Dear Evangelical Worship Leader,
I’m going to open this letter by admitting that I am not now and have never been in your shoes. I know that your position is one that gets attacked quite often in the so-called “worship wars.” I don’t intend for this letter to pile on. I know you work hard every week to learn new songs, teach those songs to others, and make the musical part of church interesting and engaging. You are using your musical talent to glorify God, and – as someone who loves music but can’t play an instrument to save her life – I am so grateful that He has blessed the church with people like you.
However, I have noticed some trends in evangelical worship that I find very disturbing. I decided that I should address these things with you, if only to clear my own conscious. From a congregation member who cares a lot for both you and the rest of the congregation, here are some concerns I have and suggestions for addressing them.
Please remember that your portion of the service on Sunday is supposed to be corporate worship. You are leading us to the throne of God. I know you mean well and want everything to sound good, but vamping during a song (the improved “ooh, yes, Jesus” etc.) takes a lot away from the corporate nature of the worship and makes it seem a lot more like a concert. I promise you that the songs will still sound right without that.
Related to that, not everyone in the church listens to the cds and Christian radio stations that you do. New songs, particularly difficult new songs, need an adjustment period. Please stop telling us to “sing out” when the song is brand new – we’re learning. We’ll do better next time. Also, not everyone is an exuberant, hands-raised worshiper. This doesn’t mean that those people aren’t worshiping God as much as you are. Telling us to raise our hands or clap or whatnot doesn’t change how deeply we are worshiping.
Don’t dismiss the hymns. Many of us love the hymns and miss singing them. Often you seem to assume that the only people in church who want to sing hymns are over 60, but that’s not true. There are many good contemporary arrangements of hymns that don’t require an organ or choir robes (this cd is a good place to start if you haven’t heard any). I’m not saying ditch the contemporary stuff for the hymns, but simply asking you to add some hymns into your song rotation.
Remember that you have a role in the presentation of the Gospel and the teaching of Biblical doctrine. Please pick songs accordingly. Being played on Christian radio (or being in a hymnal, for that matter) doesn’t automatically mean the song has correct doctrine.
I beg you, look over your song list before Sunday and ask yourself one question – is there at least one song on the list that couldn’t be sung by an agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, New Ager, etc.? Be honest with yourself. Many songs on KLove and the like can be sung by non-Christians as easily as by Christians. Christian worship should include at least some explicitly Christian songs – songs that mention Jesus by name, talk about the cross, talk about sin, and so on.
One point that may sound a bit nit-picky, but that I think should be addressed anyway – if you are going to say something during the worship other than introducing a song, please think it over before you get up in front of the congregation Sunday morning. Consider writing it down. I’ve spoken in front of the church myself and I know that it’s easy to get started on something you think is deep only to realize halfway through that you’re simply rambling. Your congregation will thank you for saying your piece in a way that is short and to the point.
Once again, I appreciate what you do. I don’t say it to your face often enough, but it’s still true. May God richly bless you as you serve Him and His people.
Grace and peace to you,