the essential of worship

wanna know what worship pastors sometimes spend all their time doing? this morning i spent a couple hours talking with a team of people about whether or not we should increase the amount stage light on a guitarist if he’s soloing during a worship song.

3214190993_a80645f079“yes. we put light on the singers. why wouldn’t we put it on a guitarist? people want to see what’s going on.”

“no. it makes too much of the guitarist, and not enough of God.”

“yes. but increase it by no more than 25% for fast songs and 10% for slow songs.”

“why do guitar solos anyway? is a church really a place for guitar solos?”

“sure. increase his light, then tell him to kick over his amp, drop to his knees, slide on his back and go Marty Mcfly on us.”

“come to think of it, why have guitars? is church really the place for guitars?”

the funny thing is that of the people talking about this, none of us really cared. we may have our preferences, but we weren’t talking about our preferences, we were talking about the preferences of the people who might be there next sunday morning. in fact, we know that if we increase the level of light during a guitar solo, it just might “snag” someone out of their worship. right or wrong, it grieves us to know that anything we do could make it difficult for a person to worship. that “snagging” thing happens all the time. it may not be a guitar solo, it may be the volume of the band, or it may be the color of the worship leader’s jeans. it may be that the worship leader is wearing jeans. it may be that a song used the word “me” three times more than it did the word “God” or that it wasn’t written before 1900. it may be the typo on the lyric slides. it may be that the vocalist took her microphone out of the stand. it may be that a person had to move over a seat and sit next to a total stranger.

it could be lots of things, and believe me, worship leaders think (stress) about it all, all the time. we secretly love getting wrapped up in all those details under the disguise of “minimizing distractions for people.” (it’s really just a way that we can feel like we’re in complete control of everything). what i often forget is that there are two components to consider when leading people in worship: the essentials and the non-essentials. as far as essentials go, there’s really only one—the simple yet deep truth that there is one God on high who deserves our worship. that’s the only thing that we can’t afford to get wrong. it’s also the one and only cause of our worship. and it’s the only thing that matters.

ahhhh, if only things were so easy. they aren’t and won’t be this side of heaven. so until then, we get to struggle through it together.

whether you’re a worship leader or a worshiper, we like to spend more time in the non-essentials. these are the things that show up on the comment cards and get talked about in meetings. these are the things that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter, yet they so often stop people from worshipping. really? if the light is too bright then you are derailed from worshiping the One who created light? really. we’re all guilty.

another word for the non-essentials is “preferences.” there’s a million of them and they all run rampant over each other in any worship service. i tend to mistakenly believe that creating the right mix of “preferences” will cause people to worship. what causes someone to worship is not the non-essentials, it’s “the essential.” this isn’t to eliminate the need to think through the non-essentials. these are important things that can make a worship service more accessible and effective, but only when they are put back in their rightful place behind the essential. i feel a responsibility as a worship leader to think through preferences, but do i spend as much time helping people escape their preferences? helping them understand how un-essential those preferences are? helping them care more about the preferences of others? helping them ultimately grow as worshipers?


by not doing so, i’m creating ruckus for a community of people who honestly and anxiously want to worship God, but can only do so when things are just the way they like it. that’s not their fault. it’s mine.


~ by bradherndon on November 5, 2009.

2 Responses to “the essential of worship”

  1. You forgot about the lights being too dark to find a seat. That’s mine. Thank you.

  2. typo’s on the lyics slides??? This is unacceptable. Brad, you’ve really let the place go since I left. Just kidding, but seriously

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