Is it Worship or a Concert?

English: Chris Tomlin performing a concert in ...
English: Chris Tomlin performing a concert in Johnson City, Tennessee, November 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up going to a Catholic elementary school where every Friday morning we’d attend Mass. It was the 1980s, and Sister Sheila would get out her guitar, and lead us in singing songs like “Great things happen when God mixes with us” or “And He will raise you up, on eagles’ wings…” I know a young man is not supposed to like singing in church, because, lets face it, for the longest time singing in church has been something the old ladies do, but I enjoyed it, and I still do.

If Sister Sheila, the school principal by-the-way, wasn’t up in front of us asking us to sing along, then that meant above us in the balcony a woman would be playing the austere pipe organ, and when that happened, hardly anyone sang. We couldn’t see the organ player, and those pipes were so loud and impressive that they’d drown out our little kid voices. Still, there was something quite majestic about the sound of all those pipes playing a song like “Amazing Grace.”

In college, I started going to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and every Friday night we’d gather together–about 15 of us–and sing songs together, songs like “As The Deer” and “Salvation Belongs To Our God.” Our guitar players weren’t the best, and our vocals weren’t the best, but those times meant a lot to me, because the people gathered together had something in common– when they sang/played the song, they did it with feeling; they meant the words they were singing. And that is precisely what I think “Worship” is.

That brings me to today’s evangelical/non-denominational/megachurch congregations, and their version of “Worship.” Lets take a hypothetical, yet typical example of what it’s like Sunday mornings at your average Christian church:

1- There’s a “Praise Team/Worship Band” consisting of one or more guitarists, a drummer, a bass player, and, if they’re lucky, a keyboard player and/or a stringed instrument player (usually the violin). The majority of church musicians are men.

2- There’s a main singer– usually a white male– and a back-up singer–usually a female, along with 2-5 supporting vocalists. The main, male singer plays guitar, too, much of the time, while the female doesn’t play an instrument.

3- You can read the words to each song up on projection screens/monitors on the left and right-hand sides of the stage. “Technically-behind” churches just put words up, while “technically-progressive” churches have elaborate, moving backgrounds. Churches love using “Power Point” presentations to-the-max. You will spend much of your worship/church time looking at a screen rather than a real life person!

4- Before the overall service starts, screens are usually flashing notices to the crowd as they fill the seats– announcements of upcoming events, volunteers needed, things of that nature…

5- The main singer welcomes people, especially “first time guests.” He may or may not ask them to stand up so everyone can clap for them. Then it’s time for the first “worship song.”

6- The first worship song is usually one written within the past few years by Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche or Matt Redman. It lasts 4 minutes. The main singer encourages the people to sing along to the words on the screen; some sing, but most people aren’t even awake yet!

7- After the first song, the main singer again addresses the crowd, telling them how happy he is that they’re there this morning, and how great God is; then it’s time for the second song. It’s another uptempo song by one of today’s popular writers. Now more people sing-a-long, and there’s hand clapping.

8- Song three slows things down– it’s a modern take on an old hymn, done with a “really cool” guitar solo. Not as many people in the congregation sing this one, but you can bet eyes are closed and hands are raised as the people in the pews wiggle back-and-forth silently talking to themselves/God in prayer.

9- If there’s time, the main singer hypes the upcoming preacher’s sermon, then delves into song four, an upbeat number “everyone knows,” so they’re singing along, hand clapping, and arm raising with excitement. There are colorful lights on the stage– it’s like a party, now.

10- Ok, the main singer says a very quick prayer, asks everyone to sit down, and the white male preacher takes the stage and begins his 45-60 minute sermon.

There you go, that’s “Worship!”

And if you attend a Christian church, like clockwork, every Sunday morning you’ll get pretty much the same thing, over and over and over again, filling up about 18-22 minutes or 22-32 minutes if the main singer decides to repeat a line ad nauseum, like “Oh Lord we worship you/Oh Lord we worship you/Oh Lord we worship you/Oh Lord we worship you…”

I’m certain that some people in the congregation are experiencing wonderful and true “worship” at church, but I’d also reckon that there are a lot of people going through the motions, halfheartedly “there,” looking at their watch or iPhone, occasionally mouthing the words or clapping. Some people even skip “the music part,” coming to church a half hour “late,” just to catch “the sermon.”

So what do you think– with regards to the church you attend– is what you/they do Worship or a Concert? Are the people “in the pews” truly involved/engaged in the music? Is your church’s music time almost exactly like a secular pop music concert? Finally, what would happen if your church stopped music all-together– could/would it survive? Leave comments.

DeWayne Woods’ Mint Condition connection

The award-winning vocalist DeWayne Woods teams up with Lawrence Waddell and Stokley Williams of the legendary R&B band Mint Condition for the third radio single from his best-selling album “Life Lessons” (Soul Therapy). The smooth track combines intimate urban balladry with a powerfully revelatory message of God’s love and self-affirmation. “When everybody had given up on me He knew I was redeemable and made me whole,” Woods sings of God’s intervention during his lowest moments. In the second verse he hits naysayers with “Used to be so hung up on what others said about me so busy casting stones they overlooked their own wrong.”

“I’ve made many mistakes and bad decisions in my life and most of us at one point or another have allowed what others said about us to affect us in a negative way, but God has the final word and gives us a second chance,” says Woods who is currently performing alongside Yolanda Adams and Donald Lawrence on The McDonald’s Celebration Inspiration Gospel Tour running through October. “It’s mind blowing to be afforded this amazing opportunity to be a part of such widely respected national tour and to sing this empowering song to the thousands who have been attending the shows.”

“Working with DeWayne on ‘They Said’ was amazing,” Waddell and Williams said in a joint statement about the song they tailor-wrote and produced for Woods. “He sings with a genuineness and musical sensibility that is at once moving and awe-inspiring. Beyond a vocalist, he is an instrumentalist with words.”

DeWayne Woods led a late `90s incarnation of the R&B group Atlantic Starr before making a leap into faith music with John P. Kee. His debut album “Introducing DeWayne Woods & When Singers Meet” won four of five Stellar Award nominations – including New Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.  His sophomore set “My Life’s Lyric” hit  #3 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart. Woods’ latest project “Life Lessons” debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart and features “Never Be The Same” (#23 Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart) and the Anthony Hamilton & Dave Hollister collaboration “Friend of Mine” (#13 Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart).

I Will Always Love You by Marc Martel

The Christian band Downhere, lead by Marc Martel, was quite well known in the 1990s and the 2000s. Today Marc Martel is singing solo and broadening his fan base by doing Freddie Mercury songs, as well as covers of songs like Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” This video will go viral– no doubt– so I’m glad to be one of the first to share it with “the world.”

Ben Tankard on the Power of Music

Ben Tankard is a millionaire (as he says in this video) and he is also the world’s best-selling, most popular “Gospel jazz” musician. Now in his late forties, he got his start as a professional basketball player. When injured, Ben Tankard ended up changing career directions, and he became well known as a musician. In addition, Ben Tankard is a producer, songwriter, and motivational speaker. In the video above, from a talk at Creflo Dollar’s church, you’ll get to hear Ben Tankard’s take on the Power of Music. It’s enjoyable and informative. You’ll hear a lot of popular music in it, including “Hello” by Lionel Richie.

Ben Tankard
Ben Tankard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did the pop group Train do a Christian worship song?

If you listen to Train’s new hit “50 Ways To Say Goodbye,” I think Michael Ledner, the writer of “You Are My Hiding Place,” a Christian church worship song, should get some royalties– Train’s song intro/trumpet part seems to borrow the same melody as his song uses!

Maranatha! Music
Maranatha! Music (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ledner is apparently pastor at Desert Streams Chapel in Arizona, and his song was first published through Maranatha Music; the group Selah later recorded it in 2004 and made it even more famous.


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