expressive worship

I Was Robbed at Church

My family and I decided to attend worship at a different church than usual last Sunday. We really enjoyed the worship, the message, and the people. But I had a rather unique experience.

First of all, I need to tell those of you who may not know – our home church doesn’t have a praise band or worship leader in the front of the church. We have singers and musicians off to the side, and we tend to sing older, more traditional music.

But at the church we visited on Sunday, there was a praise band that started the service, and they led us in singing some worship songs. The first thing I noticed was that these players and singers were excellent musicians! They had great tones, great skill, and great dynamics.

The songs they chose were well-written, and I really enjoyed singing them. (I probably would have chosen to rearrange them a bit so everyone could have connected a little more with the lyrics and emotion of the songs, but that’s another blog for another time.)

But even though the music and the songs were great, the singers and players did a great job, and dynamically and musically the music really moved me – the visual didn’t match anything this worship team did!

They did a very mellow, meditative song. They did an up-tempo, energetic tune. They used instrumentation that included strings, a Hammond B3, and more… each song was unique in flavor and style. In fact, I can’t stress enough how broad the range of dynamics was throughout the entire worship. If I closed my eyes, it was perfect!

But the minute I opened my eyes to see what was in front of me, I felt robbed! Nothing I saw matched the beauty or the emotion of the music.

The musicians were all sitting down and hidden behind a wall of instruments. The singers were standing behind music stands, and the only movement was the occasional “half-raising” of an arm or two – certainly not what I’d call spirit or passion in what they were doing.

The mood of worship depended almost entirely on me closing my eyes so I couldn’t see what was (or wasn’t) happening up on the platform. I kept thinking “I wish this praise band was sitting in the back” – it would have been easier to worship!

Fortunately, I didn’t feel robbed when the pastor came up to deliver his message. He was definitely passionate, both verbally and physically. He matched what he did visually with the words he was using.

He wore a headset so he was free to move around the platform, using eye contact and zone communication with everyone in the congregation. He raised his arms and gestured in order to help make his verbal points. Everything he did physically matched the tone and emotion of what he said.

It’s too bad the praise team didn’t understand that they needed to use the same communication concepts that their pastor did. The message they were delivering, the job they had to gather the congregation into the presence of God… it just wasn’t as effective when the visual didn’t match the verbal or the musical.

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Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson, world renowned Live Music Producer, helps musicians and worship teams develop songs into “unique worship moments.” His Live Music Methods help create freedom in the room so your congregation can express their worship more freely and passionately than ever before! Tom has worked with nearly every genre from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting major artists and worship leaders such as Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Agnew, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Parachute Band, The Martins, plus a multitude of independent artists.

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  1. Walter says:

    I disagree that the team should draw that much attention to themselves. I mean, isn’t the whole purpose to worship GOD and devote your attention to HIM?

  2. What a great way to explain it! I am a huge fan and am so thankful for your contribution to the church, helping us all learn to be more effective communicators and leaders. It’s so easy as musicians for us to be unaware of what is going on visually and just hone in on the audio, when the visual is just as important, I would say even MORE important to the average church member. Psalm 84 says “How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, the courts of the LORD; heart and my flesh cry out the living God. ” If that crying out is only audio, that’s such a tragedy. We should worship with all our heart, soul, mind and STRENGTH! Our bodies should be involved. Thanks Tom.

  3. Renee SMith says:

    I disagree with this article. Should it matter about the visual. They were leading you into worship and pointing you to God, not performing a concert. If we are going to depend on the visual to lead us into true worship, we have a problem. I hoped that it was perfect in spirit and truth. Church is suppose to be different from the stage.

  4. Mark Carlson says:

    I would agree, as I’ve seen way too many worship teams bring down the experience even if they are excellent musicians. The “visual” element to worship helps in this connection towards Him….showing passion and the emotional nature we all have. People are affected mostly by sight/ vision and this impacts our responses. Just as lighting stimulates the senses (light vs. dark) or colored light affects us emotionally too.

    I believe the more we can help to connect people, through stimulation of the mind and heart, that allows a sense of peace and connection.

    Love your articles, your gifts & abilities….thank you for serving in this capacity. God bless.

  5. Bill Hamilton says:

    I agree with the need for the visual and your point is well made, Tom. A poor, lackluster and visually boring presentation by the preacher makes it harder for him/her to get the message to the people. It’s about communicating to them. The people leading worship need to model worshipping God with all they have and that includes physical expression. When a preacher uses acting and public speaking skills in a sermon, it is not considered entertainment. It’s called effective and good preaching. So why do we call it entertainment when the musicians use physical movement and expression to lead the worship? The attitude and desire of the musician determines if they are entertaining or leading worship.

  6. I usually comment on Tom’s other site’s posts but I sometimes read the worship posts as well – and this title pulled me in! ;)
    A local blues/jazz musician passed away unexpectedly recently, he was young and left a young family. He was very talented, well known and had lots of support from our local black musician community. Some good friends of mine went to his funeral, they said that they were the only white people in the church. The preacher introduced the service by saying, “We are not here to mourn, we’re here to rejoice that our brother is now home.” They proceeded to rock the music and the service, my friends said it was one of the most amazing, moving, and spiritual music/church experiences they’ve ever had.
    Somehow I doubt that if the choir and musicians had shrunk in their seats that their ministry would have had nearly the same effect on the congregation. Whether we are playing a concert or a church service, I don’t think it glorifies God to stay small. Just my thoughts.

  7. Melissa says:

    It’s not about the team drawing attention to themselves, it’s about the team expressing themselves during worship leading the congregation There have been several times I’ll see our church worship team staring at the lyrics on the screen, or looking at one another for direction instead of focusing on the words they are singing. To me that is too distracting because if the worship and praise team aren’t following the lane of the Holy Spirit it doesn’t help to set the atmosphere. Instead of singing and dancing for the Lord I’m distracted by their actions, uninspired, and sometimes I have to close my eyes to avoid what’s happening in front of me. The team is doing a performance under the anointing of God so how do you help in leading people to a higher place?

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