We Need Your Help

My husband is the worship pastor here at our church and he needs your help. Could you answer some questions for us please? We would love some comments from everybody – all over, not just our church. Thanks. WE LOVE y’all!

From Brad: “I’ll be honest. I am finding worship leading to be one of the most frustrating things right now. Don’t get me wrong. I love singing to the Lord, but it seems that the Church as a whole is moving more and more towards just watching the worship team, rather than joining them in their praises to God. I look out in the congregation week after week and seem to see blank faces looking at the people on stage as they seek to honor God and draw near to Him. Men are especially bad about folding arms and having a “bless me if you can” look. :)”

It baffles me. I don’t have answers on how to encourage our people to engage with us without barking orders from the microphone. 🙂 Maybe you can help me.
What causes people (or you specifically) NOT to sing and engage in your church’s time of singing, praying, etc…
What can the leadership do better in helping people feel free to engage and not hinder this?
I seriously want your feedback so we can look and pray over how to better serve our fellowship.

20 thoughts on “We Need Your Help

  1. Personally, the thing that hinders me is if the worship is too quiet or the leader quits singing so that all you hear is the congregation. I know, I know, I know that we’re to sing out to God freely and worship regardless of how our voices sound. But I CANNOT do it. I can’t stand to hear that much of my voice in the presence of others. I can only hear myself sing if I’m by myself.

    Of course, if I am distracted or having attitude problems, that causes issues for me. But that will affect my entire service at church, not just the music and worship.

    And I will be brutally honest . . . once, Brad sang one of my most favorite ever worship songs really fast and it ruined it for me. So I didn’t sing. I might have even crossed my arms. Yep, in the front row, in your face, Brad. Not in a “bless me if you can” attitude, but more of an “I can’t believe you’re doing this” mode. Ha! Ha! Sorry, that was so un-Christlike of me.

    But on a serious note, I know that it may seem like changing things up can keep it interesting, but sometimes if you sing a well-loved song quite differently (faster, slower, different instrumental), it can mess with a person’s ability to worship – now instead of focusing on the Lord, that person becomes focused on the song being so different. For me, it’s like hearing a woman sing a Rod Stewart song – it’s just weird and wrong and I want it to be shut off.

    That was probably more than you bargained for . . . but you asked. Love you guys!! 🙂

  2. You raise an interesting question. We’ve been watching this non-participation thing at our church for a long time.

    Kudos to you for asking. I am not sure our worship leader is even aware of the lack of participation.

    These are some opinions we have come up with:
    1. Praise teams are a distraction, particularly when they do a lot of gesturing. It looks a lot like a performance where individual participation is not needed. And having the worship leader miced loud enough to be heard above the congregation also feels like performance and discourages participation.
    2. At least part of the time, go back to the familiar hymns in the hymn books (if your church still has theirs). Words on the screen are just not the same. Abandoning time-tested hymns with wonderful messages is foolish. We’ve watched in our services. When the praise songs are going, there is less participation than with the hymns. Also, stick with the hymns from the book . . . no hymn arrangements if you want participation; arrangements feel like a performance requiring no participation.
    3. No 7/11 . . . 7 words 11 times. When leading praise music, sing each selection through once unless there are truly separate verses. After one time through, I stop participating. I wouldn’t want to sing the same verse of a hymn over and over either.
    4. Ask your church (through an anonymous survey) what they want. Let them fill out questions at church or if you have a current email list, use an anonymous survey like Survey Monkey. The people in the pew have an opinion and would probably appreciate being asked.

  3. I honestly agree with alot of what the others have said so far but I find that when I have had weeks when I have done my devotions and been in the word I can’t wait to get into corporate worship regardless of what song is done or how it’s done. Alot of who people respond to you Brad is an indicator of where they are spiritually to me.
    That being said there are also times when I have had a fallen out with the kids on the way to church, someone pull out in front of me etc and gotten my mind completely off kiltered and I walk in church annoyed and irritated…then I definitely need something familiar. I know we all need new songs sometimes but it’s annoying to go thru a new song no one has ever heard before on a Sunday morning. No one will participate and will for sure stand there and look at you unless you are doing a popular song off of Christian radio then you will have the ones who listen sing along. Doing new songs are definitely a distraction for me more so than anything else.
    I also worship better on the front few rows…less distraction..and if the lights are dimmed makes it even better for me.
    That is all that comes to mind right off but I will for sure right back if I think of anything else.

  4. All that comes to mind for me right now are the words of Dr. Fred…. don’t come to church to worship, BRING your worship to church. This is not a concert and we didn’t buy a ticket and expect a certain performance to get our money’s worth. I understand some of the responses to Brad’s request, but in all of the responses, it seemed to be all about the writer, not GOD….just try for one Sunday to focus on GOD and not about how loud the music is or if the song is too fast or too slow.

  5. Brad,

    Plain and simple…it’s a heart issue. Whether it’s those that criticize and critique the worship leader/team/song selection/volume/you name it or those who are on the stage criticizing and critiquing the audience for not worshiping in the style/enthusiasm/posture/you name it…both miss the object of worship entirely…God. (See Robin Waxley’s comment)

    Hard truth #1. If you’re disappointed with the audience when they don’t respond to your efforts/energy/skill/preparation as a worship leader in a way you feel they should, it’s time for self examination. Conversely if the audience does respond in a fashion you feel appropriate and you receive some form of personal satisfaction, once again it’s time to examine your heart as a worship leader. By the way I’m speaking in general terms not to you specifically.

    Hard truth #2. Those of us who sit in the chairs now believe more than ever it’s all about us. I call it “Christian Entitlement” which means WE have an expectation when WE come to fellowship that WE will be comfortable…coffee/deserts/comfortable seating/relaxing atmosphere/great music/entertaining pastor/programs, on and on. Once again, not speaking about your church specifically or where we attend.

    Hard truth #3. Believers can/will only worship God with all that’s in us, enthusiastically and without reservation when He alone is the object of our worship without regard for our pleasure and entertainment (See Hard Truth #2 above). Examine how often the words we sing are about us, look in our bibles and examine how often we underline and highlight those scriptures that speak to us about His blessing and promises.

    Hard truth #4. Humility is not an option in worship. Where there is pride, there is a desire to serve and gratify self…true for the worship leader, pastor or those in the seats. Humility can be defined as entire dependence upon God, pride can be defined as independence (the guys with their arms folded come to mind!) To worship the living God we must, as believers, grasp with our entire being our lowly position and ask Him to restore our wonder of His “Magnificent Glory.” Pride seeks only itself!

    Bottom line. In my opinion and in observation of my own challenges and difficulties related to worship in song was simply this: I was seeking a “feeling” through the music, an “enjoyment” and “delight” in the music to create an “emotion” that gave me a sense of “well being.” This my friend is not worship of my Creator. I’ve recently come to this realization by having an understanding that I exist for the sole purpose of glorifying God.

  6. At least here in America I think that we are more consumer Christians. We want the pretty church; the fun youth groups; the best music and the great but brief sermons. The whole experience becomes more about us than about Him.

    Personally, I love it when we mix some hymns in with more modern praise and worship songs. I get frustrated when we sing the same verse over and over and over (love the 7/11 comment from Carolyn). Transitions – more prayer between songs and less railroading from one song to next.

    Still and yet, our hearts need to be in the right place. True worship will follow.


  7. I could give some input into this, but it’s the actual answers I do not have. I will tell you some ideas/opinions based on…. nothing reliable, outside of my own observations.
    I think it could be a combination of a few things
    The first thing, our Christian culture today has changed, at least from what I can tell. It seems more and more like many people go to church to see what they can get out of it, rather than a sincere desire to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. I don’t know if that’s the case in your church though. But many times it seems Worship and Praise bands have become an industry rather than a ministry. That may not be the case, but that’s how it feels to me. I’m getting old though, sometimes I think people think the world is changing when they get old, when really it’s just them that is changing. People go to be entertained, or wowed, they are looking for some high or extraordinary experience when they go to church, or attend a worship session. Not that those things shouldn’t exist, but it has more and more become about them. Think about the songs written in the 70’s versus the songs of today. Though I believe the music itself has improved, many songs today are much more self focused, much more dwelling on our problems. The songs of the older generations are more often based on scripture, praising God, worshiping Him, being filled by him, and His glory. I like the songs of today don’t get me wrong, but there seems to be an unequal balance of songs that tend toward self and our hard times than there used to be.
    To that point- do people go for God or for the band? A lot of times I think it’s the latter. It also seems to be some people attend church for the “hip” pastor as well. Well, what can you do about that? I wish I knew the answer, as I don’t believe it’s always the fault of the band or pastor. I went to a David Crowder concert recently… it was awesome! It hit me as we were all together singing along with David Crowder how God was there with us, in our midst! That’s what made it the worship that it became that night God’s presence. I don’t believe it was Crowder, and I became so enraptured with God that I no longer cared who was up there on stage. But I do think David Crowder is good at leading a congregation in worship because of his focus. He is always pointing back to God, with the lyrics, with the words that he shares between songs, with his obvious joy in the Lord and his equally evident awe of God in how he worships. From my experience with Brad as Worship leader, it was much the same. I always enjoyed worship at RMC with Brad. The only thing I can say to all this is, the audience isn’t really the band’s audience, they are God’s. The worship leader will be used by God to minister to people in whatever state they find themselves as they sit in the congregation. God will anoint the leader with gifting and callings in that process (so long as they are in God’s calling). The worship leader needs to walk closely, closely, with the Lord himself, remembering that while up there leading a congregation, he is ultimately himself before the Lord… before God’s very throne, on equal ground with the congregation he leads in music. When speaking and sharing, and choosing songs, the focus is best directed always to the Lord, I love the testimonies that are sometimes shared too, on how God is working on their hearts personally, that makes it all relate-able. haha, listen to me going on as if I knew what in the world I am talking about. My advice may be worth nothing really. I helped with worship at my tiny church recently for about 6 months and loved every second of it!! But me sharing all this with you is not necessarily meant to be “advice” as though I knew anything… but more my own feelings and thoughts based on being in the congregation.
    After all that I don’t know if the worship leader can be responsible for the state of the hearts of some in the congregation, folding their arms, not participating, etc. Pray to God before the service, ask Him to be present (as I’m sure you do) in the hearts of his people. Leave it up to Him from there. Remember Jeremiah, feeling as though his ministry affected no one, not one, but God knew better. Anyway, something to chew on, take it with a grain of salt as I really don’t know what I’m talking about. But I will pray for Brad and his band to find refreshing in the Lord and encouragement in their ministry, also for them to be anointed by God and used by Him, even if they don’t see it.
    The last thing I wanted to share is this… I always loved the worship at RMC, always. I was the one who stayed to the bitter end on Wednesday nights afterglow. Don’t know if that means more than another person’s opinion because I love worship! I mean LOVE it. One of the most privileged places I feel I can be while on earth is before God’s throne, and I feel ushered right there through musical worship. When I am deeper in worship, often I am more and more withdrawn from the room around me. I tend to quiet down, become more prayerful and meditative. I forget others are there, and I’m not into putting on a show for anyone around me by singing louder than the person next to me, or raising my hands up higher (and I’m not saying that people that do that are putting on a show, but for me that is not something I do naturally very often, so if I forced myself it would be a show). Sometimes I am lead to sing louder and raise up my hands, but mostly I draw deeper and deeper still. It must be hard to stand on a stage and be facing the entire congregation worship time after worship time. Looking out there and seeing people’s reactions, wondering what it all means. If they are still and quiet, are they bored? Not in my case. I don’t sit there with my arms crossed, and I don’t much watch the worship band, but I do become very still. Wonder if that is discouraging to the worship team? But really it’s not that I’m not worshiping. I am worshiping more than ever. Some may not have their hearts right before the Lord, I guess all you can do is pray for those people. I have been praying the culture of the American church lately, as I think this could also very much be a symptom of the culture of the church in America today (mentioned above).
    Well none of that was very formulated or practical… like “oh, just do a., b., and c. and your worship will be awesome” so I don’t know if any of that helped you, but thanks for reading it anyway. I feel I could say more on the subject, but I better go now. 🙂

  8. My thoughts, off the cuff…
    I think as a whole the American church has bought the lie of entertainment for worship. We base our worship on how it feels. This is most clearly seen, in my opinion, at mega- churches. I walk in and the entire atmosphere is one of a concert (and by concert, I mean a place where an audience goes to be entertained by a performer and ‘experience’ the music). Stepping back and looking at it, it makes me a little sick. The mega church amplifies this, but I see it in most churches. The focus is on making the crowd feel moved, instead of a crowd moved by a gratefulness towards a holy God who came to praise Him.
    This is in the sermons too.
    How to move the people? Be sure they are truly hearing God’s Word. Be sure they are challenged. Be sure they are not getting milk and staying content with that. Be sure they are not just having their ears tickled.
    Honestly, I believe only the Spirit of God can change what you are seeing. It’s a heart issue.
    Sure, you could maybe find the music that the ‘just love’. But… then you are just catering to their belief that they came to Sunday congregational worship to be entertained and to be a part of that.
    I’m sad for you in what you are facing, but I’m sad for the whole American church.

  9. Oh, another thought:
    a problem I see really often is that because of the concert style of worship, often times, the congregation can not sing along well. The worship team ‘follows the flow’, but this can not be translated to the crowd, so the crowd is often left guessing and feeling uncomfortable. Therefore, becoming silent. Or watching. Or just being an audience.

  10. I sit next to a man like this every week. It can be very painful seeing him out of the corner of my eye with arms folded during music worship as well as preaching at church. If he could just let go…and let God! Pride can be such a killer in worshipping and living for our Lord. I feel there will always be someone in church services who have this response. But aren’t they some of the people we are trying to reach? Please do not take it personal or become frustrated when you see this…pray for those who respond in this way. Most likely, there are past hurts involved and this is their way of being in control, even though we know who needs to be in control.
    I am by no means faultless, I like many, have those days where it has been a battle just getting out the door to church. I bet the devil is proud of himself on those days! I really have to re-focus before going in the church doors on those days.
    As far as music, you cannot please everyone. What I say I like, someone else may not like. I trust each week that God is providing the music he knows that will touch someone in that service. We are all special to Him. There will always be someone who doesn’t like something that you do. As a lover of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and also music, music worship is a special time for me…whether it be in the car, at home, or at church. It is also a GREAT way to involve my children, who also love music.

    1. Thanks for your response. We do appreciate it! You are right – we are trying to reach that man sitting there hurt. My dad always told me “hurt people, hurt people.” It is wise to remember that. Blessings!

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