Recently I attended a worship event with close to thirty-five volunteers who serve the BUMC worship ministry. Catching wind of the event months ago and noticing just who was going to be leading, I thought it would be a great opportunity for our volunteers to experience worship without having to lead as so many of them do week in and week out. The venue was big and the bill was loaded with well-known worship artists from this century.
As the night droned on I sat confused, disengaged, regretful, and most of all concerned how “worship” was displayed and experienced. The event was light, media, and musically driven to the point of sensory overload. The use of media didn’t enhance the experience but only served to distract the worshiper. The use of lighting screamed PERFORMANCE, CONCERT, LOOK AT ME! One artist even went on to say “this is not a concert, we don’t need any more concerts, we need…” I had checked out by that point and completely lost interest in the message. Many songs sounded the same, contained almost identical lyrics, and were not familiar. In the instance a familiar song was lead one could tell because the stadium full of thirteen thousand people began to sing along immediately. Sadly the lack of attention spent in Communion along with the flippant language used to set it up and execute it nearly brought tears to my eyes as a potential high holy moment was severely missed.
As hopeful as I was entering the night of the event, deep down I knew with grave disappointment what to expect. You see, after many years in worship ministry I have grown skeptical of the concert driven, hyper multimedia presented, overly expressive approach to worship leading.
(Side note…I realize everyone has opinions. Although these convictions are mine, I am not alone as I have heard time and time again the same from peers, church goers, and fellow leaders. I also realize writing about it is an ineffective way to influence and initiate change, but I hope to at least express a viewpoint that is gaining steam among worship leaders these days as they navigate the waters of creating meaningful worship experiences)
How does one, the leader in general, initiate and affect change in a way that creates meaningful experiences? How can worship be more holy and sacred? For that matter, what is holy and sacred worship? These are the questions worship leaders face today as shepherd’s of God’s people.