Reflection #34 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

This is post number 34 in a series of random reflections I have been amassing over the past couple of years since retiring from steady, local-church, “weekend warrior” worship ministry.  These ruminations are in no particular order, and they vary in significance.  I welcome discussion on any of them.

Reflection #34: Churches that utilize “ministry time” at the end of the service, opportunities for congregants to respond to the worship that has just transpired, would do well to ask the band to reduce the volume of the music playing so that conversation can take place more effectively.

That is all. . . .

OK, an illustration or two. . . .

Many years ago I attended a concert by a Christian pop/rock band that featured, at thephoto-1507692049790-de58290a4334 end of the concert, an opportunity for audience members to come forward to speak with counselors for any number of worthwhile reasons–to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, to rededicate lives to the Kingdom’s service, to receive prayer, etc.  No problem there; I’m all in favor of ccm bands providing space for folks moved by the Holy Spirit to respond to those stirrings.  But immediately after extending the invitation (to which several people responded), the band launched into the loudest song of the evening–an unmitigated, guitar-wailing, drummer’s-arms-flailing, full-frontal assault on the ears . . . which rendered any attempts at intimate conversation (i.e., the kind you’d expect to accompany requests for prayer) futile.  The image embedded in my mind’s eye is that of a well-intended counselor shouting her prayer into the ear of the supplicant, who is leaning in to hear while covering her other ear with her hand.

A few weeks ago, the church we visited offered a time of ministry following the sermon, and a handful of parishioners came forward for prayer while the pastor shouted comfort at them to the accompaniment of “This Is Amazing Grace” (or some similar up-tempo, up-volume number)–sung by both the band on stage and the congregation in the pews, a surround-sound onslaught that kept any meaningful counseling to a distinct minimum.

Shannon-and-Weavers

Worship leaders, the dialogical nature of corporate worship–God speaks, we respond–will prompt no shortage of opportunities for your flock to seek out spiritual nourishment, and you do well to provide such psycho-emotional sustenance right there, in the moment, before the enemy has time to spew his lies of doubt and fear (an example of what communication theorists refer to as communication “noise”; see above illustration)–and, yes, while the pastors or elders or the prayer-team members (literally) have the ears of those who have left their seats to come forward to receive all that strategically conceived “ministry time” can offer.  If you can’t eliminate singing during these sacred moments, consider choosing reflective ballads (not power ballads) and having the band drop way back in the mix (no drums, no electric guitars) or singing a cappella. The Lord be with you as you create the best possible space for folks to respond in worship!

Coming next week (Lord willing): Where to put those (necessary-evil) announcements.

About Warren Anderson

Emmaus Road Worshipers is written by Dr. Warren Anderson, Director of the Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts at Judson University (Elgin, Ill.), where he also directs the Judson University Choir. A Judson alumnus, he has served his alma mater in a number of capacities over the past 30+ years, especially the chapel ministry, which he led for 22 years. From 1982-2016, Dr. Anderson served six different churches--American Baptist (X2), Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist--as a "weekend warrior" worship musician/pastor. He is a former member of the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine. The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Judson University.
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4 Responses to Reflection #34 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

  1. Nancy Anderson says:

    I think you have ample material to compile into a book. I am familiar with a publisher.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you on Youtube too? I hope to be a worship leader or at least a singer some day and your blog posts are amazing!

    Like

  3. Warren Anderson says:

    Thanks much, Peggy. No, no YouTube. I have trouble enough cranking out a blog per week. 🙂 If you are in a position to consider a worship arts degree, let me know. I’d love to hook you up with the good stuff going on at Judson University! Blessings!

    Like

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