Day 171: The Subject of Subjective Worship

Revolution, the Kerith Community Church youth worship team leading in June, 2012

Seeing as I work full time facilitating, planning and progressing worship at Kerith Community Church, it probably won’t be surprising to you that I hear all sorts of opinions on the subject. All sorts. Believe me.

Either the songs are too new or too old. Too quiet or too loud. Too simple or too complicated. Too guitar driven or too piano heavy. Some find it frustrating to hear specific parts from various instruments played incorrectly, others struggle with doing a set arrangement. Some people desperately prefer set structures, others want it to be as loose as it can possibly be. People have opinions as to whether during a response, the keyboard player should play ambient pads or a hymn in a chorale style or something different entirely. Then, of course, there are different opinions on dress code, lighting, links between songs, endings, whether the band should play to a metronome, whether chord charts should be set or in Nashville numbering, what key the song should be in, what the ceiling should be for upper vocals and what the floor should be for lower vocals. That’s all before we get to the actual technology itself – which keyboards, amps, pedals, cables, laptops, software, guitars or microphoness are best or how the upper register of the trumpet should be EQ’d versus certain vocal EQ’s and whether to add any effects before reaching the desk or after…

…You get the idea.

Corporate worship is an incredibly subjective experience. Is it surprising? Well, yes and no.

The chances are that no one you know will have the exact same music collection as you. We are all wired slightly differently when it comes to our musical interests. Consequently, it stands to reason that in a fairly large church of vastly differing ages, nationalities and backgrounds, people will not share the same tastes in music. Inevitably, the style of song will probably not be to every single person’s liking 100% of the time. Musically, it’s not surprising that corporate worship is so subjective.

But it’s not just musical, is it?

In fact, it’s not really about the music at all. It’s about giving honour and glory to God. Don’t get me wrong, music is a fantastic accompaniment but that’s all it is. An accompaniment. If you take a look at that list again, you might notice that much of the subjectivity of worship is focussed around the musical accompaniment part. That’s the bit I find surprising. It’s fantastic to have discussions about these kinds of topics – it’s my job to talk about things like this! However, we must remember that the focus first and foremost is honouring and meeting with God. We should be able to do that whether in silence or in a stadium full of screaming people . I think that at times (I include myself in this), we let our subjective tastes in music hinder our time with God and that worries me. There is nothing wrong with having particular tastes in worship music – but don’t let your tastes dictate your level of worship to God. He is far too great for that!

So when we say “was the worship good?” – we really shouldn’t be asking whether musically it was good. That’s largely irrelevant. We should be asking whether God has broken into the worship time powerfully. If He could do that 2000 years ago, I’m pretty sure God can still do it today regardless of the musical standard! Let’s keep our hearts focussed on Him – that’s what matters more than anything else.

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