Most likely because there was nobody else to ask, I was recently asked to give a talk to our church’s worship team on “The Heart of Worship”. I thought that meant a fifteen minute pep talk, but was surprised to find that he meant two one hour sessions during a weekend retreat. After rechecking my qualifications (maybe I had some I didn’t know about), my original thought that there wasn’t anybody else to speak was confirmed, and added to the idea that there was also a lot of time to fill. Oh, wait! I am older than everybody else (by a long shot) and have more time because of my near-empty nest. I think I’m starting to see the logic of the choice.
Well, regardless of my qualifications, being the obsessive little man that I am, my overcharged brain diverted my mind’s full attention to the subject. It isn’t the middle of winter, so I’m still prone to over-think everything. So here I am, several dozen hours into preparing for a talk that doesn’t happen until the end of November. I figured I could write some blog posts about the subject before my mind completely dulls or I wear myself out thinking about it. We’ll see if it helps.
The Difference Between a “Band” and a “Worship Team”
What is typical at many churches is that a “worship team” is put together from a group of amateur or semi-professional musicians from within the congregation. There is a weekly practice — usually on “Wednesdays” — and the Sunday morning service (or services, depending on the church). The activities that this worship team experiences are practically identical to that of an amateur band, except more frequent and with a larger “audience”. They pick songs, arrange the music, practice their craft, sing, and play just like any other band. Listen to a secular band and a worship team’s music of similar style on the radio in a language you don’t understand and you’d never know the difference.
So the question of the day is simply this: What is the difference? Is a church’s worship team just an amateur band that performs for the church, or is there something significantly different about it?
Isn’t it Obvious? No, It Isn’t!
One thing I can say as the grey-bearded guy that has been on my share of “worship bands” is that there is very little consensus over what exactly the difference should be. To me, this lack of consensus drives much of the controversy surrounding the “look and feel” of worship in churches. Since it’s difficult to address what exactly the difference should be, folks point out things that can be seen and heard and go for something that just “seems right”. Some of the themes coming out of such an approach include instructions on the style of music or the clothes the musicians wear. Many focus on externals, which is why, in my grey-bearded view, they miss the point.
The difference between a band and a worship team isn’t external. It isn’t a difference in what they do. It is a difference in why they do it and what they are doing it for. The externals are only important as evidence of the internals, but we’ll get to that later.
To help make this point, future posts will refer to “band members” as performers and “worship team members” as worship leaders, because those labels accurately reflect the fundamental difference between the two.
In the simplest of terms, a performer’s goal is to have others appreciate his performance. A worship leader’s goal is to help others appreciate the performance of Jesus. I’ll keep posting on the significance and subtlety of that difference as I see it.
One thing to watch for, though, is how applicable this is to life in general, and not just to playing music at church.