Advice for church congregations in relation to worship music
It’s ok, we didn’t forget you. Yes, a key part of the worship is the congregation – the group of worshippers. The worship leader is there up the front taking the congregation to a place of worship, but it’s not much use if the people in the congregation are unwilling participants.
This is about attitude, and even if the music isn’t up to much and the worship leader isn’t particularly talented that’s no reason to mentally absent yourself until it gets to the notices.
Make sure you are not playing your part in a ‘dead’ congregation. You may well have your own views on worship and what it really constitutes but if you have taken the trouble to attend a church service week-in, week-out play your part.
You don’t have to make a show of yourself to enter into worship you just have to have a willing heart. Here’s a couple of tips that might make your worship much more fulfilling.
1 Don’t… worship the worship leader
We live in a celebrity culture and that mentality has bled into churches. There are now countless ‘celebrity’ worship leaders that record albums, earn tidy livings and enjoy a level of fame that not even Charles Wesley would have predicted.
No matter how talented or good-looking they are don’t forget that these people are human. They lose their tempers, they tell lies, they make a terrible mess of things and they are prone to mood swings. They have all the frailties and lots of responsibility and although we have to treat them with love (and respect), we shouldn’t put them up on a pedestal. If you do, you’ll only be disappointed. The worship leader’s job is to help you worship the one and only true living God. That’s all.
2 Don’t… demand entertainment Robbie Williams would have a field day if he ever became a Christian because there are plenty out there who want to be ‘entertained’ and there is no doubt that he would deliver. If you want to be entertained go to a Robbie Williams or a Take That gig but don’t bother going along to church. Creativity and strong musicianship is to be encouraged in churches – we don’t want the devil to have all the good music – but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Go to church to have an encounter with Jesus. Go along to church to hear the word of God. Go along to church to worship with your brothers and sisters, but if you want entertainment then you are in the wrong place.
3 Don’t… mumble
Singing is what we do in a church service, mumbling however, is not. A mumble doesn’t really arrest the heavenly hosts, it just sort of arises them from their slumber. We don’t think God likes mumbling much – it’s not scriptural. Ok, so Samuel heard God’s whisper but he definitely didn’t hear a mumble. If you want to stay quiet in church, that’s fine. If you want to sing at the top of your voice, that’s fine too. If you just want to sing normally, then God’s pretty into that as well, but mumbling?
We think you’ve got the message.
4 Don’t… keep coming in late If you have watched the film River Runs Through It you’ll get the point. In it there’s a mantra that the key characters, the family McLean adhered to with religious ferocity. You must never be late for work, fishing and church. Now, you may not be a fisherman, but we think this is a pretty good rule. If you keep being late for work, you’ll probably get the sack and although God forgives, try not to be late for church as well. If you turn up on time, you’ll be all set for worship. Coming in late is like entering a party mid-flow – and that never works.
5 Do… pray beforehand
We always think there are three sermons that can be wrapped up pretty quickly. Read your bible. Embrace holiness. Pray. That’s pretty much it.
If you take the trouble to pray before you go to church you are giving yourself a head start. What does scripture say? It says: ‘Ask, seek, knock and the door will be opened to you.’ That’s pretty clear isn’t it? If you pray before a church service God won’t close the door on you? Most worship groups and worship leaders pray before the service. They are asking God to bless them. As a member of the congregation you should not be any different.
6 Don’t…. moan Moaning is good fun isn’t it? You can get all that bitterness off your chest, blame everyone else, be wholly self-righteous, pompous and feel secure that you are right and everyone else is wrong.
Moaning doesn’t build you up, it just makes you feel worse. Of course, you don’t need to like everything the worship leader does, or the songs he or she chooses. You may not like the sound or the fact that the drums are too loud or the guitarist is a narcissist. You may be perfectly justified in your reasons for thinking things are not quite right with all this, but moaning doesn’t help. If you think things need to be changed, don’t behave like the Grinch. Speak to the leader about your concerns and make sure your criticisms are constructive.
7 Do… have an open mind Thankfully, there are churches that still use organs and sing hymns. These are traditional places that attract people who want to worship God in this way. There’s nowt wrong with that. Still, times have moved on and contemporary worship is now part-and-parcel of church culture. We have learned to move with the times and the hymns that we have so much affection for have been ‘sexed-up’, so to speak. Sometimes, something so new takes us by surprise and our prejudices about what we think is right and wrong can colour what God is doing in our midst. It’s scriptural when we talk of God doing ‘a new thing’. God loves creativity and he loves people who are prepared to step out in his name. New sounds, new ways of playing songs and the emergence of new worship leaders dedicated to what they are called to do should be embraced. That doesn’t mean you dispense with wisdom and sound judgement but it does mean that you should keep your mind open to receive the breath of God.
8 Don’t… just worship in church God’s a fairly mobile character. He’ll be there while you are doing your shopping, eating your breakfast, watching television or spending time with your friends. So, if you can switch on a tape, or if you can play an instrument, play some worship music at home. Even if you are just starting out as a musician have a go at writing some songs and praising God in your front room. Worship does not need to be dependent on the location so don’t feel it needs to take place solely in a church setting.
9 Don’t … boycott If you don’t like a particular worship leader the worst thing you can do is boycott his or her services. This person needs your support and your prayers. If something about them irritates you ask God to give you grace to overcome it, or if it is something quite fundamentally wrong, try to find a way of communicating that to someone to address the issue. What you have to understand is that people have their foibles. We are well aware of worship leaders who do the most irritating things – that breathy vocal does drive us up the wall, but then God does use that ‘breathy’ worship leader in the most fantastic ways. Try not to underscore your prejudices and if you can get over these niggling foibles you’ll feel like a better person.
10 Do… worship That’s pretty much it. Worship does you good. God loves it. He loves to hear your praises. The heavens rejoice when you lift your voice to God. Worship at all times, worship in your life, in your deeds and with the people you love. You can’t go wrong.