The Sunday before Thanksgiving, and our pastor made it a long week off. Most of the praise team grabbed the same opportunity. Totally deserved, by all of them. After decades as a pastor (not once leading music, praise God!), I know that spiritual leaders need recharging. Jesus patterned that for us, by the way. I think he knew some pastors would slide into workaholism!
But their absence impacted the overall worship service. Our pastor does a fine job applying solid Bible truth to living as a follower of Jesus. Our praise team leads in both energetic and meditative genuine worship. And, frankly, the fill in teacher and pared down praise team just didn’t deliver the quality I’d come to expect.
Now, in confession mode to my 10,000 readers (yeah, right!), my first thought was, “Bummer!” And almost as quickly, God spoke. Not quite audibly, but close: “Tim, only you are responsible for how you worship me.”
Good worship is a strange experience. In her book Up With Worship, the late Anne Ortlund compared it to a bag of grapes or a bag of marbles. Marbles are together, they touch each other, but they just scratch one another and make noise. Grapes crush one another, providing wine. Worship has that tension between our individual and our corporate attitudes and acts. Neither “comes first” or is more “important,” but they interact. We choose where on their continuum we land, but both remain essential.
Or, I got cursed by quality. I expected the leaders to put me into a worship mood and to guide me through it. Obviously, they have a role. And the “regulars” do it very well. But I have the ultimate decision, and I can worship just about as well when the “expected quality” is lower than I wanted.
Of course, some issues factor in. Was the guest pastor biblical and relevant? Absolutely. Did the smaller worship team focus on the majesty of God in musical praise? Totally. Did they all lead in worship to the best of their ability? Without a doubt. If these aren’t present, the corporate worship will suffer.
I’m an old hippie, and imprinted during the Jesus Movement days when one guy with a guitar led great worship. I knew simplicity works. But I almost forgot. I got cursed by quality.
Kick Starting the Discussion
Think with me a little bit. How do you respond when the style or quality of worship is less than you expected? Or desired? What is worship really all about, anyway? Do you agree with what I heard God saying, that I’m responsible for how I worship, not the praise team or pastor? I’d love to hear your thoughts.