Worship Concerts: Or How to Perplex Christians Who Think Concert is A Bad Word

community
[Disclaimer: No Christians were actually harmed or maliciously perplexed during the making of this article]

Sometimes it seems that Christians hijack words and change their meanings assuming that it makes us more holy or something. We throw around cliches like “worship is not a performance” or “make a joyful noise” to convey our humility (or false humility?). Sure, at times, we really mean well, but I think its time to let words mean what they mean. At least at a basic level.

Two years ago I wrote a piece for The Worship Community titled Is There A Place For Performance In Worship? The basic premise of the article was to point out actual definitions of the word “perform” and to clarify its use for Worship Leaders. We’ve been told (and have said) so many times that “worship is not a performance.” But at its most basic level the word “perform” literally means to render music by singing or playing.

This brings me to a thought about the use of the word “concert.” Where does your “christianese” mind go to when you hear the word concert? Is it possible to have a concert that is worship? Can you actually have a worship concert and still be holy?

Let’s look at the definition of the word concert (noun):

  1. a public musical performance in which a number of singers or instrumentalists, or both, participate.
  2. a public performance, usually by an individual singer, instrumentalist, or the like; recital: The violinist has given concerts all over the world.
  3. agreement of two or more individuals in a design or plan; combined action; accord or harmony: His plan was greeted with a concert of abuse.

As you can see from dictionary.com‘s definition of the word concert, there is absolutely NOTHING inherently wrong with the word concert. Granted, our heart of worship is key here. If we are out to please people and to impress them with our flaming electric guitar licks that’s a different story.

But if we come together, in one accord and harmony, agreeing that Jesus is our Lord, and use our instruments and voices to participate in worshiping the Lord in a public place then technically by definition we have a WORSHIP CONCERT.

Kind of reminds me of this scripture passage:

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:18-20 KJV)

But I thought concerts totally put all of the emphasis on man and not God?

Of course that can happen, and a concert that is a “show” is different than a concert where people come together for one purpose. In a concert of worship, the unifying intention is to glorify and honor God with and through music. That means that the bands measures of success shouldn’t be based primarily on how tight the groove is or how smooth the harmonies are, or even how smoking hot the latest arrangement of your modern hymn is.

The focus should be on creating an environment where God is honored through music (by the band AND the congregation together). Period.

Some questions to ask:

  • Is what I’m doing (arranging, leading, performing) helping others to sing their hearts out in worship to God?
  • Can people hear that they are joining their individual voice to a “concert” of voices – a multitude of individual voices becoming one voice of worship to God?
  • Do you incorporate simple, timeless classics that are multi-generational and accessible to the musical and the not-so-musical?
  • Is your “concert” a monologue where people sit back and watch the band do its thing? Or is it a dialogue between the CHURCH and God?
  • Have you checked audio levels in your room? What is comfortable for the average participant in that size room? What is too loud? What is too soft?

When we are truly unified in one accord and in harmony with each other in our times of worship, technically we are “in concert.” We are in agreement with arms locked.

We then become part of something that is bigger than us. The concerted praise to an infinite God rises from finite beings here on earth and becomes a glorious fragrance before the Throne. A neat picture of this is in Revelation 5:11-14 KJV):

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

I would suggest that many churches all over the world hold concerts of worship week in and week out. They just call them church services.

Every creature. All of them. Billions of individual voices come together in a concerted voice and say, “Blessing, honor, glory, and power belong to God and to His Son, the Lamb (Jesus) for ever and ever.”

The word concert literally means to come together for a musical performance. We know that to perform means to render by singing and playing. So, ultimately there is absolutely nothing wrong with the notion of a “worship concert.” In fact, I would suggest that many churches all over the world hold concerts of worship week in and week out. They just call them church services.

Honestly, I’m not out to perplex fellow Christians, but a good way to approach this topic is to go back to the literal meanings of words. Just look it up!

(Inspired by a comment by Fred McKinnon on Is There A Place For Performance In Worship? article).

***

Russ Hutto is currently volunteering in worship leadership at St. Simons Community Church where he also serves as High School Music/Worship Mentor. During the day he’s a mild mannered graphic designer and a coach/trainer at CrossFit Brunswick. Russ is also the editor of The Worship Community.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/trentsmithmusic Trent Smith

    If it’s wrong for someone to get up on the church stage and “perform” while others just listen and take it all in, how on earth does the preacher get away with it every single week? I believe that negative stigmas surrounding certain words come from false theology–the “dehumanizing” of worship gatherings, and compartmentalization of our lives. Nobody would even think twice about preparing an appropriate and hospitable meal for guests at their home–simply for the guests’ nourishment and pleasure–yet we “get weird” about someone offering a musical version of the same thing to people in church. If the church expects to minister to REAL PEOPLE, it needs to stop pretending that people aren’t human. We all have intellect, emotions and will–and they are all mixed ALL THE TIME. I’m sick of the “pride police.” Of course–all things should be in balance. You don’t use up 20 minutes of your 30 minute congregational worship set with gratuitous guitar solos, but for heaven’s sake–let the guy/gal play once in a while! Turn ‘em loose! And if some people cheer and clap because they enjoy it, well–praise the Lord–what did you expect them to do? Mumble a dignified “amen”? What about other instruments? When is the last time you heard a brass instrument solo in a modern worship set? Or a great pianist, or violinist? Where are they? I think they tend to get shooed out of the church cause they are “too good.” They make the marginal musicians feel bad about themselves simply by showing up and being awesome at their craft. The more our churches exclude legitimate musical “performance,” the more artistically inbred and shallow in talent they will become. I’m not saying this stuff because I’m perfect at administrating it myself–I’m saying it because I have seen my own short-comings, my laziness and bondage to this kind of church culture. At the end of the day, it takes WORK to figure out how to frame that 16-year-old trumpet player’s musical offering in a way that dignifies it, blesses the body and makes sense. But it can be done. It should be done.

    • http://www.theworshipcommunity.com Russ Hutto

      Thanks for chiming in Trent! I love what you said about compartmentalization. I’m sick of the pride police too! I love that you’re willing to explore the time, space, and effort it might require to include a 16 year old trumpet player into your overall “offering.” It definitely is a challenge in this “rock band” dominated music scene.