None of us desire to have the job of being a “worship cop.” But it is inevitable, particularly if you are a musician, to be in a worship service where the band sounds like they just learned 3 chords last week, they create their own arrangement which no one can follow, and the vocals are enough to make the local dogs howl. Its awkward, its uncomfortable, and its painful…for everyone.
To even say such things will rouse some people to come to their defense by calling such claims critical, un-loving, and un-Christ-like. Now, I will be the first to admit that even after playing guitar for over 30 years, having been in or led numerous bands, having taught music to many, and having taken professional music and vocal lessons I still mess up on occasion. I have forgotten lyrics, mumbled wrong words, gotten verses out of order, played in the wrong key while the rest of the band was in another key, and I have been humbled to stop the songs and start over because I messed it up. I truly believe that God’s grace shields the flock more than we could ever imagine.
The spiritual leader or worship leader responsible for the worship ministry really is the “gate-keeper’ of this ministry. It is up to them to gauge the spiritual AND musical maturity of a group or individual. Often times, and I have been guilty of this; in an effort to encourage an ember of talent in young musicians, I have released them into areas of ministry greater than their current ability, and the results have often been train-wrecks. We do no one any good to burden them with responsibilities that they have not been prepared for.
But, how do we who are the recipients of this un-skilled and ill-prepared worship respond? I found myself asking this question as I stood before some young men at a weekend retreat this past year. Do I simply cross my arms, close my mouth, or put my hands in my pockets in disgust, or is there any redemptive and God glorifying response that I can be engaged in? I found the need to remind myself of a few things in this moment.
Worship isn’t about me, its about Jesus…what we were singing and saying was true, despite the poor delivery of the music. I needed to believe that.
Worship isn’t for me, its for Jesus…the chords were off, the melodies were hard to follow, and the audio was terrible, but it’s not about my audio comfort, its about His worth, His glory, and His Name…its all for Him.
Worship is due despite the imperfect offering…Jesus is worshipped simply for who He is, and the short-comings of the worshipper does not change that fact.
Its hard to align our hearts and mouths when we are experiencing worship that musically stinks or is a distraction; nobody is judging the heat or intentions of the musicians, but even if your are not “musical” you know when something is off.
I thanked the band for sharing to encourage them, but if I had more time with them, I would encourage them with loving and gracious words and scripture to take some lessons, 1 Chron. 25:6, seek to play skillfully, Psalm 33:3, and to steward the gifts God has given them, Rom. 12:6a.
The next time you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of worship, please extend some grace. Remember that it’s about Jesus, for Jesus, and due despite the imperfect offering. Pray for those musicians, encourage them to pursue excellence without beating them down. Grace and truth go a long way in the development and growth of a budding worshipper. Next time simply lift your hands in faith, knowing that Jesus is worthy to be praised all the time and every time!