Worship Arts Center
Looking around the platform this morning I realized it ... almost all of our musicians are percussionists.
There's the drummer - obviously a percussion instrument.
There's the pianist - which is actually a percussion instrument, even though many think it is a string instrument).
Bass and guitar players, although technically string instruments, are really just like the piano and playing more like a drummer than a traditional string player (i.e. violin, etc.)
And for most of western contemporary evangelical worship, that's what you have. There's an occasional melodic instrument; however, it rarely plays what the congregation is singing. And in many congregations (if not most) these 'percussion instruments' are amplified and a lot of times the sound of the instruments drowns out the one to four vocalists.
The problem is that, in additional to providing a lot of loud percussion instruments, we are expecting the congreation to know (or learn) lots of songs without any aid to what the melody is supposed to be - other than trying to follow the lead vocalist.
And that often leads to a congregation that just doesn't sing out, or doesn't sing at all. Which then leads to non-musician church leadership trying to determine why the congregation isn't participating in worship, which often leads to replacing the worship leader, but doesn't deal with the problem.
The piano (and other 'percussion' instruments) are great accompaniment instruments, but are not designed to help people sing. They are designed to augment the singing. They don't do a good job of helping the singing process.
When the worship is flat on Sunday let's stop blaming the congregation (their hearts aren't in the right place), the worship leaders (for not picking the right songs) or the weather (too hot / too cold). Let's start fixing some basic musical issues and turn our congregation loose to worship with full heart and voice by removing the distractions that we (as worship leaders) are putting in their way.
In addition to visiting several congregations and their corporate worship recently, I am also in the midst of leading a middle/high-school marching band camp. I'm starting to wonder if we have confused the role of worship leader with drum major.
Over the past few months I've had the opportunity to worship under the leadership of a large number of worship leaders. Some have been 'professional' worship leaders (having a paid position for the role) as well as volunteers who lead. In all of these I've noticed some basic skills missing that I learned in an introductory 'music in the local church' course in college.
Did everyone sleep through Worship 101?
If you've been around scripture and worship music as long as I have you probably do the same thing I do (at least I hope I'm not alone).
When someone starts reading scripture aloud you can think of several different worship songs or hymns that fit that scripture.
Of course, that's not usually the case when you're sitting down to plan a worship service ... usually I would sit there when the scripture for the message is being read (AFTER we're done with most of the singing) and think ... Oh THAT would have been a perfect song for that scripture.