The church I lead worship in here is relatively performance-based worship. It’s in an old theatre, and the band has several professional musicians in it (and they let me play too, oddly…). This means that the band rocks, and enables us to have high-quality worship and do some cool things with a public-ish space, but it also means it’s hard for worship to not feel like a concert or performance. It’s one of the things I accepted when I started being involved here because no church will ever be perfect.
Having some experience as a worship leader, I know it is important to act as an example – to lead through the way you use your facial expression and body to show the congregation that it’s ok for them to participate too. I often make an effort to model the emotions present in the song we are singing, to reinforce the meaning for the congregation, and because it is more meaningful to me if I put that kind of thought into it. People have told me before that they appreciate this, which makes me feel good, of course. One person phrased it this way to me this Sunday “she is so spiritual. More spiritual than me.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. Because the truth is, I’m probably NOT more spiritual. I’m sincere, and I’m reliable, and I’m gentle, but I don’t think of myself as spiritual. I forget to pray, I don’t listen very well, and sometimes when I’m leading worship I’m thinking about hitting the right note or when does the harmony come in. And I’m ok with that, but I don’t want other people to think that I am somehow superior to them. I’m a worship leader because I am talented and passionate, but not because I’m spiritually superior.
Perhaps this particularly bothered me this Sunday because I was performing more than I usually do. We sang “My Glorious” which any former WA knows* has some lyrical/theological problems. For one thing, it’s hard to pin down any kind of meaning to it. But I’m particularly bothered by “the world we’ll leave” because this kind of language makes it seem like the New
I know that in many ways all of life we perform the person that we want to be – identity is constructed, so if you behave a certain way regularly you become that way. I believe in a sacramental view of worship that says participation in the prayers of the people matters no matter how you feel about it in that moment. But I also don’t want to deceive the people of God. I know there are other worship leaders and pastors who read this blog. Is this tension a problem for you? What do you do about it?* as many of you know, I spent a year as a student worship apprentice at Calvin College. Problematic worship songs - and this one in particular - was one of the things we discussed in our training.