Community Discussion: Worship Organic

Featuring PraiseCharts Posted on September 26, 2008

Community Discussion Question:

Worship Organic: Back To The Basics of Worship Leading. Does this phrase resonate with you? Does it seem that we have moved away from the organics of worship and the simplicity of worship leading? We have seen a plethora of worship music, leaders and artists with a rise that has never been seen before - a more stronger emergence since the 1970's Jesus Movement. We now have an overwhelming stock of tools, technology and an ever increasing list of new songs and ways to facilitate worship services.

Some classify worship leading or worship itself by a style, genre, song and artist. When was the last time that your discussion revolved more around "Who" we worship rather than "what" your worship sounds like? Like you, even the more well known, respected and responsible worship leader will genuinely tell you that their focus-point of worship is on the Lord himself. Here's the case in question: in where we are today, how do we get back to the basics of worship and worship leading?

John Chisum
Worship Leader & Doxa 360
I am voting for a return to worship organic. It is disheartening to see the flash of worship performance, that seems to erode the song from the people. There is the sense that we have models in the church that suggest a worship-as-church-growth-tool. In addition, we have church leaders that have become disenfranchised with the reality of biblical worship, the reality of lament, and the reality of people who are struggling in their souls. Another point in question are worship leaders that are more concerned with imitating well-known and established worship leaders rather than being true to themselves and to their local places of worship. There is a danger about presenting a platform in the Church to satisfy an artist itch before the congregation. Where is reality? Where is the full-throated song of the people in the ears of God?

Cory Alstad
Worship Pastor
I hear you about this, John.  I think you're correct in some of your assertions about inauthentic worship, incorrect motivation, etc.  I think, though, that part of the answer to this lies in your question "Where is reality?".  I think that the answer is:  right here.  This is reality.  Part of the problem is that we live on a broken earth and we are broken people.  Do I always have the right motivation when I get up on our stage at church to lead worship?  Nope.  Does God, in his mercy, still choose to use me?  Thankfully, yes! I agree with you that we need to be holding each other accountable in who we are as worshippers and as leaders.  No question - this is a high calling and it needs to be taken seriously.  Worship is not about the top 10 ccli songs.  The only problem, unfortunately, is - who decides what the 'song of the people' is?  Do I get to, as a worship pastor?  If so, what if I pick a top 10 ccli song, simply because it puts into words the prayer that I feel our people need to sing?  I don't think that's a bad thing.
Worship is about the heart.  I have a friend who is always saying "Cory, sing a NEW song!  Not the latest greatest worship song on the charts - a NEW song!"  And I agree with him - but, if part of our goal when we gather, is to encourage each other - we have to be sensitive to our congregation's needs.  Bringing in 6 new songs every Sunday might not be the most sensitive thing I could do!

I think that it is extremely important for worship leaders to be very discerning in the songs they pick for their congregations.  Is this song true?  Is this song something that our people could sing authentically? Is this song something that we NEED to be singing because we're SO not there yet?  But you're right that we need to move away from the temptation to always pick what's popular, or try to imitate someone that we're not. Just some thoughts!

Bob Kauflin
Worship Pastor
Ministry: Church: Blog:

I think John is highlighting one of the unfortunate tensions between congregational worship and the Christian music industry. There’s no question that God is behind the proliferation of worship songs over the last few decades, but there have been some unfortunate side effects in many, not all, churches. Our focus has changed in a number of ways. We’ve allowed a concern for numbers and technological excellence to highjack a concern for ministry and the work of the Spirit. We’re more concerned about singing songs that are popular and have a groove than singing songs that pastor people’s hearts. Our congregations have become audiences. We put less focus on being faithful and more on being successful, whatever that means.

Obviously the reasons for the shifts are rooted in our struggle against the world, our flesh, and the devil. But I think there are more specific reasons. We’ve substituted the power of therapy for the power of the Gospel, the authority of “what works” for the authority of the Word, and the work of our planning for the work of the the Spirit. It’s a bad trade in each circumstance. Worship isn’t a mystery. It’s loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s  making much of God’s glory in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that he becomes bigger in our minds, our hearts, and our lives. Music is a tool to those ends, not the end itself.

In spite of some of the wayward paths we’ve pursued in our churches, God is still on his throne and is seeking and producing worshipers who worship him in spirit and truth. He will have a people who are committed to proclaiming the excellencies of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). There will come a day in the new heavens and the new earth when every creature will join in one song, with unhindered passion: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12)! May our churches reflect that scene more and more, for the glory of the Savior.

Ric Flauding
Music Composer
I read the post from John Chisum...Amen & Amen. I have been saying this for years, after coming from places that are more focused on flash rather than God’s heart.
As for myself? I have been returning to more traditional (may I say "timeless") forms of music worship, and I think there will be a trend that way (not that I care about "trends" per se). People want the truth, people want sincerity, people want the meat of things. This is why for me, after many years in the more contemporary, seeker churches, I have been moving elsewhere. I have been in the Christian music community for over 30 years now, and have seen it all regarding irrelevancy. Let’s return to the Truth.

Terri Welch
Worship Programming Assistant
I agree. One church I attended, the praise teams attended a worship seminar where they said, "The singers on the right side of the stage hold the mike in their right hands. The singers on the left side of the stage hold the mikes in their left hands." My friends who were on praise teams at the time were just incredulous.  Talk about focusing on the inessentials.  To me, worship is about fervency, not about going through the motions, and making it performance based. Worship needs to be people coming together and sharing their hearts with God. Their clothes don't need to match, their singing doesn't need to be perfect. It needs to be from the heart.  It is irrelevant of worship services where everything -- the sound, the lighting, the harmonies, etc -- is perfect.  But there's no underlying passion. That's why I love that song, "Heart of Worship".  The pastor of that church had no singing or music for weeks until everyone realized worship was about God. When they started back with worship, the guy sang that song,"I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it, when it's all about You."

Kevin Pledger
Worship Leader
I believe that Matt Redman's Pastor was on to something when he called his church to kick music to the curb for a period of time. Of course that time period birthed a new song in Matt's heart as a result, "Heart of Worship."  But God calls us to bring more than a song to Him. He wants our very lives!  Our dependence should be on the freely given grace of God and the arms that can hold the whole universe or a  single hurting child equally as tight.

This mainly goes to the heart of the leader.  His or her heart MUST be in direct tune with God's.  There must be an ongoing relationship that involves personal worship on behalf of the worship leader.  One in which songs (whether original or written by someone else) come from the leader's heart poured out to the Lord in worship from a place of humility and awe.  Then those whom the leader leads in weekly worship will follow.  But as worship leaders, we should not fool ourselves into thinking we are fooling others into thinking we are something we're not.  Worship is transparent by nature and definition.  Not only to the God of our worship, but to others as well. It makes us somewhat vulnerable, yet strong at the same time.  But what a privilege!

Ryan Dahl
PraiseCharts- Chief Innovator
I think that worship music is a very localized experience.  Each contributor is speaking out of his/her own experience, which may or may not match my own.  One guy might be trying to pull off a “Christian/Worship Artist” mimic stunt on stage.  The next guy might be genuinely engaged in heart felt worship.  One church might be really targeting totally unchurched people who are not comfortable with congregational singing (so the performance approach is has a strategic ministry mind set), and another church might be full of "churched" people who want to sing, but just can't follow the latest and greatest new songs being presented every week.

The bottom line is, I think we need to be very careful not to take broad brush strokes of criticism across the "worship music landscape" of the world.  I love all the music of modern and popular worship songs and artists.  If you write a great song that is sung all over the world, there will be rewards for that. 

What we really need is people that will lead worship by living the worship life.  There is no worship other than the worship life.  Music and songs are all peripheral to the worship life. The world is full of hypocrites.  If you focus on them, you'll get depressed and exasperated very quickly.  Focus on yourself, and your own local world where you have a very tangible responsibility to make a difference based on the passion that God has put on your heart.

Daniel Collison
Worship Pastor
At the point Sally Morgnathaler wrote, "Worship Evangelism" in 1995, the praise and worship movement that began in the 1960’s and 1970’s was bourgeoning. The charismatic and contemporary driven music streams were peaking in growth. The worship evangelism paradigm resonated with many evangelical churches because they were intrinsically passionate about evangelism.  The praise and worship movement was successful at drawing larger numbers of people into church buildings and the seeker model was difficult to transfer to many settings around the United States. Hundreds of churches across America began to view corporate worship as the new frontier for church evangelism.

The misinterpretation of worship evangelism became a problem in two ways.  First, for the more savvy churches, the attendance in worship services grew enormously.  However, as David Olson reveals in, “The American Church in Crisis” the people coming to the large attractional worship experiences were transfer Christians.  Second, the spiritual culture of the United States was rapidly changing. Unlike the 1980’s and early 1990’s non-Christians were no longer taking the initiative to visit churches. The modes of evangelism had changed without the worship driven churches taking notice.

If summed up in one phrase the worship evangelism movement could be called “a numerical success and a Kingdom failure”. In Like 13:18-21 Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to the mustard seed and the work of flour in bread dough. In both cases the core elements expand outward to produce fruit that far exceeds their original size. The fruit of Kingdom work is new conversions christianity not merely the reorganization of christians.

This topic reminds me of a quote that I read by Micheal Frost and Alan Hirsch in their book, "The Shaping of Things to Come". They wrote:

"...the relationship between the traditional Christendom mode of church and the world around it can best be described as being fundamentally attractional. The church bids people to come and hear the gospel in the holy confines of the church and its community. Evangelism therefore is primarily about mobilizing church members to attract unbelievers into church where they can experience God. Rather than being genuine 'outreach,' it effectively becomes something more like an 'in-drag'. Now, we are not suggesting that people can't experience God in a church service. Of course they can, for in the preaching of God's Word and the worship of God's people his true voice can be heard. But if the church limits God's agency in this world to particular times and places that the vast majority of not-yet-Christians have no access to, or no desire to attend, then the gospel is effectively hobbled...If they won't come to us, we have to go to them. This approach, being incarnational, is the opposite of being attractional."

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