, they hired a bunch of people to write completely unsingable songs called something like “Whithersoever the Lamb Shall Goeth, Shall I Also Be”, or “Mine Eyes Have Beholden the Rose of Sharon, and I March To Find My King”. Or whatever. If a song isn’t widely known by the congregation, then it should be sung only if it’s one you want to introduce and teach, because it’s so marvelous, not just because you think it fits with today’s message.

Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with hymns–as long as they’re the good hymns. And how do you know what a good hymn is? Simply ask anyone over the age of 50 what their favourite hymn is, and you’ll get great answers. Old Rugged Cross. How Great Thou Art. Immortal, Invisible. How Marvelous, How Wonderful. O Sacred Head. All great. All singable. All recognizable.

Hymns are not the problem, and if people think young people won’t relate to hymns, then they’re simply not playing them correctly. If a hymn has been a favourite for 100 years, there’s probably a reason. So younger people, don’t be hymn snobs. These songs are usually very musical and very powerful doctrinally. Just update how you play them, and everyone should like them.

But at the same time, don’t play something nobody knows. If it was written in 1912, but nobody liked it even in 1912, then it’s probably not meant for 2012, either.

Yet don’t be a contemporary music snob, either. God has different and unique messages for each generation, and often the way those messages are spread is through song. We have some wonderful songwriters writing worship songs today, and if we never sing them, then we miss out on God’s message to the church today. The date it was written should not matter; it’s musicality and relevance should.

2. Performance Songs are Not Congregation Songs

I love contemporary Christian music as much as the next person. I download Christian music off of iTunes. I listen to Christian radio, and I sing along. But not all songs are congregation songs. Some are meant to be solos–or meant to just be played on your iPod.

Just because a song means something to you, and has a great message, does not mean that it works well in a congregation. To be sung by a bunch of people at one time, the tune should be obvious, there should not be numerous pauses, and there should not be weird timing. If there is, then it’s better to use it as special music–or not use it all in the service

3. The “Eye Shadow Should Match Your Purse” Philosophy of Worship Doesn’t Work

If the pastor is preaching about the inerrancy of Scripture, not every song you sing needs to be about the inerrancy of Scripture. Do you know how hard it is to find songs on Scripture? This is what leads people to look flip through hymnbooks and choose those obscure songs written in 1912 (see #1, above), and it’s silly.

The worship songs do not have to match the sermon, because that’s not the point of worship. Worship isn’t about teaching people the sermon; worship is about giving God His due. And as we do that, and focus on God, it prepares our hearts for the sermon. It’s much more important for people to encounter God during worship, so that they’re willing to listen with open ears, than it is to use those songs to preach a specific message. Let’s focus on God during worship, and who He is, and then we’ll be ready to listen to the pastor.

4. Worship is About God, Not About Me

I attended a Good Friday service a few years ago, and the worship team was very polished. They had every instrument imaginable. They had wonderful vocalists. But about 2/3 of the way through the worship package I leaned over to my mother and whispered, “if the next song begins with the word “I”, I’ll shoot myself“. In retrospect, I was glad I had not brought a gun with me, because that would have been messy.

Worship should focus on God, not on my reaction to God. Worship should remind us who God is, not remind us of how much we love Him, or how much we want to serve Him, or how much he means to us. It should be about who He is and what He does. Now, this shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule, because there is room for songs that tell of our personal response to His love. But when worship packages are entirely focused on what we think of God, instead of simply looking at who He is, then our focus is misplaced. Especially on Good Friday. A song or two about, you know, the actual crucifixion would have been nice.

5. The Worship Leader’s Job is Not to Drum Up Emotion

Do you know the song “Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate?” If you do, you’ll know that those are just about the only words (there’s also a chorus, but it doesn’t have that many words, either). Anyway, the song says “Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate” four times in a row, and then moves to the chorus.

I was once in a church where we sang the verse–and I kid you not–eight times before we moved to the chorus. That’s 32 “Celebrate Jesus, Celebrates”. Does anyone else find that extreme?

It’s almost as if the worship leader was trying to get us to shut off our brains so that we’d enter some sort of trance-like state. I don’t think that’s the proper role of worship.

I have no problem with repeating a chorus or two, but let’s not get ridiculous. We aren’t Hindus; we’re not into mantras. We’re into using our brains as we worship a living God. And if concentrating on that living God doesn’t promote reverence, drumming up a false emotional frenzy isn’t going to do so, either.

6. No Instrument is Satanic

When the organ was introduced, people were all worked up. How could we add that loud instrument to worship? It was edgy. It was new. It was controversial.

Every instrument at some time has been edgy and controversial, even the ones we now consider boring. Instruments are not the problem. If an instrument is too loud, that’s the sound person’s problem, not the musician’s problem. And people need to get over their fear of instruments. If the song selection is good, the instruments shouldn’t matter.

7. Silence is Golden

I love singing. I really do. My daughters and I harmonize together. But there are times when I would prefer that we just not sing.

Communion is one of those times. When I used to lead worship, I insisted on having the piano play quietly, but not singing anything, because sometimes I believe it’s important to give people room to pray. When we sing, the words enter their brains and then it becomes harder to pray about specific things God may be speaking to  you about.

Sometimes I think we sing too much, and we don’t pray (or just listen to Scripture) enough. Worship is more than singing; it’s also responding to God, and listening to God, and listening to His word, and prayer, and even giving. So while singing is wonderful, I think many services would benefit from more silent times to pray, or saying some creeds together, or hearing more Scripture read out loud.

We’re in church to encounter God, not to be entertained. And I believe that all congregation members should worship, and be in church with a sense of reverence and awe, regardless of what the music is, and even if it’s not your cup of tea. If you don’t worship, that is not the praise team leader’s fault. Nevertheless, I do think that praise team leaders could encourage worship more effectively by doing some of these things. What do you think?

If you liked this post, would you hit “Share” on Pinterest or Facebook or Twitter below? Let’s get the word out so we can talk about this more!

UPDATE: I changed one sentence to make it clearer that I’m not intending to criticize worship leaders as much as I’m trying to get people–both in the pews and in front of the microphones–to think about this a little differently. Sometimes the problem is with people complaining that the music isn’t their style, and I think we all need to work on just worshiping God, and getting rid of the distractions!

Comments

  1. Nice! As a worship leader, I share many of these peeves with you Sheila. I’ve never been a huge hymn singer, but there are definitely some that get onto my playlist now and then. And the music world 100-200 years ago wasn’t much different than it is today… for every one good MEANINGFUL song written, there were 25 written as fillers – no spiritual depth, and some were not even very pleasing to listen to. One thing that I am very glad for in modern music is that we don’t need to have a chord change on every syllable in a word! Oh, that drives me nuts!

    I’m also very much about congregational singability on any song we do. I realize that we can never make every song 100% singable by every voice in the congregation… but we need to make an attempt to put our songs in keys that the average human can do most of the time, and not use songs with extreme highs and lows that are beyond the reach of most. If they can’t sing along, then they may as well have bought tickets to a performance… and I’m sorry if this offends anyone – but our congregational worship times should NEVER be about performance. The musical worship time in any God-fearing church should ALWAYS be an interactive experience that is an all-inclusive as it can possibly be.

    My senior pastor and I never discuss ahead of time what next week’s sermon is about, so I simply ask God to help me prepare songs that are appropriate to whatever the topic(s) might end up being. And I have lost count of the number of times that the playlist has leaned toward the message without my knowing what it was going to be about. That’s called Holy Spirit guidance, and it’s a beautiful thing to see in action! Does it always work out that way? No… but I also tend to believe that there are times when God doesn’t necessarily “give” me songs because He wants to know what “I” want to sing for HIM that Sunday!

    On your 5th point (drumming up emotion), when I learned that bit of info, it was a huge burden lifted from my shoulders! Once I realized it was NOT my job to hype up the people, I was freed up to worship God as well as lead others! It was truly an epiphany for me. The Spirit of God is responsible to work with people’s emotions, not me. Thank You Lord for that!

    Back in March, I posted an article on our blog called “How Was The Worship?” and I think it’s a pretty good counterpart to this one. Please feel free to read it, if you like. I’ll try to link it to this post.

    Thanks for this perspective, Sheila! Great post!
    Jason recently posted…How Was The Worship?My Profile

  2. Megan G. says:

    I agree with most of this, and I’m glad you wrote it! One little personal preference thing of mine is that I like hymns to sound like they’re ‘supposed’ to sound. Electric guitars and drums playing them is fine with me, but I like to stick with their original rhythms. I feel like when music ministers add a swing beat or something, it just confuses everyone and is distracting. (Just my opinion, and of course it’s my responsibility to worship even if I don’t love the song!)

    • Changing the beat is really neat sometimes, but I think then the song is more a listening to song, not an everybody join in kind of song.

  3. Christy S. Lube says:

    I agree with most of that, but a small nitpick with #6… if an instrument is too loud, sometimes it IS the musician’s fault. Musicians who are putting themselves out there to play in front of people, whether for performance or worship or anything else, need to know how to play the proper dynamics. If one trumpet player (or drummer, or whatever) is playing WAY too loud, it’s not the sound engineer’s job to turn everyone else up to balance it… that’s just going to blow everyone’s ear drums ;) Usually, in an orchestra or band situation, the instruments aren’t mic’d individually, they have to know how to balance together (same with the choir), and then the sound engineer can adjust the overall volume, or how the soloist is balanced with everyone else, etc etc.

    (I’ve been on ALL sides of that, so I get a little defensive on it, apologies if it comes across grumpy!)

    • Good point, Christy. I know what you’re saying.

    • Um…. my church worships with out instruments and it is amazing. God commands us to SING SONGs of praises to him. If you are not singing you are not doing what God commands of you. Instruments are not needed… the hearts and the voices of his worshipers are. Maybe if there were no instruments there would be a lot less of these distractions… “Sing and make melody in you heart” is what scripture says SO SING TO GOD.. Stop with all of this entertainment junk I am so sick of. If you can worship God with only your voice and heart… Then Heaven will not be a great place for you.. because that is what you will be doing! Sorry it makes me so mad to hear people say…. songs without instruments are boring… Well IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU AND YOU ENTERTAINMENT!!!!! It about God.

      • The Bible also says in 1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”. So if someone doesn’t have a good voice, but was given the gift to play the guitar or piano, they’re not allowed to use that gift to give glory back to Him?

        • The Bible has commands in it though. Your talents are not more important than those commands.
          Okay, arguments like that can be made absurd very easily and that means it is a weak argument.
          So if someone doesn’t have a great voice, but was given the gift of deer hunting, they’re not allowed to use that gift to give glory back to Him? So according to your argument, if they were to release deer and he was to shoot them while people were singing and playing their instruments and he justified it by saying it was “to the glory of God!” then that would be alright.
          The premises do not add up at all. The fact that you can place your talents above what God has commanded is a contradiction to God himself.
          In the Old Testament we see that God certainly allowed three distinct forms of worship. I would argue that he overlooked them but that is for another argument. The distinct forms are singing, playing instruments and dancing. These were alowed by God in the Old Testament but when we look at the new testament for forms of worship it only says “singing”.
          I would argue, that if God wanted the other two he would have said so in the New Testament but he simply doesn’t state it. If God wanted us to do it I believe he would have said in the Bible.

          “If someone doesn’t have a good voice”
          So what? There are plenty of people who are tone deaf and cannot sing very well. Plenty. What if you had a congregation of 400 and out of that 400, 200 could not sing. Would you allow 200 people to play instruments. Considering not all of people who can’t sing play instruments.
          Some people are just shy to sing and that is where they need encouragement. I sometimes find myself being shy and then hearing other people gives me a boost.
          I believe you can learn to sing also if you keep trying.
          If the commandment is to sing, then sing, don’t water down the text and add your talents. If a person is too consumed in themselves and their self consciousness then they aren’t worshipping to the glory of God.

  4. Amen! I hope a lot of worship leaders read your comments.

    Can I add another pet peeve? Singing every hymn with a modern bridge added – every time. I don’t mind the altered versions sometimes, but I’m really missing Amazing Grace sung only in it’s original. Never happens any more. Why is that? (And ironically as I type this “The Wonderful Cross” is playing on my iPod – how about one Sunday of singing “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” instead?).

    • I’d agree with you there, Lara. A few weeks ago my daughters were leading worship (they’re both in their teens) and they played “How Great Thou Art”, no bells and whistles. The congregation almost rose the roof! It was really powerful, because it was just the way that everybody knew it.

      I think that some of the modern things can work, too, but it is good to just sing stuff that people really know and that resonates with them sometimes. And when the older people are really singing, the energy is amazing and the youth can catch that fire, too.

  5. I agree. I believe that worship should be about focusing on God and His Glory, and not about making it any kind of show. I was at a church recently where during the worship, the choir came up and preceded to do some choreographed swaying and dancing along as they were singing. Then we sang a song that I personally love, but during a part where it says, “I lift my hands” they all did a choreographed version of lifting their hands and telling everyone in the congregation to do it as well. Now, I am not against lifting my hands in worship, and in fact I do it often. But, I think it is a personal thing. The guy that was standing in front of me was sort of awkwardly lifting up his hands, sort of lowering them, sort of raising them, not really know what to do. In that moment, he looked more concerned about how he looked and felt doing this thing that he’s not used to doing, rather than focusing on worshiping God. I think that totally misses the point.
    Megan Elzey recently posted…of wisdomMy Profile

  6. Oh, I agree on all of these! I especially get annoyed about points 4 and 5. There’s nothing wrong with a “testimony song” once in awhile about how I feel about God, but it shouldn’t become the focus. The focus should be God’s goodness, holiness, providence, and other qualities. Making a “worship” service about how much I love God is more like worshipping me than God. I also get really annoyed with songs that just repeat the same few words over and over like a mantra. You’re absolutely right that it seems like they’re trying to get us into a trance of some kind. If we’re going to be emotional, it should be because we are reflecting on God’s goodness and feeling His presence, not because of some artificial hyped-up mumbo jumbo.

    Anyway, great post!
    Lindsay recently posted…Why Prostitution Should Not Be LegalMy Profile

  7. Sheila, this post is spot on! I could not agree more.

    Nearly 22 years ago around the birth of my first child, my family {parents and siblings} made a change from one denomination to another. Which denominations do not matter. But we grew and learned tremendously during that transition. Worship changed. What we’d once thought irreverent “not for today” changed. We learned much about music.

    Since then, I’ve had my fill of churches debating and arguing over what types of Christian music are deemed appropriate. I’ve heard the extreme–music that so resembles heavy metal type music that I want to scream. I know people who insist that the hymns are THE only way to go. And I’ve been in services where hymns are nonexistent. *sigh* The tearing down and the division can overwhelm people in the church.

    I, too, love contemporary music. I also agree that our focus needs much work. YES, there is a place for a song that is in essence a testimony of what God has done in a person’s life {insert SOLO here}. And YES there are some amazing songs we sing about US that have the word “I” throughout it. Amazing Grace certainly is a favorite but it also tells what He did FOR us. GREAT.

    I was taught early on {in that new church I mentioned} about the outer courts and the holy place and the holy of holies. Our praise and our worship is generally like that. We begin with praise which often has to do with thanking Him. When we thank Him for what He’s done it truly turns our hearts toward Him. It’s HOW we enter His gates!!!!! WITH THANKSGIVING! As we move into worship {the holy place and the holy of holies} we begin from that attitude of thanksgiving worshiping Him for WHO HE IS!! Because He is almighty God, He is King of Kings, He is SO MUCH MORE!

    Oh that we, the church would truly come for HIM! It is my prayer that our leaders would seek Him and keep on seeking Him with whole hearts. We need HIM, His Presence to saturate our services. He said if He would be lifted up He would DRAW ALL MEN unto HIM.

    I certainly do not want to beat up churches. I love my own and don’t desire to attack. However, I agree that we’ve brought elements that supposedly play a role in our worship. Without being too specific, let’s just say elements that you see on a stage at a concert. Some LOVE it. Some abhor it to the point where I’ve seen them sit down and NOT worship at all. I will worship as best I can without distraction in spite of these things that I find hindrances and distractions. In a word–they’re SUPERFLUOUS. So not necessary.

    I’m grateful that He also made us people of emotion. Showing our emotion within itself isn’t a bad thing. However, we need to be careful not to be led by them, controlled by them. He desires people who will worship Him in SPIRIT and in truth.

    And that’s my rant. Thank you for being so forthright. I pray that we will ALL–that “I” will purpose and determine to make my focus solely HIM in our worship services. I know I’m not without fault. Sometimes I wish I would be hidden. I have to almost imagine that I am–no eyes on me. And I have to keep my eyes closed so as to not have them on others as well. Because He is so worthy of our worship!!
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  8. Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

  9. Here’s another one – go easy on the Chris Tomlin/Matt Redman songs. The songs are easy and simple so they do have a time and place, but my last church would sometimes sing nothing but Chris Tomlin songs all morning, and sometimes my current church will sing 3 in a row – makes me want to start belting a hymn in the middle of “how great is our god….” for the 100th time. GAG!!!!

  10. This is all really thought-provoking, and I’m right on board with you. And though I know you didn’t write this to pick on worship leaders and start a singing bash, I’m going to add one more.

    It’s frustrating to bring my husband to church, a place I’d love to see as a refuge from the outside world, only to watch the words on the VERY LARGE screen fall right into placement of the attractive worship leader’s breasts or hips. My church has four gigantic screens that play the words, but the words are probably 1/20th of the size of the screen. What we “watch” are the attractive people on the worship team, who are all dressed “contemporary,” meaning their t shirts and blouses are tailored to show off the curves of their bodies. I know the church means well, but I also know it’s hard when a man doesn’t know the words to a song, but when he looks up at the screen to learn them, he’s now struggling with fighting off thoughts of the beautiful worship leader up on the screen and the closeup shot of her body.

    • Ouch… not a cool thing! We refuse to do any live video (or even those nice pretty clouds and waterfalls) on our projection screens. It’s way too distracting! Both I and my senior pastor have gone to conferences together (and separately) and found ourselves being led AWAY from worshiping God by the pretty videos!

      But for the very reasons you stated, I think video of the praise & worship team should be a no-no. It makes me sad that you have had this experience.
      Jason recently posted…How Was The Worship?My Profile

      • I would agree, Jason. Worship is supposed to be between us and God. You need to see the words. You don’t need to see other people singing. The latter constitutes a concert, not a worship service, I think.

    • Present her with the gift of a “worship robe”! Something loose and comfy and MODEST… ;p

  11. My only plea to those reading this who may be frustrated with the worship at their church is to be gracious about their opinions. As the wife of a worship pastor, I cannot begin to tell you the amount of animosity and outright hate mail he has gotten at times over things like volume (the drums are too loud/you can’t hear the drums), chorus repetition (too much/not enough), too many hymns, not enough hymns, etc. They have a very tough job and pleasing a wide range of church -goers is impossible. At the end of the day, he (and most worship leaders) just want to bring people to Christ through music and worship. Sometimes we’ll like it. Others we may not. Worship shouldn’t be about preference…It’s straight up about connecting with God and preparing us to hear what He has to tell us through His word during the sermon. So, have opinions…I have them…we all do. Just please, don’t persecute your worship pastor. =)

    • Agreed, Bekki! I think often the things we fight about, too, are silly–like the age of songs or the instruments, etc. I think if EVERYBODY–worship leaders, congregation, pastors–remembered that it’s not about performance or personal preference, but it’s about GOD, then maybe we’d stop criticizing so much and simply ask the question, “How can we help everyone focus on God more?” Then it’s not about the young vs. the old, but honestly about God. That’s a healthier conversation for everyone to have.

    • Bekki, you are so right! I’ve tried hard to keep my opinions about what I don’t like in the worship service to myself and my husband and discuss them ONLY if it comes up and VERY CAREFULLY, I might add. We don’t need to tear our churches down. PRAYER is the best place to take these things. I remember talking with the Lord over this right in the midst of worship one Sunday and I remember trying to push past the distractions. The Lord spoke clearly to me to keep my eyes on HIM, my focus on HIM. That’s not to say it isn’t frustrating but we have a choice as always. And how we handle these things are equally important. The Lord showed me that He can move in the midst of what we deem impossible because it’s not right {and often it may very well lean on the side of error although much of it can be chalked up to opinion many people feel}.

      I cannot imagine being a worship leader or a Pastor. SO MANY PEOPLE, so many opinions. Ultimately, if our leaders {IF WE} will seek the Lord wholeheartedly in all areas of service He will lead us and bring correction where we all need it.

      Sheila, I’m so grateful that you take a stand on these issues yet you do it with love and with class!!!

  12. A Christian comedian we enjoy does a hilarious bit about his worship pet peeve of repetitive songs. “It sounds like a bunch of eighth-grade cheerleaders wrote that song!” LOL

    And now, thanks to you Sheila, I will have “Celebrate Jesus” stuck in my head all day. With the sound of tambourines. Because at a church my family went to years ago I was on the dance team and we had a tambourine routine to that song. So yeah. Tambourines. Thanks for that. :-)
    Melissa recently posted…Kiddo Day 2012My Profile

    • Sorry, Melissa! :)

      • I do have a personal pet peeve to add though – I think this is more of an issue in small churches, but it’s when the worship leader or anyone on the worship team won’t let the sound person do their job! One of my parents ran the sound board at a small church and it drove them CRAZY when someone would insist the sound was “wrong” and wouldn’t let it go until their mic was turned up so loud, they were the only vocalist anyone in the congregation would be able to hear. And if the sound person tried to sneakily turn the mic down, oh no, dirty looks!
        Melissa recently posted…Kiddo Day 2012My Profile

        • JustAWife&Mom says:

          Hear, hear! My DH is a former sound man, and he had this issue almost EVERY week. :)

        • Jeff Beamish says:

          Thank you Melissa,

          I’m a sound guy in a small church, and this does drive us sound guys crazy. I guess my 25+ years of pro audio work doesn’t qualify me to know how to adjust the sound. :-)

    • Thanks for this chuckle, Melissa.
      Gina Parris recently posted…Gina Parris in the Huffington PostMy Profile

  13. i love this list – i sing on my church’s worship team and a lot of what you bring up we discuss on a regular basis as a team. the fact is, not everyone is going to love 100% of worship music at every church every sunday… but what our job as worship leaders is, is to bring people to Christ – and if our hearts are in the right place, if our minds are in the right place, and if the congregation is being brought to Christ through music – then we’re doing our job. the moment we get too wrapped up in all the other stuff of life and forget that important fact, we’re no longer serving God. great post!
    molly recently posted…Sunday Scripture: To ServeMy Profile

    • Amen, Molly! People will never like 100% of the music selection, but if you’re encouraging them to focus on God, and you’re taking away distractions, then people should be able to encounter Him. And that’s the main thing.

  14. I think you’re on to something – I probably have more. I hate that metallic guitar, all songs aren’t rock songs, the words are important, sometimes I like to feel my music; i dont care if we sing the song 8 or 82 times as long as its not performance based and we are truly worshipping – we’ll be in heaven for an eternity praising God all the day long; i wish people would not focus on others and just express themselves in praise however they are led – raised hands, praying out loud jumping up and down – dancing like david danced – whatever, as long as you are truly praising God; just because you dont know a hymn doesnt mean it cant be taught or that others won’t know it…i dislike that everything is so scripted..sing 2 times repeat chorus 1more time and end even if the Spirit is moving…i dislike this warped notion we have of worship nowadays. One more thing – culture plays such a huge role – culture is just a way of doing things; we need to be more flexible.
    i could write more, but i’ll stop. (this has been on my mind for a while).
    nylse recently posted…Really Bad Relationship AdviceMy Profile

    • Jeff Beamish says:

      I agree with you on the scripted style. I’ve approached our worship team a couple times and asked about doing some “open worship” (having worshipped in a Vinyeard church in the past), only to be told that it won’t work and that not everyone will feel comfortable with that. I’ve kept it to myself, as my comments around comfort and what God thinks of comfort weren’t appreciated in the past.

  15. “It’s much more important for people to encounter God during worship….”

    Exactly. Everything else flows from that first statement — as worship leaders, our goal has to be to help people to ‘enter in’ to God’s presence, to encounter him. And, to do the best job possible, it is important for us to encounter God ourselves as we plan and prepare (really, a worship leader should be seeking the Lord for his ‘message’ to the congregation in much the same way the pastor does with the sermon.)

    Excellent post….

    • Thanks, Dan! And I agree: the worship leader should prepare. There’s something different about the energy in the church when people are honestly worshipping, and you can sense that from the stage.

  16. Great post!! I appreciate the comments as well. I have been in churches where only about 10% of the congregation were engaged. The rest watched the worship team or looked at the words on the screen, or even sat down and read. It must be painful for the worship team to see that because I know their heart is to actually LEAD the people. I hope your post and the comments will bear good fruit.

    • So true! Maybe I should have included an 8th pet peeve, too: When people don’t worship and blame the worship pastor. Even if the worship leader isn’t doing a good job, we should still worship, because that’s about GOD, not about the person at the front. I said that, but perhaps I didn’t make it clear, because I don’t want to put all the blame at the worship leader’s feet!

  17. Nancy L. says:

    So true. I have to confess – I absolutely loathe, “Celebrate Jesus, Celebrate.” It was SO overdone at our church that when the first couple of notes are played, I groan on the inside. If I ever hear it again it will be too soon.

  18. This is definitely an area where balance is often lacking. I was disappointed on Easter Sunday, for example, when we just sang conftemporary stuff (that I can’t even remember now) and missed out on the chance (it seems like we only sing the Easter classics once a year) to do Low in the Grave He Lay or “Christ The Lord is Risen Today.” It doesn’t seem like Easter without that one. My parents often attend a different church (other than their regular one) if they know a certain worship leader is going to be playing. I find that kind of sad. I fear that children will not learn the good hymns and have them rattling around in their heads like us “older” (49??) generation do. I am amazed how many of the words to the hymns are memorized and can encourage and inspire me when struggling. Leading worship is definitely an act to seriously reflect upon before getting up in public. And I wholeheartedly agree with the commenter above who talked about the curvy worship leaders in scanty clothes that accentuate their bodies. There are a few women in my own church I would like to speak to (but don’t feel I have the relationship to do so) and suggest to them that they pray over their closet and their clothes asking the Lord if he is pleased with certain outfits. They can be so distracting – not just for men, but for women too!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I definitely agree with this. I love hymns and was so disappointed this Resurrection Sunday when there weren’t any of the classic songs you think of for this remembrance. As a 22 year old, I definitely like modern worship songs, but hymns have a special place in my heart. My family and I would sing a hymn every day after family devotions, and I learned to cherish their rich meaning.

      Loved this post, Sheila!

  19. I actually find that I tend to feel more connected to God and the church when there is lots of music. I grew up in a musical family, so that might have something to do with it.

    For prayer time or quiet reflection, it is very nice just to have an instrumental piece in the background. I also enjoy times where we can listen to the choir or music team perform for a bit.

    I like the repetitive, get your blood flowing kind of songs, like “Rejoice in the Lord Always”, but I agree that 32 times is ridiculous! Also, not every song should be like that. I think those sorts of songs are best used at the start of the service to make everyone wake up and pay attention or to get the kiddies involved before they go out.

    I COMPLETELY agree about the songs that are hard to follow from 1912! ARRGGHH. Our church is very musical and uses a variety of music from traditional to contemporary, but every now and then they have a horrible music day where we sing songs like what you described or we ONLY sing traditional hymns.

    Which brings me to my last point, LETS MIX IT UP! Churches should play contemporary and traditional EVERY Service. Trust me, people love it.

    I have a lot of respect for music team leaders. It can’t be easy to choose the songs every Sunday, but some people just don’t have a knack for it. They might want to, but they just don’t. We are lucky at my church that our current music leader is pretty great at what she does(except for those odd Sundays with those odd songs), but we had one a few years ago that…well, frankly, she made me want to pull my hair out. She broke all your rules! LOL.

    • I should also add that at my church, there are two services. One earlier in the morning for people who prefer a more traditional worship, with traditional/less music. The second service is targeted more towards families with young children who enjoy a lot of music in their worship. I don’t think any one of us is to say which type of worship connects people more to God.

      Personally, responsive readings make me tune out. A lot of talk, especially if it doesn’t relate to what is happening in our current society, makes me not only tune out, but start to drift of. Yet in our second service, I usually leave feeling more energized for the day and more affirmed of Gods message. There are others(some who have posted on here) who would say that there is just no way people are able to connect to God by watching others perform songs or by singing a lot or singing this or that type of music. There are others who would say that worship through music celebrates God and all that God has done for us. It encourages younger families to attend and that frankly, of course we will have contemporary music. The 1912 songs WERE contemporary…in 1912!

      I guess what I am saying is that there needs to be balance or even two services(which should be balanced in their own right).

      God made us all different. Why would a one-size-fits-all approach to worship makes sense for all these unique children of God?

  20. You’re spot-on with these, Sheila. Thanks for the reminders!

  21. I have had many conversations on this subject – one of which this weekend. You’re so right that worship is NOT about us being entertained.

    When I moved from a predominantly African American church to one with a diverse congregation, the worship style changed drastically. In fact, I almost couldn’t bring myself to join because of the difference. Eventually though, I had to get honest with myself. The style of music wasn’t really important. What was important was that I brought God a sacrifice of praise whether that was to gospel or contemporary Christian music didn’t much matter to God…and eventually it didn’t matter to me either.

    It’s all about making a joyful noise to God (and in my case it’s truly noise). I may not sound the best singing a song or even like the song enough to purchase it, but if it focuses my attention on my Lord & Savior, it’s the right song to be sung in my church.

  22. I absolutely love this! We went to a church for a while that sang “I am a friend of God” Every week, sometimes twice. It goes on for like 5 minutes each time, and there are no verses. You just sing “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, He calls me friend” Over, and over and over and over… Ugh!
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    • Is it sacrilegious for me to say I absolutely hate that song? It’s not? Phew. I feel better. :-)
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    • “Yes lord, yes lord, yes yes lord;
      yes lord, yes lord, yes yes lord;
      yes lord yes lord yes yes lord amen!”

      Sometimes I wonder, why can’t we pay the better worship song writers enough money to increase their output, so that we would never have to sing songs like this one ever again.

      • learning is fun! says:

        Well, first, who decides who the ‘better’ worship song writers are?

        Secondly – in my opinion – when the goal of a songwriter, or their publisher, is to have a larger output, I think that their focus is definitely in the wrong place.

        • It was a joke, sheesh. Could any blog post with that many “yes lords” really have been serious.

          Actually what I REALLY think when I hear songs like that is, Is this the best anyone could do????

      • learning is fun! says:

        …that said, I agree – that particular song doesn’t sit well with me….yes….what?

  23. Amen to #4! I’m so tired of singing, “Use me…Fill me…Change me.” The last thing I want to think about during worship is ME. I think about me way too much as it is. Please help me not to (worship leaders) on Sunday morning! Thanks for the post.

  24. My husband would agree with your observations. (And he’s the music director at our church.) Music can cause more division than the preaching in many cases. Thanks for reminding us to think these things through, Sheila.
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  25. I am SO glad to know it’s now just me Sheila! The singability one is a big one for me. It”s corporate worship, and everyone should be able to participate. When you sing something in a high or low range, or weird pauses and starts it really makes it difficult.

  26. Wow! I love this! This echoes exactly what I’ve been thinking about worship music. I am a “younger” person and I happen to love the old hymns, but I really dislike it when I have to sing a song that is so hard to sing. I also don’t like overload on repetition. I’ve sung worship songs in many different settings, but the ones I love the most are the ones that draw my focus back to my God and Savior. Thanks for writing this, Sheila.
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  27. Stephanie says:

    Number one pet peeve is when people refer to the music part of the service as worship and to the person leading the music as the “worship leader.”. All of life is worship. Listening to a sermon is an act of worship having a conversation with the person sitting next to you is worship, sitting in silence is worship.

    • I agree, Stephanie. Reading Scripture is worship. Giving is worship. Prayer is worship. It all is worship. But I do think music plays a special part in the service, as it did in the Psalms. Maybe we need a better word for it so that it doesn’t detract from the other important parts.

      • Yes! I’ve thought that as well! What other word might we use? (I usually write and/or say it with quotations: “worship”, when I’m referring to that part of the “service” ;] )

  28. Jennifer says:

    Sheila, your article was great, but I think you should have left the comments closed on this topic. There is a lot of complaining and “slandering” . Also, I think, your title was a little inflammatory.

    As the wife of a worship pastor, I’ve heard it all. “Turn the volume up…The drums are too loud…You need to do more fast songs…” Everyone has preferences, but the worship service is not about you. A critical spirit has no place in a church service. When you come to church you need to come with a spirit of humility and oneness. Pastors are not perfect. They are human!! Shocker, I know. His job is to please God and fulfill the vision that your senior pastor has for your church. Your pastor has been placed in a position of leadership, and you need to encourage him and pray for him, not tear him down. If there are REAL issues and concerns than discuss it with your senior pastor, NOT other people in the congregation. Gossip is very damaging! If he feels that it’s necessary to take that to your music pastor, than he can do that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for writing this Jennifer. I am also the wife of a worship pastor, and this post has unnerved me all day. It pains me when someone who carries a lot of klout with other christians uses their opinions to “rally the troops” against leadership. The post seemed to be full of preference issues, and beckoned for other disgruntled church-goers to join in the attack and state their gripes, which we too, hear every week…My husband read this post and just shook his head, as he faces this type of judgment and criticism on a daily basis. You are one hundred percent right that worship is not about us, and the worship pastor’s job is not to fulfill our requests or cave to our opinions on things like which word songs start with, if they sing a hymn or not, etc. God has appointed our church leaders and we should trust them to do their job and lead the church using the gifts God gave them. Thank you again for seemingly being the only other voice (except one other pastor’s wife earlier) who voiced out in support of men like our husbands…sort of sad that the only three people sticking up for them was their wives…

    • Jeff Beamish says:

      As a sound guy, I get a little of what your husbands recieve, so I think that I understand. Appropriate dialog has been lost in the church and people don’t seem to feel that they can talk to people in leadership in the church. We’ve dealt with this issue in our church for quite a while and it’s very frustrating. I’m frequently telling people that, if they have something they want to say to me, they can talk to me, I’m not going to yell or say nasty things. I’ve also dealt with some worship leaders and music ministers who seemed to have the feeling that the church was “their domain”, too. No one was allowed to introduce any music unless the music director / worship pastor approved. In many cases, I’ve seen talented people leave the church because of restrictions that were un necessary.
      Ministers have a very tough job, any time that they’re in front if the congregation. It’s certainly not a position that I envy.

    • I think Jennifer has the right perspective. There are a lot of great topics in this blog entry to discuss but I do not believe it is very honoring to God, to worship leaders, and even to some song writers to ridicule or complain in this way. I am one of the worship pastors at our local church and a friend of mine sent this link to me asking for my thoughts. Sheila, as one leader and representative of the Church to another – you could offer some biblical insight and teach readers your convictions about what is honoring to God and helpful to the church in worship, rather than listing “pet peeves”. A platform for complaining has been established here and it would be wiser to discuss music preferences with your Pastor. Listing all of the things that are irritating about worship music does not come across very “Loving”, “Honoring”, or “Vacuuming(Serving?)”. Lets worship God by edifying one another on here. We can share our understanding of worship without ridiculing our churches, leaders, or song writers.

  29. Maribeth Curry says:

    Thanx for a great post- loved all your points… as a church musician I agreed with all of them… didn’t read all the comments but wanted to say thanx.

  30. You are right on! I love how you always “tell it like it is”. I do get frustrated when the worship seems more like a performance than actual worship. The church I go to currently is the first church I have been to where I really feel like I am focusing on God instead of just mindlessly singing or watching people perform. It kind of seems pointless to go to a worship service that’s like a concert. If it’s going to be more of a concert, call it that!

  31. I haven’t read through all the responses, so maybe someone mentioned this….

    One of my pet-peeves is when people clap after the song is over. Ummm….this isn’t a concert. This is worship. It makes me think we’re all clapping for the band. Well, I’m not, I’m the one *not* clapping when everyone else is. People will tell me “I’m clapping because I love God.” Oh, so you don’t love God in the middle of the song? Or at the beginning? I find it very curious that you *only* love God when the song is ending.

    Anyway, maybe it’s just me, but you won’t find me clapping after a worship song.

    • Haha! I certainly clap at the end of some songs – not all or always, and it is because of how overwhelmingly thankful I am as I think about certain things the song reminded me of. But to clap like that in the middle of a song would be distracting and disruptive (in my congregation).

    • We call that a clap-offering in my church… sometimes it’s spontaneous, sometimes it’s directed by the pastor… But we always applaud after songs, unless something directs us not to–a spirit of prayer, or a pastor praying (as the worship pastor often does after the last song.)
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    • Jennifer says:

      The clapping should never be to applaud the people on the platform. Being a person on the stage, I in no way ever feel like people are clapping for me or for the band. I don’t even notice it actually, as I’m generally worshipping the Lord in my own way at that time. The clapping is a way to offer thanks and praise to God. You can clap anytime you like. Often when the song dies down, people sing spontaneous worship to God, and clapping may or may not accompany it. If you’re not comfortable with it, than don’t do it.

  32. Interesting opinions and responses! The only “bad” worship services I’ve ever been in are the ones I enter critical, resentful, or sinful. Everytime I seek God’s face and hallow His name, the worship service is good!
    A “worship pastor” cannot manufacture corporate spiritual unity, only personal humility, devotion, and the work of the Holy Spirit can lead the Body of Christ into God’s presence.

  33. Freakin’ hilarious! Can we be friends in real life? hahaha
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  34. While I disagree with you on instruments in worship, and choirs/praise teams (I believe in full-congregation, a capella singing) the gist of the article still holds true. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s bad!

    It’s funny, a few years ago our congregation needed to purchase new hymn books and after looking through a few, chose a newer collection. DH hates change and grumbled for the longest about it – and now, I don’t think he realizes it, but many of the songs that he enjoys the most are, surprise, the newer songs! LOL

  35. NO instrument is Satanic! I absolutely agree. I am a trained classical pianist, was the church organist for years, played saxophone in the praise band.

    My current church sings acapella. My most meaningful worship is singing, “I come to the Garden” with only voices raised.

    The human failings of our worship leaders are pardonable. I do get concerned when ‘showmanship’ trumps our connecting with God. Loud doesn’t always equal powerful spirituality. I actually think the opposite. Be still and know that I am God.
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  36. Hi Sheila. Forgive me if this is a repetition, since I wasn’t able to read the complete plethora of comments on your most interesting and provocative post. I agree with you *almost* completely, but I must pick a nit with you on this, which you said: “Worship isn’t about teaching people the sermon; worship is about preparing people’s hearts to listen to the sermon.”

    Not so.

    Worship is not about preparing people’s hearts to listen to the sermon. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. The worship of God is a worthy thing, and something that can stand quite handily on its own. The purpose of worship is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever”, which is the chief end of humanity (Westminster Shorter Catechism, answer to question 1). Can worship exist without a sermon? Absolutely! Is God’s Word sufficiently powerful to stand on its own? Absolutely!

    What’s more, the sermon is supposed to be worship, along with all that surrounds it in the gathering. The offering is worship. The prayers are worship. The silence (ah, silence!) is worship. All of life can be worship, of course, if we are sufficiently disciplined, but when we suggest that worship “ends” with the hymn or song set before the sermon, we miss the mark in defining worship.

    All that said, I appreciate your frustration, and what you’ve articulated accounts for the droves of people who are leaving contemporary evangelicalism for more traditional, and historically rooted, forms of worship. This is not completely new, though. In the 1980s, Christianity Today had an article about an Assemblies of God congregation that had joined the Episcopal Church. Now that would be dynamic worship, as I see it! Think of it: all the gifts of the Spirit at work in the context of a prayerbook liturgy. Imagine!

    In our humble Neck Of The Woods, we follow a threefold worship order (approach-word-response), and blend our music styles (a little something to offend everybody). We’re no Willow Creek or Mars Hill, but God is doing something among us, for which I am grateful. It’s tough to compete against iTunes, but we seek to exalt the God who gave somebody the brains to come up with iTunes! :-)

    Passionately His,
    Jeff+
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  37. learning is fun! says:

    Wow…it looks like there’s a whoooooole lot of worship leaders here!

    As for me, I have a similar position. I’m the music director at our church – a volunteer position, where I plan the services, and direct the music practices, but I don’t actually lead the services. Additionally, let me clarify that we don’t have a ‘worship’ team – we have a MUSIC team. This might sound like a game of semantics, but the point is this: I can direct and teach music fairly well. No matter how good I might be at it, however, I cannot lead you to worship. That is between you and God. My prayer each week, when our team meets for prayer before the service begins, is that God uses the gifts he’s blessed us with musically, to minister to His congregation, and that the musical offering we present is acceptable and pleasing to Him. With that in mind, I have an additional ‘pet peeve:’ friends, the word ‘worship’ is not synonymous for ‘the music part of the service.’ The WHOLE service is ‘worship.’ In fact, worship happens long after the service ends, and has nothing to do with the music at all; rather, it’s your expression to God of His worthy-ness to be praised.

    I’ve been exposed to some, if not all of these peeves in the past several years, so I’ll address them in the same order they were presented.

    The age of a song: I’ve seen this argument go by a few different names – the ‘worship wars,’ ‘hymns vs. contemporary,’ and so on. Simply put, I refuse to get pulled into this silliness. After all, in many cases, hymns WERE the contemporary music when they were written. This also goes under the assumption that there’s no such thing as a modern hymn, and that’s simply not the case. I use both hymns and modern songs for our services, and it works well. I’m far more concerned about what the lyrics have to say, than the age of the song. If you don’t think someone will relate to the song – have someone READ it. Sometimes even the music can be distracting, and stripping it all away, so that just the WORDS that were on the author’s heart are showcased.

    Performance songs vs. congregational songs: Well, Sheila, you and I are definitely on the same page here. For our music team, we have an online forum that we use for inter-team communications. One section of that forum is dedicated to ‘new music,’ where team members can suggest songs that they would like to see added into our repertoire. Many times, I’ve had to say to my team, “I understand that this might be a favourite of yours, but I really can’t see the congregation singing this – it’s really a song intended for a soloist.’ Further, our particular selection of instrumentalists don’t necessarily fit some songs, and I have to explain that, simply put, with OUR team, it ain’t gonna sound like THAT.

    The “Eye Shadow Should Match Your Purse:” Well, I have to admit, I’ve never quite heard it put like that – possiby because I’m a guy, and don’t tend to think in terms of eye shadow and purses, but still, I agree with the sentiment. With the exception of certain very obviously themed dates in the Christian church calendar (Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, for example), I never try to match the music to the sermon. We tried doing this once, and I realized that, even if the pastor gives me the passage and topic ahead of time, I really don’t have any idea what God will reveal to them through scripture. As it turns out, there have been times where, with no prior discussion at all, God has led me to select a certain song that ended up being a HUGE crowbar for someone – prying them open for God to do His thing.

    Worship is about God, not about ME: This is absolutely KEY. In fact, the phrase ‘it’s not about me’ has become a recurring theme at our church. I don’t have much to add here, except for my agreement.

    Emotion / Repetition: Yet again, same page, Sheila. While I understand that, in the Psalms, for example, repetition had its place, usually done for emphasis – but I don’t think there’s a single scripture passage where a line is repeated 32 times, like the example you gave. I might get flamed for this, especially since I’m not a songwriter, but in my opinion, that’s lazy songwriting, or, if it isn’t part of the song as written, then the person leading music is either trying to fill some time, or, as you mentioned, trying to influence the audiences emotions. Well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s God’s job – not mine. Beating them over the head with repetition is only going to become a distraction in and of itself.

    No Instrument Is Satanic: I had to laugh at the title for this one. I started playing on music teams before they really had a name, in the late 80s. Drums were still looked at with disdain by anyone older than my parents. I remember one church I attended, where space limitations required the drums to be placed on the main platform, while the piano and organ were on lower platforms. Someone showed their contempt for this situation with this quote: “the drums should NOT be above the SACRED instruments!!” Uh, excuse me? Who ordained that pianos and organs were ‘sacred?’ I think it’s a whole lot more likely that drums were present when Jesus walked the earth than either a piano or an organ! I see it this way: music is beautiful, and there are many ways to experience it, as well as play it. God has gifted musicians in many different ways, and I truly believe that HE is honoured when we bring our gifts together to express our praise to Him through the medium of music. If a particular instrument isn’t your favourite, that’s ok – but DO take the time to appreciate the skill, and desire of the musician to use his gift to glorify God.

    Silence is Golden: I completely agree here, too (I know – what a shocker!) Similar to what you mentioned, Sheila, while communion is being served, our instrumentalists play softly in the background. I agree that this should be a time for reflection, and that is best done while not being ‘fed’ lyrics.

    A few other thoughts if I may…

    With regard to the ‘it’s not about me’ mindset: for me, this also applies to the ‘performance’ attitudes of my team members. There’s no room for show-offs; we have a common goal, and while we might alternate as far as which is the ‘lead’ instrument, the point is simply to add variety, not to stroke someone’s ego.

    I know that some here aren’t fans of the recent trend of adding new ‘bridges’ to older hymns, and I’d agree that there’s a time and a place for it. This year, on Good Friday, for example, we sang ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ in its original form. It fit the service. On Easter Sunday, however, we sang ‘The Wonderful Cross,’ because it fit THAT service. Scripture instructs us to sing to the Lord a new song. We do that whenever we can, but sometimes, our way of doing that is to sing an old song, a new WAY. I think the important thing to consider is the ‘why?’ question. Why does this song need to be altered / updated? Sometimes, it really doesn’t! Sometimes, you’re adding a new thought to an old one, and sometimes, you’re simply breathing some new life into a song that may have become a bit ‘tired.’ Just be cognizant of your motives.

    Also – please be wary of adopting new songs because of a catchy tune. READ the lyrics. Sometimes, the lyrics suggest things that just aren’t backed up by the bible. An easy example is the Christmas Carol, ‘We Three Kings.’ I’ve read the Christmas story over and over, and not only were they not ‘kings,’ there’s nowhere to suggest that there were three of them! Be careful about the songs you choose!

    We actually have a book that is ‘required reading’ for music team members. I ‘met’ the author online after stumbling across his blog. The book is titled “Worship: A Simple Mystery” by Dan McGowan, and I highly recommend it.

    Obviousy, this is a topic that is close to my heart – thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

  38. Exactly! Why have good, meaningful, singable hymns ‘gone out of fashion’? What happened to sacred, dignified, respectful and reverent.

    Goodness I want to write exactly what I’m feeling, but it probably isn’t a good idea…
    :)

  39. tinafreysd says:

    Your intended audience happens to include God. Worship songs can be written in any genre or style, as a hymn or chorus, or even a simple Bible verse set to music..
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  40. Jeff Beamish says:

    A couple thoughts from “the sound guy”:
    I loved this post, as it is near to my heart. Thank you, Sheila!

    One of the things that I encourage every music minister / worship leader, etc. to do, is to work WITH your sound people. We can provide a lot of support in making the music be the conduit between the congregants and God, if you’ll allow it.
    A while back, I had a heated exchange with the worship team (some of them) because the sound was too loud. I had asked a particular person to turn down their amp, but they kept turning it up, because they wanted to hear their guitar clearly. Problem was, no one on the worship team seemed to notice that the guitar was really loud. I kept asking for the amp to be turned down, but the people on stage kept asking me to turn the sound down. So, I turned the sound off. The guitar was still way too loud. They got the message and the worship leader finally spoke with the guitarist and got them to turn their amp down, so that I could balance the audio, without trying to fill a stadium sized space with sound.
    I keep telling people that, if the sound guys are able to do their job well, no one will even know that we’re there. But we need to be a part of the worship team; not just the guy at the back that “turns on the mics”.

  41. I loved this post, because a lot of these points entered my mind over the summer while I was visiting my parents’ church. My biggest issue with the worship service was that it seemed to be all about the worship leader– he introduced a new contemporary song every week that was difficult to sing. We never learned any of them and the whole congregation just ended up standing there during the worship service because no one knew any of the songs and they never repeated songs over multiple weeks so that we could learn them. I was there for the entire summer and I never really felt like the congregation was engaged in worship during the song service, just confusion.
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  42. Another worship leader’s two cents:

    We regularly review our set rotation for what I call a “balanced worship diet.” We look at it several ways:

    Song focus (about God vs. our response to God)
    General category (we use Invitation/Invocation, Celebration/Proclamation, Majesty and Intimacy)
    Horizontal vs. vertical (directed to God vs. direct to one another about God)
    Personal vs. corporate (using “I” vs. “we”)

    There are reasons to include all of these in a church’s worship song rotation and over-emphasis in any one area usually leads to some unhealthy imbalance.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!
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  43. Kimery says:

    The excessively loud stuff KILLS worship. I’ve developed tinnitus {sp} due to speakers blasting out the loud music while I was on worship team. Truly, I could not hear my self sing, although my lips were moving! lol
    I sat off team for the winter due to ongoing sinus issues and I’d have to go to back of auditorium to be able to worship without being in pain due to the volume.
    My son is the sound tech and there’s nothing he can do, when musician keep telling him to “louder.” Louder is not better sounding.
    And so.we.pray.
    We need the hymns and we need the newer worship (as you said not solo) music. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s all about Him!
    “We enter Your courts, Lord, with praise and thanksgiving.”

    • The loudness is what bugs me too. I have avoided our church lately because I usually leave with a headache. I’m all for mixing up the hymns and contemporary stuff, but you shouldn’t leave church feeling worse than when you went in.

  44. As a worship leader I also agree with your assesment with one exception, part of our worship can include a response song or two that have “me in them. Read the Psalms, ” my soul thirsts, my heart and flesh cry out, restore to me the joy of my salvation, create in me a clean heart, I will call uponn the Lord Who is worthy to be praised.” While we start with praise, thanksgiving, declaration of attributes, we can also respond to his kindness and mercy by songs that are prayers to change me, purify me, lead me. Of course all the songs first and formost need to be scriptural. If there is no scripture reference for a song toss it. If the whole set is all about me, again toss it. But I can’t imagine tossing Restore(Psalm 23) because it has me in it. It is a passage of promise made to me by God and like David I can sing that to God as a reminder of His promises to me.

    The Lords prayer is a good outline of worship; Praise and Thanks for Who He is, declaration of God’s attributes(Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name), statutes(Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven), guidance(give us this day our daily bread,), repentance/forgiveness (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors), deliverance (lead us not into temtation but deliver us from evil) praise declaration,(for Thine is the Kingdom, and power and glory forever.

    I realize this is how we should pray but again if you read through the Psalms and through out everything with I, me or us, there would be very few Psalms remaing.

    • Sheila says:

      Lisa, I’d agree with you. I don’t think I presented that point very well, so thanks for reiterating this! We DO need to respond to God. But I think we need a balance; some songs should focus on who God is, and some should focus on our response to Him. Often, though, every song begins with an “I”, and it’s that I have a hard time with.

  45. And if the song isn’t theologically correct then don’t sing it. Arrggghh. I once had the nerve to question a pastor about a particular song & he agreed it wasn’t theologically sound but he said they would continue to sing it because the congregation liked it & knew it. needless to say I no longer attend there.

  46. You are right, if a song is not theologically sound it should not be sung. There are some songs though that can be rewritten to make them theologically sound. We do at least a half dozen songs that I have rewritten to be theologically correct.

  47. Jenny Irving says:

    I grew up in a church which had music, but no worship leader/s. The music was chosen every week by the musician and the pastor. We had the tunes, we had the words and we seemed to manage to make a joyful noise. What is the purpose of a worship leader and do we need them?

  48. I have always considered praise to declare who God is, and worship to be to give something to God. I also like to think we can come prepared to praise and worship (declare and give to him) before we come, rather than to rely upon the music to put us in the mood to do these things. and yes, I am a musician, and a believe over 4 decades.

    • Glenn, I’d agree with you on the whole. But there is also something about music which does lift up the heart and the spirit. And even in the Old Testament God called apart certain musical people to lead worship and to lead the congregation in praises, so I do think that music has a role in facilitating worship. Should people do it anyway? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to make it easier, you know?

      And I just worry that in many of our churches we’ve set up a bunch of roadblocks or distractions to make that harder. We’re performing or entertaining rather than leading. We’re choosing songs that cause people’s minds to wander, or to not focus on God. We’re putting the emphasis on the wrong place.

      Yes, people should worship regardless of what happens up on the stage, but at the same time, if music doesn’t facilitate worship, then why do we have it at all? Isn’t that an acknowledgement that music does help some people encounter God? In the Old Testament, the congregation joined together to sing praises, and those songs were passed on. In the New Testament it tells us to sing together. And I think part of that is because singing helps believers worship. It facilitates it. So yes, we should be prepared to worship regardless. But also yes, there are things we can do to help people through that process, and I think that’s what church music is about. You know?

  49. #4 made me Giggle. For a while, I noticed that our local Christian station tended to play songs that were horizontal worship (about God) instead of Vertical worship (to God). Honestly, I got tired of the, “life is terrible, but with God we’ll make it though” mentality. So I tend to switch the station after about 20 minutes.

    Then one day, I was confessing my issue to a girlfriend. She said that she had the opposite happen with the same station. IT was a tragic day in our country (I think 9/11) and when she turned on the station, they were singing bubbly, joyful songs to God! And she’s been cautions of the station ever since.

    Your post is about church worship so let me tie it in… I guess we all have emotions that can be triggered one way or another due to a certain song or flavor of son or volume. Let me tell you, I’m pretty picky! (Ugh! Working on that…). And especially when you’re in a church of 1,000+ people, you NEVER make everyone happy with the song choices.

    So what I am learning is, praying for the worship team to hear the voice of the Lord speak to them about what songs would be appropriate for the coming week. Pray that they have time to really seek the Lord on this since they are helping us to enter the presence of God. …. and trying to not get frustrated if it’s not always my style… However, if you never like the worship, maybe there’s a better service you you somewhere!

  50. My husband is the Worship Leader at our church and I know that he would agree with what you’ve written, as do I. Very well said, Sheila!! One of my pet peeves is about people being critical of the songs played … as the wife of the Worship Leader, people approach me and tell me “tell him not to do that song again, it was boring” or “that song was too slow, tell him to stick to the fast upbeat songs”. I can’t tell you how annoyed I get with responses like that …. what I want to say to them is “it isn’t all about you, it’s about God … if you don’t like the beat of the song, then listen to the lyrics, allow God to speak to you through it … you aren’t there to be entertained, it isn’t a concert, it’s worship”.
    Thanks for your post … your blog is always a blessing!
    God bless you!!

  51. I don’t know if anyone’s said this… I tried reading through all the comments, but there were just too many… You said that the purpose of worship was to prepare the congregation for the sermon…

    I disagree. The purpose of worship is to WORSHIP OUR LORD. We’ve had it in my church where the band (and, we go to a modern church which rarely plays traditional hymns–and I prefer it that way) plays 1 song to get people in their seats, then the pastor comes up and does his thing, then they do the rest of the set afterwards. The whole service–the music, the sermon, the tithing/offering–is worship. That’s why I’m there.

    Sure there are days when I don’t feel like it. But, I do it anyway.

    My church recently started doing a change-up on the style of music every week. One week, they did a coffee-house feel. The next, classical style. Another week was jazzy, or had a Caribbean flare. Most of the songs were ones we knew, but with a slightly different take.

    Of course, I love it when my worship team takes a song we know (which I think the pastor may have written) and interjects a few lines from a Kansas tune in it. They’ve done that with a few songs now. It’s so fun, and definitely catches newcomers off guard. :) Loosens them up, too.
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    • Sheila says:

      I would agree, and perhaps I worded it wrong. But the reason that we sing right before the sermon is that in worshipping our Lord, we start thinking about God. And focusing on God. And remembering how great God is. Our thoughts are on God. And that prepares us for the sermon.

      That’s why we don’t have the sermon first usually in a service. It’s because we need time to focus on God and give Him glory so that our hearts are prepared to listen.

  52. You know how the saying goes, “Turn your worries into prayer?” Maybe we should equally embrace, “Turn your opinions into prayer.”

    Over many years, when I have felt that the musical worship time isn’t so inspired or focussed on God, I often pray and ask God to help the leader and team members…. acknowledging that they’re only people (maybe they’re tired today, didn’t get as much time to prepare this week, need an extra dose of God’s grace, etc). When I remember to do this, it always results in a turn for the better, if at the least because my heart is set aright and i’m re-focussed on God and the truth in the lyrics, rather than distractions or opinions.

    I try to follow the same practice not only for a particular worship service, but if it seems seasonally that a person/leader is struggling or dry, ….

    The other great part of this practice is that the opinion to God in prayer lets God filter it as He sees fit… and usually my words come out saying something like, “These are just my opinions. Please filter them and let things be according to what’s true and good in Your sight. Help us draw nearer to You and worship You as You deserve.” Sometimes I sense a moment of faith that God’s Spirit is working and there seems to be a tangible difference. Other times God nudges me to think differently or be more accepting, or gives me a sense of a Father delighting in whatever His child offers Him even if not perfectly in tune (pardon the pun, hee hee) with my preferences or that of others.

  53. I’m going to have to come back and check out these other responses later, but I’ve just got to say “bingo” on #4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed how many times the word “I” appears in the music we hear. In a way, it’s hard to fault the worship leader, because that flaw originates with the songwriters; it becomes hard to avoid.

    #2 is important too. Some songs would be OK except for a bridge that doesn’t work. I’m having trouble thinking of the song, but there’s one that we sing where the song is a nice verse-and-chorus loop, then ends with some crazy repetitive phrase, building to some crescendo… It’d be much better, IMO, to just let that part go, resolve the 5-chord, and be done with it.

    One of our pastors did have an interesting counter-point to the repetitive argument against contemporary music, though; they said that they used to be really snobby about it, then someone suggested they count the unique words in the Hallelujah Chorus. :)
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    • Daniel, very true about Hallelujah! But at the same time, that chorus wasn’t meant to be repeated over and over. Handel wrote it to be sung through ONCE. That’s the problem I have–when we sing songs through again and again and again!

  54. I had to laugh when I saw your comment on old music because in our church we routinely sing Issac Watts, William Cowper, selections from the Gadsby Hymnal, etc. You should try “Pass me not, Oh Gentle Savior” or (one of my favorites) “Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand.” While we don’t believe that old hymns are the only songs we can sing, our church is really quite good at bringing back some of these theologically dense (and encouraging and convicting) songs in a way that people can sing and enjoy. Off the top of my head I honestly can’t think of a song in our repertoire that I’ve disliked or found theologically vapid. If you’re interested you can check out more of that kind of music here: http://www.redmountainchurch.org/rmm/alb/gadsby.html

  55. My pet peeves are the hymns where you can just TELL the tune is written to a specific verse, and everything else just kind of slides or ties two notes in awkward places. I hate those so much and my choir always messes up on them because of the weird timing! Or how about the hymns that are sung down in the basement and are almost unsingable by the soprano section. (Better yet, how about the hymns that jump octaves and time signatures every two measures? ARRRGGGHHH!)

    Despite that, I love Mass and my choir is great. We can pretty much manage through anything.

  56. The problem I see in every church we know with a blended service is that there is a huge library of music that is ignored. Many people are moved by music. I am moved by In Christ Alone as much as Holy, Holy, Holy. But the rare times I hear the hymn, it is to a bizarre rhythm. Our Praise Team leader refuses to allow, as special music, songs like How Great Thou Art or Something Beautiful. He doesn’t even want a comtemporary Christian song that isn’t currently playing on the radio because “the young people won’t like it.” I don’t understand our fear and beholding to teenagers. It would bless my heart so much to sing, even hearing some harmony (gasp), How Great Thou Art. But all these great songs that were written in the last 50 years or so are seldom sung today and never in our church. How sad. It would be equivalent to symphonies never playing Beethoven, only today’s classical. Anyway, these services are called blended services, but they really aren’t. They pretend to care about anyone over 50 by singing a hymn every other week with a “modern” beat. Churches and Worship Teams should geniunely care about ALL of their worshippers.

  57. AnonymousReader says:

    I have to take this opportunity to add one to the list:

    Playing music in the background when someone is praying and/or speaking. Drives me nuts! Especially when someone is praying.

    There does NOT need to be music added to everything. And yes, it is irritating and distracting no matter how softly it is played. Please just STOP it.

  58. There are some good points here, but I disagree with one point, which I have heard made before. If there is something wrong with repeating the words over and over, please inform these Heavenly beings from Revelation 4:

    6 In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. DAY AND NIGHT THEY NEVER STOP SAYING:

    “‘Holy, holy, holy

    is the Lord God Almighty,’

    who was, and is, and is to come.”

    9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

    11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
    for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

    So, when the four living creatures repeat their words, then the twenty-four elders repeat their words. . .as if one inspire the other, and this goes on DAY AND NIGHT for eternity! So repeating the words doesn’t seem so ridiculous now does it?

    Too many comments to read through all of them, but I did want to comment on the repeating of the words in songs. I am not hear to start on argument; I just wanted to make a valid point about this.

    To have it said that worship leaders are trying to put someone in a trance-like state or work them into an emotional frenzy or that it’s like a Hindu mantra is an insult to worship leaders who repeat the words over and over. In my experience, none of them were doing anything of the sort. Usually, it’s because we feel the Lord’s Presence so strong…so we repeat those words of love, worship, thanksgiving, honor, glory or praise to Him as we just want to sit or stand or maybe kneel, bow or lay prostrate before Him.

    I have noticed this is Spirit led…something that the Spirit is leading the worship leader to do because of the emphasis the Lord wants to make that day or what He wants us to worship Him for or about that day. Rather than being fleshly as you insinuate, it’s been my experience that it’s Spirit led. Many equate those of us led by His Spirit as those who shut off our brains. In other words, when the Spirit is truly moving, we are accused of being worked up emotionally. You used the word “false.” Believe me, when I am crying in worship (as I often do in my church), it is not falsely worked up! It is the Lord touching me! I am normally not an emotional person. But when we worship the Lord in my church, I often cry because His Presence is so real and I am so humbled by HIs majesty and all He has done for me! So, I did want to say that repeating words in songs is not bad or wrong, and it’s uncalled for to call it “ridiculous.”

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  1. [...] I listed my 7 Pet Peeves about Worship Music in Church. Great discussion in the [...]

  2. [...] don’t always succeed. I got a lot of flak on Monday for my post on 7 Pet Peeves About Worship Music, for instance. Some felt that I was inviting people to criticize worship pastors, which [...]

  3. [...] 7 Pet Peeves about Worship Music in Church - To Love, Honor, and Vacuum Sheila makes the point that “we’re in church to encounter God, not to be entertained.” And along with that truth, she offers seven things we ought to consider as we think about the music used in our local churches. This post is not just for music directors and song leaders; it’s a good read for all of us who regularly attend a local church {and I hope that means you!}. [...]

  4. [...] 7 Pet Peeves about Worship Music in Church - To Love, Honor, and Vacuum Sheila makes the point that “we’re in church to encounter God, not to be entertained.” And along with that truth, she offers seven things we ought to consider as we think about the music used in our local churches. This post is not just for music directors and song leaders; it’s a good read for all of us who regularly attend a local church {and I hope that means you!}. [...]

  5. [...] 7 Pet Peeves about Worship Music in Church - To Love, Honor, and Vacuum Sheila makes the point that “we’re in church to encounter God, not to be entertained.” And along with that truth, she offers seven things we ought to consider as we think about the music used in our local churches. This post is not just for music directors and song leaders; it’s a good read for all of us who regularly attend a local church {and I hope that means you!}. [...]

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