Over a decade ago I was a part time music director at a church plant that met in an elementary school auditorium. We eventually bought and remodeled our own building.
We had a band consisting of Roland V-Drums, bass, electric guitar and me on the keyboard with an occasional acoustic guitar. Our style was similar to Paul Baloche and we did many of his songs like Open the Eyes of My Heart and Rock of Ages. Here’s our set list from the early 2000s:
Come, Now is the Time to Worship
You’re Worthy of My Praise
I Surrender All (HymnCharts.com)
I Give You My Heart
Stir Up A Hunger (Baloche)
After growing through the mid and late 90’s, contemporary praise and worship was finally becoming mainstream. New churches were starting with the format and traditional churches were adding contemporary services.
How has worship changed in the past 15 years? One word: production.
Church production has become much more professional in the past fifteen years: better lighting, sound and musicianship. Computers, loops and click tracks have tightened up our bands. Slick video clips and graphics enhance the song lyrics and message. I applaud all this – it’s what I’ve been writing about for nearly twenty years!
But as I’ve had the chance to visit many churches over the past few years, both mega and mini, it unfortunately seems to me that God’s presence is getting produced right out of the worship.
One reason this tends to happen is because production is just plain hard work. And the more you have the harder it is, and the chances increase your nerves will be wracked. You get so wrapped up in getting everything right you forget why you’re doing it.
What got me thinking about this was a visit to a church a few months ago. I sat in the worship and was unexpectedly overcome by God’s presence – even through heavily distorted guitars, excellent musicians and cutting edge praise songs. But I do know this church is very intentional about their worship and prays before rehearsals and services. They take it seriously.
Another church I’ve visited is known for their slick, high pressured production values. Sitting in their service I certainly enjoyed it but felt more like I was at a Christian concert. I also know there’s unfortunately little spiritual direction given to the team, and the whole thing is generally considered a “gig” by the musicians.
I know I’m talking subjectively about worship, but maybe it’s this simple: If you seek God and ask Him to bless your worship and touch lives on a consistent basis, He will – no matter how professional or unprofessional your service is. And if you’re too busy making sure your production is on track and don’t bother to pray, you’ll end up with merely a great show.