Here’s the link to the article. (LINK) The article itself was titled, “More Questions for the Ongoing Conversation About Congregational Engagement in Worship.” I think Dan was asking some good questions and like all good questions, easy or formulaic answers are often not helpful. Instead, a good question makes you think and Dan did that well. My original response was this:
“Dan, I think all of your points are valid and your arguments sound … as far as they go. At the same time, with each I would offer these gentle push backs:
- Without discounting what you have said, it is also often wonderfully edifying to hear the non-amplified voices of a congregation belt out a hymn or praise chorus with great passion. And this type of thing happens partly because they CAN hear themselves. Some weeks ago I passed on the video of Capital Hill Baptist in D.C. singing a hymn to my much-appreciated worship leader. It was thrilling to both of us to hear the congregation sing. Worship leaders who know this and value this often insert into songs that are generally amplified, choruses or verses that the congregation is invited to sing sans instruments and the effect is often marvelous.
- I get the analogy of the lights and stage being the canvas for the modern artist. It’s a good one. At the same time. Is there a point at which the “artist” is no longer serving the body or exalting Christ but is simply playing with a new creative expression. Years ago, I was teaching a preaching class in Seminary. One of the students was assigned the task of telling an illustration to illumine a text. The story he told was absolutely fantastic. He told it clearly; it made the point; this particular illustration was quite humorous; we, teacher and class, were in spasms of laughter. But then something happened that spoiled it. The speaker, sensing that he had us in the palm of his hand, began to “milk” the story, expanding it, embellishing it and everyone in the room sensed what was happening. In the span of about a minute and a half, the speaker had taken the focus off of Christ and placed a spot light on himself. Does this sort of thing happen in worship ministry? How do we guard against it?
- Excellence for our King. Absolutely. Without exception. Pursue it. Pray for it. Work hard at it. Hold it up as the goal. But, let’s not turn it into a god that we worship. (Not saying you are suggesting this.) This goes not just for worship/music/tech personnel but also for preachers and liturgists. Our best is never good enough for a King who would come and lay down his life for us. Let’s relish and delight in the fact that he loves and redeems us still and from there find greater depths in our worship of Him.”
4. A congregation needs encouragement to sing. When excellence on the platform is the standard it often helps the congregation to sing. When the vocalist sings with confidence it gives confidence to the congregation. When volume is full and robust it encourages the congregation to sing.
5. Keeping before our worship leaders and all those involved in designing and implementing worship ministry this one simple goal, “He must increase, I must decrease” solves many problems and averts many disasters. Preachers need to pay attention to this just as much as a musician with a guitar (or piano, or violin, or cello, or etc.) Worship is about spot-lighting Christ not ourselves.