Friday, February 24, 2012

An Open Letter to Praise Bands and a Rebuttal

I love it when this happens to me. I read an article and think "He has a point" until I read someone else's response to it. As it says in Proverbs 18:17, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him."

 James K.A. Smith wrote "An Open Letter to Praise Bands" in which he shared some strong concerns with the practice of "leading worship" (a role which I currently hold). His three central cautions were as follows:
  1. If we, the congregation, can't hear ourselves, it's not worship.
  2. If we, the congregation, can't sing along, it's not worship. 
  3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it's not worship. 
 Valid concerns, no? In fact, I've made a conscious effort in exactly these three areas: bringing down the volume of my band, choosing songs that have a shorter learning curve, and doing my best to direct our congregation's attention away from the musicians and myself.

But then Luke Larsen from Mars Hill Portland wrote an insightful response (though without three simple titles with a nice alliteration):
  1. Trying to define what makes something “worship” in terms of anything but the posture of your heart toward God is stepping on some dangerous ground as far as I’m concerned . . . to say that playing music loudly is somehow keeping congregations everywhere from worshiping God is going too far. 
  2. Is it not possible to worship without singing at all? Is it not possible to worship in utter silence?
  3. If we are not mature enough to be able to be led by another human being to Jesus and not worship that human being, perhaps we shouldn’t have pastors speaking at churches either. Why not just play a recording and have everyone worship to that?
So, what say you?


Bill H said...

I say "yes" to both perspectives. The criticism can be concerns in some places, and serves as a good warning. And the rebuttals are valid points. For the first two issues: There is a right place and time for all styles, be wise enough to know that worship leader. For the 3rd issue: That is a danger for anyone(s) with a platform presence. In this case, it is close to a "straw-man" argument. Yes, I'm sure it happens, but any person or band that would seek to do that, will probably not be up there in the first place--that is, if there is wise leadership governing the process. So yes, learn from both perspectives; I don't think it's an "either-or" scenario.

Unknown said...

I think James K.A. Smith could have avoided some of the rebuttal points if instead of saying "it's not worship if..." he has used the words "corporate worship."

I do agree if the congregation can't sing or they are overpowered by the music, or you can't hear the body singing together because the music drowns out other voices... it is tough to make the case that you are enhancing the corporate aspect of worship.

We should give careful thought to are we being drawn together in worship with one another, or are elements actually inhibiting it (e.g. sound, style, volume, familiarity w/ music, etc.).

Corporate worship makes me rejoice more when I hear others firmly and confidently expressing the words we sing together.