I’ve played on many worship teams in the time I’ve been a musician. Some churches small, some large. Some teams full band, some acoustic. I’ve played hymns, contemporary songs, and I’ve even played “Sadie Hawkins Dance” by Relient K a time or two. Though there are differences in congregations and style, one thing stays constant.
People love the musical element of worship.
Rightly so. God himself has a heart for music, and we can see this throughout Scripture. God COMMANDS us to sing. David writes about it all over the Psalms.
“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1
“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” Psalm 99: 1
“Praise the LORD.Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.” Psalm 150: 1-5
We see that He wants us to not only sing, but sing together. Paul writes in Colossians 3:16 that we should “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” And even in Ephesians 5:19 saying that we as a Church should be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”
We are made to sing His praises.
Our love and adoration for Christ and His sacrifice should drive us to sing praises to Him. We are musical creatures by nature. Not that we all have the gift of some kind of musical ability, but that we are instilled with a desire to sing to and about something. Music is a huge part of being human.
Congregation musical worship has become a massive part of the modern evangelical Church. The Church loves its music. This is a good thing. It should. But what is NOT a good thing is when our love for music trumps our love for Jesus and our desire to give Him the rightful praise He deserves. When music gets in the way of worship, our music is no longer pleasant and acceptable to the Lord as worship.
Music is not the entirety of our worship, it is simply a part of the way we express it.
Now, before you are triggered, hear me out. As I said, I have played on many worship teams in the past. Some have sounded good. Some… not so much. It is a good feeling when your worship team sounds on point. The drummer is right in the pocket. The guitar player kills the riff. The vocalist is exactly on pitch. These are all great things, and it is completely Biblical to desire to be skillful at what you do. It states in Psalm 33: 3 that we should “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”
We are supposed to play skillfully, because it’s for God’s glory.
When we slack off, we are saying God isn’t good enough for our best. We are telling God “my music is going to be lacking because you aren’t worth the effort.” It is a very good, Biblical, and righteous thing to want to play skillfully. But that isn’t the end game. We can never play good enough for God. We can never play enough in the pocket, a smooth enough riff, or be so on pitch that we can please God. He doesn’t want our music, he wants our devotion and joy to be set in His Son. He desires that we love Him with every part of our being.
I have failed at this.
When things have gone well with our worship team, I always feel good about myself. When I walk off the stage and the congregation seems impressed with the “performance” I just gave, I feel as if I’ve accomplished something. They have clapped for me. In reality, I have made my heart even more sinful then before. In my sinful desires, I have put my own glory and pride above God’s. I have looked to my own agenda instead of His. I have gone out looking to impress the people sitting in the congregation. I have just used the skill that God has given me to glorify myself instead of Him. This is the epitome of selfishness.
This is self idolatry.
Not only are we as musicians guilty of this, but so are our congregations. Instead of focusing our eyes on the one who is worthy, we have placed our focus on the skill of those who can do nothing for us other than give us 20 minutes of entertainment. We look more to be entertained than we do to worship God through this gift of music He has given us. We have distorted a gift that God has bestowed upon us and twisted it to fulfill our own selfish desires. We look to be pleased rather than to please Him with our worship.
I am not saying do not appreciate your worship team, because it is completely right to do so. We should give credit when someone plays skillfully for the Lord. But that cannot take over our desire to please the Lord with our worship. If our eyes are set on anything other than the Lord and Christ’s sacrifice and work, than we are idolaters. We are no longer worshiping God, but ourselves. This is a dangerous road.
But… That is why Christ died.
He died for our idolatry. He died for our selfishness. He died for those times you focus so much on the music and forget who you are singing to.
That is why Christ rose from the dead.
He rose so we no longer find our identity in those failures. In my short comings. When my mind becomes focused so much on myself, He forgives that. His work has overcome every bit of selfish desire that could arise in my heart.
This is why we sing. This is why we worship.
Next time you’re in service and the music ends and you’re clapping. I encourage you to ask yourself…
Why are we clapping?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9