expressive worship

My Heart Was Right

In my recent blog Freedom to Disappoint, I wrote about how it’s pretty impossible to keep everyone in one church happy. If you try to do this, I’m sure you’ll go insane.

Jim wrote in after reading that blog, saying how he cleared the stage one Sunday for a pared down acoustic-type set, and had sent an email to leadership letting them know what he was going to do.

Well, he got jumped by the sound guy, who was taught that no one messes with the sound board or stage between services, and ended up in a meeting with him and the pastor over it. Jim also stated he ‘disappointed’ people because the things he said and the way he expressed himself from the platform was too ‘polished’.

I’m sure worship leaders reading this everywhere can relate. And Jim I’m sorry to hear you got raked over the coals! I applaud your ideas and for trying to create a special worship experience for the congregation. Hopefully some appreciated that. The way you set up the platform can be used to create a mood visually.

In terms of dealing with the leadership, learn the chain of command. Maybe the sound guy felt threatened in that you were getting into HIS territory with staging. I hope you explained the reason you did what you did.

Getting the pastor on board with your vision of visually illustrating the message you want to get across is important. You are not just clearing the stage for no reason. (Taking drums down alone is a pain!)

I’m sure this prior ‘mandate’ not to change anything came from a time where someone who didn’t know what they were doing, messed up the sound board and it was a hassle cleaning it up. Hopefully he will accommodate you next time if you approach him to discuss it and work together with him for your next ‘move’. Let him know he’s appreciated too. Those guys are often underpaid (if paid at all) and under-thanked!

As far as the comments on Jim being too ‘polished’… I can’t speak on that unless I were to see a video myself. It could be that your delivery sounds or looks too memorized or that it doesn’t seem heartfelt.

My guess is maybe the church isn’t used to having someone express themselves up there – they may have been used to a worship leader who just stands there and sings. If this is the case, gently lead them toward new ideas… i.e., “I really believe the Lord wants us to praise him with our WHOLE selves, and I just can’t help but to raise my arms in praise when I sing this song.” Or a lighthearted, “when we sing a song about the awesome God we have, I think my face needs to match what I’m singing about, don’t you?”

I know Jim’s not alone. We’d love to hear from more of you on these issues and how YOU have dealt with similar things. We can change your names to ‘protect the innocent’.

In the meantime, check out this great blog by Tom, Who Do You and Your Worship Team Reflect?

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Amy Wolter

Amy has vast and varied experience in music, from keyboardist to lead singer, from songwriter to producer. She fronted a nationally touring Christian rock band that garnered some top 10 CCM hits. Playing in a variety of venues and churches gave her a real understanding of what audiences and congregations connect with. As a member of her church’s worship team, Amy understands the challenges that come with this, and enjoys helping Christian artists and Worship Teams create freedom in the room to truly express their worship.

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  1. Mary Blalock says:

    If Jim is not coming across as insincere, the “too polished” criticism could be coming from that dilemma most of us on the platform face–the pressure to not be “too professional.” There are always people in a congregation who get quite concerned when a worship team or worship leader commands the platform in a manner they feel crosses from worship into entertainment. This criticism always both amuses and saddens me. No one would tell a pastor “Make sure you deliver a great message, but don’t be too entertaining.” Yet these sorts of barbs are aimed at worship teams routinely. Participants in virtually every other form of ministry are encouraged to give it their all; but worship teams are often given a mixed message. “Be good, but not too good.”

    What do people who say this really mean? Their real concern is that the worship team will draw more attention to themselves than to God. We know we can fall into that trap by being self-absorbed; but we can also derail a congregation by being so far removed from where they are in worship style that they are distracted and uncomfortable. We have to make certain that we know our congregation well enough to meet them where they are on that perceived worship/entertainment continuum. Start from that place. (As you say above, Amy, perhaps Jim is leading his congregation too far, too fast from their present comfort level). If we are able to lead them to the throne of God from where they are, they will follow willingly; and over time, they will trust our intentions when we want to try a bit more. Congregations may be ignorant about music, but they know when they have experienced moments with God. It is our ministry to help them have those moments, and sometimes the difficulty lies in that they need something quite different from what we would prefer as artists. We can serve well in that type of situation when we know that is where God has called us to be, but long-term if our efforts are not bearing fruit or we feel that our gifts are not being utilized, then it may be time to prayerfully seek whether God has a different plan–and a more compatible congregation–for us. He needs all types of worship leaders for all types of churches. Jim’s “too polished” delivery might be just what another church would consider a perfect fit.

  2. Jim Drew says:

    Thank you Amy and Mary,
    Well, I actually sent the email about moving the stuff before I did it, to both the Pastor and the sound guy, knowing it was a good practice not to surprise anyone. I got no reply for a few days so, well, okay. Sunday’s a commin’. I will “git er done”

    The Pastor and I spoke with the sound guy after all this went down. It amazed me, all the frustration, anger, and contempt the sound guy was showing. I felt so bad about it. My Pastor was great and talked of a need to talk values before we move forward. He was right. I had never worked in a situation where it was a problem, more an expectancy of me to move things around. At one point I was the worship/arts director for 11 years at a church and nothing remained the same, not even when the theme was the same.
    This sound guy had the opposite understanding and there had been no ground rules. He also had some new sound trainees and I think thought it overwhelming for them to deal with the changes. For me it is a matter of re eq in a few things but for him it seemed a real difficulty so I had scared him I think.
    There was more but, for that part this is enough info.

    As for the too polished.
    That was odd because I rarely speak and if I do it is something that would come from a reading I just had in scripture or something, very off the cuff. Who knows, I have been a musician all my life, on stages since I was four. I admit I am 51 now. Maybe there is a polish I am unaware of that comes across wrong. Don’t know but it seemed rather off the cuff to me, and inspired or I would have kept my mouth shut. I hate getting in the way of God.

    All that said, when I got home after that meeting I sat with my wife and the first words that came to mind I shared with her were “Is God getting me ready for something else?” Since that time I got a phone call from a guy I have known for a while in Nashville and the company he is with wanted to sign me for a two record deal and offer full management and, well, you get the point. I had all the right folks go over the contracts, make some changes and the company signing me had no issues with the changes.
    So, out of the confusion, but I think a prompting from our Father “Is He moving me somehow?”, Something really cool came about.

    One suggestion, we could easily get angry ourselves and take it very personal when things happen, and when we feel attacked in personal ways, but we don’t know what is behind it all, and in my case it was an amazing thing God had waiting for me! So, I look forward to some work with Tom Jackson Productions as I start getting ready for more touring as this company knows I love to play and share.

    Thanks for the love!!!


    • Mary Blalock says:

      Jim, that is great news. God is doing wonderful things in your life; no doubt about it. Wishing you all the best in this new opportunity. And I have to admit, I am delighted to read that you are 51. I am only a few years behind you, and it is inspiring that God uses the more “experienced” as well as the twenty-somethings:) We can be thankful that unlike so many other disciplines, at our age, the voice is really just now reaching its potential!

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