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A Proposal to Unplug Worship

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  • A Proposal to Unplug Worship

    Read a good article here that I think has a lot of merit. As a Worship Pastor in a large church with a very pointed contemporary setting for worship, yet coming from a more traditional/"blended" background I totally get a lot of this. I will very often wave out the band and allow the congregation to sing unaccompanied or with minimal backing like piano or acoustic. It really brings a lot to the spiritual atmosphere as the body of Christ worships in unity together this way. It could be taken too far if to the extreme or the absolute. For instance, I don't think low lighting or a loud band is ALWAYS a negative. It is just another aspect to keep in focus and a proper place. I encourage you all to read this entry!


  • #2
    As a guy in his upper 20s who has been involved in worship-leading for the past 12 years I have had the privilege to witness the evolution of p&w over the last decade.

    Worship in my opinion is a constant "activity". Much like how the Word says to pray without ceasing. I believe an individual can worship through giving. Worship through obeying. Worship through expressing any talent and ability that God has placed within them. Not just before the sermon.

    As for corporate praise and worship, like anything else, it's a matter of the heart of those involved- including the congregation. I have stepped into "impressive" p&w services before and have felt a spirit of vanity and self-indulgence. I have also felt that exact same spirit in humble "less impressive" services without the light shows and $100,000+ sound systems. If a group of people come together, unified with one goal and that's to lay their concerns and self-centered thoughts aside for a while and focus on Him and who He is and what He's done, He'll show up.

    Even when we're tempted to cast judgement on how others choose to worship Him are we not sinning?

    The fact of the matter is that even when Jesus had flocks of people showing up to watch/listen to Him speak there were some that simply walked away. So this notion that not everyone is participating on a satisfactory level is bogus.

    Man cannot change a person's heart ONLY the Holy Spirit can do that. If you have a worship leader/team that understands that then His joy and freedom will fall and His Spirit will do amazing things... with the light shows and expensive equipment and without.


    • #3
      Love the article. I've had the chance to participate in something like this by doing an "unplugged", scaled back p&w settling. Another time at a small church a musician led hymns intrumentally where everyone was engaged. I was also at an old New England church where worship was lead by a couple guys playing guitar and an unmic'd grand piano, it was great! There have been a few times the congregation equals the sound system in volume at my church and other settings and I've always thought "why don't we do this more?"

      Sent from my SPH-D700 using Tapatalk


      • #4
        We also do acoustic Sundays on a fairly regular basis (6-10 times a year). They have been some of our best.

        At the same time, I still think there is a lot of value in amplified music, as well. I can see both sides - as usual, I think what we really need is good balance!
        Eric Frisch


        • #5
          My church still uses piano and organ, and currently, the WL plays acoustic guitar. The congregation can almost always be heard above the instruments, which, in my thinking, encourages the congregation to participate.

          This past Sunday, I visited a church in another city, which used a 20 or so- member orchestra along with piano and organ. The instruments were so loud that I couldn't hear the WL; nor could I hear myself. I worshiped solely on the strength of the words I was singing.

          I realize that both these churches are outside the mainstream of churches represented at TWC, but the implications apply anywhere. To be loud all the time isn't always good; neither is quiet and meditative always best. Variety is the spice of life.


          • #6
            Someone posted this article on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and tagged me to read it. This was my reply:

            His perspective is neither "radical" nor particularly interesting. That "battle" has been fought for centuries, literally. Ironically, the same kind of anti-pop culture arguments he is making have been made against organs, piano, guitars, hymns, vernacular singing in general, and just about everything in between over the ages. Today's "tradition" was yesterdays "crazy new thing." I think I could write a post arguing just about every point he made. The good thing, though, is that it gets people talking about such things, so bravo for finding it.
            People need to be lead, and people need a leader. There's a reason the leader of the army rode a horse. It wasn't because he didn't want to walk, it was so his soldiers could see him. People need to see us and hear us. This guys is getting a conversation going, maybe, and good for that, but he's bringing nothing new to it. He's just rehashing old ideas.

            All that said, we've done thing like this to good results, as long as they are exceptions, not the rule. We do acoustic sets several times a year. The last two years, we've done a weekend in the fall where we take the band and the preacher off the platform and put them in the center of the sanctuary. (we have movable chairs) Church in the round, so to speak, with everyone on the same level. Still, we always use sound reinforcement.

            The lighting thing makes no sense to me. Why do I need to look around at everyone else? Truth be told, my favorite worship service of last year was Good Friday, where we turned the lights off. The band was off the platform in a corner, wearing black, there were no projected words, and the focus of the room was a single, candlelit Cross in the center of the platform.

            I'm not sure what music this guy is listening to, or what he considers to be a "complex rhythm," but most modern worship songs are quite simple structurally. The problem most worship teams have is they try too hard to sound like the recording instead of sounding like themselves.


            • #7
              MikeyMo hits the nail on the head AGAIN!
              I didn't mean to be inaccurate, but I wasn't trying to be precise.


              • #8
                Yeah, I think more like mikeymo as well

                From the article

                Third, worship bands must reflect more on the “singability” of a proposed worship song. In the post-Reformation period when so many new hymns were being written, they were specifically written for the church to sing. This means that, generally speaking, they were simple rhythms set to predictable meters and were musically kept within a “normal” musical range for average voices. Today’s worship songs are normally taken from the music industry.
                Umm, what? He must have played different hymns than I have... The old hymns run the spectrum from the 3-chord bangers to very complex rhythms, scales, and time signatures.

                If he would have researched the old music more, he'd find that the music these hymns were written to was basically the 'club music' of their day with evangelistic messages- exactly the point he argues against now.

                These songs are far more complex, rarely have a regularized meter, were written to be “performed,” recorded and put out by professional singers.Even highly trained worship bands spend hours learning complex rhythms, various musical bridges and irregular vamps between various parts of the song.
                What modern songs could he be talking about? With the exception of a few, most I have heard aren't that difficult, especially when comparing to hymns like Blessed Assurance and Crown Him with Many Crowns and He Lives, as a few examples...

                However, the lights on the “stage” or “platform” are very bright which tends to focus the attention on the worship band rather than on the people.
                Umm... I agree that the lights focus on the band too much at times (but also minimize distractions from people around you), but the focus isn't supposed to be on the people, either...

                It doesn't matter if it's acoustic or electric/amped. The danger in any situation is when people become dependent on the style to get the substance (I can't worship unless the lights are off or if the guitar is too loud or whatever).

                I found the article to be rather narrow rant about style but not much substance. But, it looks like many respondents to the article have been basically rebuking what he is saying, so hopefully some good will come out of it.
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


                • #9
                  Great post Mike, have to agree with you in general.

                  I hate articles like this... the focus is put on the "how" and not the "heart." I grew up in church's just singing hymns with no instruments. I couldn't find a more lethargic group of people not truely worshipping God if I tried.

                  To me this seems like another "the music is too loud" discussion masked in a different light. I hate that discussion because it matters mostly on your congregation. Some congregations will sing louder and get more emotional with louder music, some will scream bloody murder it is too loud.

                  Know your congregation... the issue isn't style of our worship, it is the hearts of the congregation. If the congregation is just lipping the words, it isn't the style or loudness that is the issue... the issue is, who is feeding them and what are they being fed (spiritually) that makes them not care about worshipping our creating with all their heart, soul, and body? Put that person in a quit acoustic driven setting and they sing just as quit and passive as in a larger "electronic" band setting.

                  I feel the issue isn't the style of worship in almost all cases, it is the heart of the people worshipping. Most here on this board I bet could have the same heartfelt worship in a large Audio Adreneline concert as they could with a few friends and a hymn book. Let's attack the spiritual maturity before we start talking if the lights should be on or off...

                  The lights thing... that is just silly IMO.
                  Lov'n Jesus


                  • #10
                    When the author mentions to the complexity of contemporary songs over hymns, I think he is referring mostly to the meter of the lyricsand not how many notes/chord changes the accompaniment has to play.

                    If you look at a hymnal, the bottom-right of the page lists the tune name and the meter structure. Most of them have fixed syllable counts in the meter, but occasionally you'll see a meter called irregular, meaning that it varies from line to line. I believe the author's point is that many, if not most contemporary songs use the irregular meter, which can lead to the average singer not knowing when a particular line of a song gets sung. Is the first word or phrase a pick-up to the top of a measure, or does it start at the beginning of it? And will that pattern happen again on the second verse?

                    I generally agree with this criticism. Unless I have heard the song several times before, I sometimes have an uneasy feeling trying to figure out when to sing. And my personal experience is that I haven't heard the song very often.

                    As for the lighting issue, my preference is to have the congregation lights up. I want to see my fellow worshipers around me. I want to be able to read my own Bible instead of relying on projection. But I recognize this as my personal preference.
                    Tony Hartsfield


                    • #11
                      I've been watching this thread closely but have been too busy to respond. I have a bit of feedback to give that may or may not be well received as it could be perceived to be antagonistic to those who are slighting this article. Please know in advance that such isn't the case, I love and respect each of you, but do be prepared to have your perspective criticized. I'm too busy for now but it will give you a day or two to prep! LOL Until then...


                      • #12
                        I thought the article was well-written, personally. I tend to find agreement and disagreement on just about every point he mentions. It's all philsophy and heart, and I think what matters most is how we express and communicate it to our Body.
                        Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
                        blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

                        Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:


                        • #13
                          Interesting article in a lot of ways. One point he makes about instrumentation and singing that is interesting: the notion of the instruments drowning out the congregations. The discipline of leading (and writing) songs that have a nice pocket for the vocals in sometimes lost I think. Our worship arrangements we play should have that pocket that the congregation naturally needs to fill, and our leaders should lead them into filling it. If this is done well there is no need to unplug worship - the congregation becomes part of the band.


                          • #14
                            Very well said!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Moosicman View Post
                              I've been watching this thread closely but have been too busy to respond. I have a bit of feedback to give that may or may not be well received as it could be perceived to be antagonistic to those who are slighting this article. Please know in advance that such isn't the case, I love and respect each of you, but do be prepared to have your perspective criticized. I'm too busy for now but it will give you a day or two to prep! LOL Until then...
                              The anticipation is killing me! JK...

                              Please critisize me... I'm a free target!
                              Lov'n Jesus