PoW: The Heart of Style (or the importance of being authentic)

This is the second installment of my blog series on my Philosophy of Worship (PoW):

In The Jesus-Sensitive Church the author tells of a church that would often poll the congregation to find out their ‘worship preferences’; this church’s worship style was more classical in nature and the congregants never seemed to engage. After polling the congregation, “They made the adjustment and began to play that style of music in their worship services. They found that to be a key in church growth for them.”[1] Not every church may or should take this approach; it does, however, show us something important about the worship leader and the worshiper—our cultural sphere will influence our preferred style.  The study conducted showed that the congregants chose to listen to secular alternative music. The author responds to this data by saying, “Shouldn’t the pastor have said, ‘We have a problem here! We have people that have very little spiritual depth. They spend more time listening to music that doesn’t glorify God than music that does’”[2] However, what this pastor did could have been the smartest move for his church. He and his worship pastor decide to tweak the worship style in order to fit whom and where their congregation members were. This caused their church to grow and their congregation to engage in worship more openly and authentically.

A worship leader who is most concerned about worship style will change said style without concern for their congregation or the message they are sending. However, the worship leader whose heart is focused on God and leading the congregation before the throne of God in a truly profound way will consider style changes that suit the congregation best. The example of the church above shows that it is important to be aware of what a church is experiencing and what moves them. Not only does the heart condition need to be focused on God, but it also needs to be in tune with the heart and culture of those that are being led into a worship experience.

As a worship leader, I am always on the lookout for new and different ways I can engage people in worship. The point is to not provide the coolest or most fresh worship experience, but to insert different experiences into the normal liturgical movements of the every week service. The greatest worship experiences I have witnessed, not necessarily taken part in, are concerts. The best concerts pull the crowd into the experience; the graphics, the lighting, the pyrotechnics, the sounds and even the feel of the music go into creating an unforgettable experience. What the average person does not notice in these concerts is that these are worship experiences. The best concert bands (specifically in the rock genre) can manipulate their crowd into worshiping them as a band, getting them to sing their songs loudly, getting them to chant the band name or even chant for more once the show is over.

There is a big difference between the worship leader and the concert performer, though. The worship leaders heart is focused on God; the concert performer is focused on himself and his message. However, both are working to create an experience. “The perpetual openness to experience of post-moderns is such that one can never underestimate the e-factor: experiential.”[3] As post-modernity becomes more and more prevalent the worship experience will become more and more important.

[1] Ron Auch and Dean D. Niforatos, The Jesus Sensitive Church: Would Jesus Worship Here? (n.p.: New Leaf Press (AR), 2006), 22.

[2] Ibid p. 22

[3] Michael D. Warden, ed., Experiencing God in Worship: Perspectives on the Future of Worship in the Church from Today’s Most Prominent Leaders (n.p.: Group Publishing, 2000), 174.


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