Today I was finally driven to write this. It has been irritating me for a couple of years now, but tonight on Good Friday it just hit me that I absolutely HAD to say something. I don't feel like worshipping at church.
Now I'm not trying to criticize my church - I would have left if I didn't like the church. Nor am I saying that I am entirely blameless. Of course I should be doing my best to connect with God on my own, and I don't need a band on a stage to tell me what to do. But, there's just something very wrong with worship at my church right now, and I can no longer stand it.
1. The songs are never the same
So some people may say, "I like to have new songs! It keeps things fresh and exciting!" But most of us just end up standing around mumbling and trying to keep up with the new words and new melodies. When I buy a new CD, it takes me at least a couple of days, if not a week or two before I know all of the words. And I usually listen to it over and over and over again within that time. I can't keep up with four new songs every week! Honestly, just ONE new song is enough for me, and considering the huge selection of worship songs we have that day, I don't think variety, freshness, or excitement will be a problem in considering which songs to make "the usual". Actually, I find it harder to get excited if I don't know the song.
Sure, tell me this is a matter of taste, but think about this: what if something happened to the church? What if everyone was stuck worshipping outside, or even in some basement or unfamiliar warehouse? Would we all know the same songs to sing? How long would that last?
I have attended Christian Fellowship Church for the better part of my life. Tonight, the only song I knew was "Nothing But the Blood". The worship team doesn't need to make a new album of songs every week. We just need to change it up sometimes.
2. It rarely, if ever, goes "old school", and doesn't branch out much
Why are we stuck in today? What about yesterday? Do none of those worship songs or styles apply any more? I don't even like eighties music, but I really strongly feel that the music we use to worship shouldn't be limited to one style or one era. No, there's nothing wrong with the songs we sing these days. They're good songs. But why throw out the old? It doesn't go "bad" with age. There's a reason that hymns are making a comeback in contemporary music. And no, of course most people (save my brother and probably some others) wouldn't want to go to church if they played metal for worship. But my favorite weeks have been these:
>when we sang "Jesus Freak" at the end and everyone was very involved
>when the drummer did a drum solo (though it should have been DURING worship)
>when some people were once refugees from Africa sang their traditional worship and led everyone to clap and dance along
>I absolutely love the Irish folk songs that we rip off of the Rend Collective Experiment.
>when worship played Trans Siberian Orchestra at the Christmas services.
Things like that really get me pumped up. Let's face it though: contemporary Christian music is nice and absolutely can be moving, but it usually isn't that powerful unless... we get excited. Which leads me to #3.
3. No one seems excited
I always thought the worshipping of God should be sort of like attending a rock concert. The music might not be as good, but despite the two complaints above, it can all be ignored if we are simply REVELING in God's presence. I mean, call me crazy, but when I'm hit with the Holy Spirit, I want to cry, I want to dance, I want to pace around and wave my hands like a crazy person as I talk out loud to myself about the wonderful thing I just realized. I don't do that in public - no worries - but it does happen when I'm at home. It should also be happening at church, at least to some degree.
For instance, observe these photos of a rock star from one of my favorite bands:
Jumping on stage while playing guitar and singing:
I'm not sure what he's doing specifically, but he looks very into whatever it is:
Probably singing higher than most girls:
No, I don't expect our worship leader to throw guitars, play three different instruments in the same song, or even jump in the air while singing (though I wouldn't mind any of that). As I stated, it isn't about the quality of the music. Its about the passion. Its about what the people are doing. The quality of the music is somewhat important - bad quality is distracting and good quality is inspiring - but what really sells the mood is passion.
So let me ask a few questions that might make some people unhappy, uncomfortable or defensive. Why is it that when I look up at our worship team, there are people standing off to the side with microphones, but I can't hear them? Why aren't they dancing? Why do they sometimes just look scared? Is no one teaching them to be leaders? What is their purpose for being there? It actually makes it worse. If the worship leader doesn't feel like they can play guitar, sing and dance all at the same time, I completely understand (though they should be conveying emotion, of course), but what are the other singers doing? If you are standing on stage, you should be DOING SOMETHING. If you're expressing yourself in song, then I want to HEAR IT. If not, then get MOVING. I don't like being harsh, especially because I don't want to get on stage, but if you are, then you are a leader, so LEAD!
Something I have learned over the past few years is that young people are fearful. Young people are afraid of being weird. Usually. Personally, I was more afraid of being noticed than being weird, but either way, when you are young, you don't want to be singled out. You don't want to be the person that others are pointing at - I mean, if you're the only person dancing to a song it feels really ridiculous, so why start? That's how it feels to be in a congregation that isn't being led to dance, to express, or to feel. Our worship "style" is making a generation of zombies at our church! We don't know how to dance any more! I can tell you that I certainly don't. And I'm afraid to. I can't keep a beat when I clap and sing at the same time - yeah, I'm that girl. That shouldn't stop me from worshipping, but I let it sometimes. This is because when I start trying to move with the hopes that others will move with me, I can only see how painfully STATIONARY everyone is. And I am an INTROVERT. I am extremely introverted, actually*. Why is it that I feel like I'm celebrating God amidst tombstones in a graveyard every Sunday morning?
I have spoken to more than one person from more than one age group that agrees with me on this. Actually, no one I've talked to is really happy with worship at my church the way it is, and these seem to be the main reasons. I love my church - I absolutely do - but this needs to change. I want to be on fire when I am at church on Sunday morning. Not hung up on new lyrics, new melodies, with the same old styles and little to no feeling in the air. I want leaders on stage. Every church should have real leaders during worship.
*This doesn't mean I don't like people, or that I'm shy and quiet. I'm actually sort of loud, these days. But you can look up information on that elsewhere. The main thing is that introverts are not known for being bold.