Worship is Not a Spectator Sport

Jimi Williams —  May 22, 2013

Worship is Not a Spectator Sport

The quality of worship music has advanced tremendously in the last ten years. We have better sound, lighting, video and room acoustics than ever in history. Conferences and the internet have allowed worship leaders to get access to unlimited songs, teachings on worship and training for musicians.

But another trend has risen up along side our advancements. It seems that we’ve gotten so good and slick in our musical presentation that we (the congregation) find ourselves watching at times instead of worshipping.

Recently, I overheard an interesting conversation between two of the students at my church. They were discussing the use of motion backgrounds behind the lyrics. The conversation when something like this, “The motion backgrounds distract me when I’m trying to worship.” The other replied, “You’re not suppose to pay attention to the background.”

“So why use them if I’m not supposed to pay attention to them?” The other replied “Well you can’t just having nothing in the background.”

I think this conversation says much about how we use technology in worship and the danger it poses to create spectators instead of worshippers. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

There seems to be a move away from the busy screens and bands lit up with $100,000 lighting packages. I’m seeing more black backgrounds behind lyrics and bands even set up on the side to avoid becoming a distraction to the congregation.

I’m not a technology hater. There’s no doubt that worship presentation software has eliminated a ton of distraction caused by searching for the next lyric in PowerPoint or swapping out an overhead slide.

But as worship leaders, we must keep one finger on the worship pulse of our congregations and one hand on the heart of God. If ever these two become disconnected, then our worship leading is no better than a decent karaoke performance.

Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

3 responses to Worship is Not a Spectator Sport

  1. I totally agree. I am part of the praise team and member of the choir at the church I attend. We certainly try to keep the focus of worship exactly where it belongs. Our choir /band /praise teams all understand this. Our worship leader is also great at keeping this focus. I think it shows since we are a growing church .

  2. I totally agree Jimi.

    I have been part of a small church (less than 70 people on average, but great fellowship, we all know each other well). Whilst we have been growing slowly over the years, our worship team has not, normally only myself on guitar, one other singer, and a keyboardist. I can honestly say that our worship during these “quiet” (by modern church standards) is truly the heart of each person in the congregation truly worshipping God.

    I have had some of the best worship moments with no more than a guitar, and a small room of people just singing. Most of the time during those sessions I will often stop playing, because I don’t need to.

    Someone posed the question in another forum, “if we had no fingers to play instruments, would we still be able to worship.?” I believe the answer for all Christians should be “YES!” The one natural instrument God gave all of us is our voices, and even without voices, our hearts should still be the vessels of worship within us. I’m reminded of that verse that says, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” The truth is we don’t need expensive lights, super-musicians or even instruments, all we need is our hearts and voices to sing praise to Him who is worthy of it!

    I have over the years been to many “Christian Worship Conferences and Concerts” at mega churches, or visiting artists etc. I fear that these events are no more than that, concerts, where great music and talent is showcased. But where is the Heart of Worship gone? Are we creating worship drones? If there were no awesome bands or massive churches with full time worship teams, would there still be the same amount of people who still truly know what it is to worship God? Would they still be able to worship without the help of others?

    The other scary trend I see in the modern church is that of songs being written with this “us” centered mentality, i.e. what God can do for us, as if He were a genie of sorts. The psalms are so contradictory to this, there are prayers and acknowledgements of what God has done, and how He rescues us etc, but the psalms of deep worship are all about HIM!! And that’s it, worship is not about us in any way, period! It’s about His People worshipping Him for Who He is, to bring Him Glory and Praise, because He is worthy of it. Worship has never been about us being fulfilled by being in His Presence, it’s a by-product, the center of it is our sacrifice of worship to Him. If we are going to places to get that “buzz” and feel good again, we’ve missed it totally!

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, we have a small worship team, no smoke and mirrors. We sing and play what we feel lead to play-seems to work.