Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How much pizazz can worship music handle?

This is a picture of me when I was playing with Left on Farwell (thanks for the picture Jordan!). I would never look like this during worship though. In fact, when I started playing in bands (non-worship) after ONLY playing in worship bands for years, it was really awkward for me to be on stage. In worship we have the mentality that we should be invisible and non-distracting so we mostly look down at our strings and try not to move. In live music, in a non-worship settings, the goal is to captivate, visually emphasise the music, and entertain. I slowly got the hang of it until it was totally natural. At the time I was taking a break from playing on worship teams so when I came back to worship, it was awkward again. It had become natural for me to move around to visually emphasize my playing, but I felt like I should hold back.

There are a lot of elements to worship I can't wrap my mind around. One of them is this: Can stage presence benefit worship? I can mull it over by myself all day long but what I really need is a discussion with other people who play on worship teams. So if you're reading this, post a comment! Here's a starting block:

Obviously there are extreme black and whites. On one hand we could have the worship team (piano and singers) play from the back of the church, play really conservatively, leave the lights off, and only put white lyrics on a black background. There would be nothing distracting and nothing visual. On the other hand we could have a laser show where the bassist back flips off the drum riser in perfect coordination with the pyrotechnics and the electric player shreds a solo from a harness floating over the audience.

I think we lean way more toward the first. Actually, the first one would be just fine for certain aspect of worship, but I think the second is so entertainment based and visually loud that it would be hard to see God in anything.

Most churches are somewhere in between. If the point of worship was just to sing, we would only need a melody, but we add chords, and rhythms, and counter melodies. Are those distractions? We're all playing them, so we must not find it to be distracting. Instead, we find it adds to the experience. It creates emotion and helps people connect with God. The same is true with visuals. All the congregation needs is lyrics but churches put the worship team up front, an interesting background on the lyrics screen and a lighting system. It's obvious from these practices that churches feel visuals will help the congregation worship. The visuals can craft emotion just as well as music. Ever seen someone dance as worship? It's harder for us to connect with because music is a bigger part of our culture, but the Psalms tell us to dance, clap, and jump along with telling us to sing. Dance can be worship.

I guess I'm back to the original question, but this time asking, how can my movement on stage add to the worship experience? Here's where I draw from what I learn in non-worship bands - the ability to move with the song. If the song is reflective and slow, then I'll be still. That's a visual in it's self and it would be wrong to project that same visual in a fast celebratory song. I'm not going to throw my leg up on a monitor and strike a "Creed" pose, but if the song is exciting I'm going to move around with it.

I think the most important thing is to let what's happening on the inside show on the outside. If you're playing the song on guitar, you're feeling some soft of emotion (if you're not you're playing is going to sound bland). We're already making an emotion, the key is just to let it show visually too. I know I used to think there was something wrong with showing anything visually in worship. It's time to get rid of that mentality.

Agree or disagree?


Jeremy Killian said...

I think that you've hit on the important point. Worship is not performance, per se. We're not trying to draw attention to ourselves onstage. However, consider the fact that most people aren't even looking at the band, because they are looking at the lyrics above the band's heads. So, I say, move with the music. If the music is powerful enough to evoke physical response from the congregation, such as the raising of hands or clapping along, then it should be powerful enough to move you as well.

rhoy said...

i agree with jeremy. musicians are also leaders. if you restrain yourself while leading, people will feel it and will try to restrain themselves as well.

i think it all comes from the heart. if your heart is right and the worship moves you, then go ahead and respond to it. Paul & Silas could not care less what other would people think while singing in prison. they just praised God.

Scott L. said...

Good subject. IMO, there are three areas to music ministry that should be addressed every time you go on stage. It's more of a process than a do's/don'ts checklist, but should make sense in the end.

One, prepare your heart and mind by offering the music as a gift to the Lord. Clear your mind of distractions like poor sound quality, poor mix, missed parts, etc. Most importantly, purge yourself from your ego, since whatever gift you have came from Him. Enjoy the process of serving and worshiping simultaneously. What a blessing!

Secondly, bless the Lord! That's what worship is all about. God gave you a gift, use it to its utmost. Play or sing from the heart. If God has gifted you with wailing the guitar, go for it! The problems I often see is that once worship music becomes contrived, it is no longer worship. Once you cross the line with the attitude of "I'll show em what I can do", it's no longer about the Lord, but about you. Conversely, if you hold back your heart, looking at your shoes so-to-speak, your cheating yourself and the congregation of the joy in the Lord. We should never suppress the Holy Spirit in times of worship. Whether you purposely show-off or purposely subdue the worship, both are contrived and should be avoided.

Thirdly, our actions on stage should be done in the spirit of love, so I would agree that actions we take that offend fellow brothers/sisters in Christ should be avoided. As Paul says, all things are lawful to me, but not all things are expedient, which is to say that because the Bible doesn't forbid something doesn't mean I am unrestricted to do such a thing without considering others spiritual maturity. Dressing up like Maryln Manson and doing backflips are both contrived actions IMO and most likely to offend. Even if these actions were not contrived, others less spiritually mature would offended and should govern us to prohibit such behavior.

God Bless.
Scott L.

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Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Anonymous said...

Go for it.... move around! Just think about God and his awesomeness and let it move you rather than concentrating on your physical movement and the pose you strike. Get into God and play it like you mean it.