There was a time that I played rhythm guitar and sang some backup for a church worship team. The pastor was the worship leader. (It was a small church of about 75 or 80 people.) On particular Sundays, when the pastor was away, I assumed the worship leader role to help out. The prior Sunday had been one of those Sundays. The pastor was sick and we called a last minute practice on Saturday night to make sure the band meshed with my ideas for the next morning. Honestly, I got a little too creative with Holy, Holy, Holy in the heat of the moment, I forgot to do a proper sound check, and although most of the congregation liked the interpretive style of the song, there were a couple who didn’t get it. Unfortunately, they walked out and started a chain reaction of bad events that lead to a meeting with the pastor and the entire worship team. It was all downhill from there but the meeting made me aware of an extremely important relationship between worship music and preaching.
During the meeting, the pastor made us aware that some people had approached his wife about the song. The couple that had walked out, according to her, said the guitar and drums were too loud. Another “young person” had said that it sounded like a “heavy metal concert”. The pastor also made the comment, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play”. He quoted James 3:1-Be ye not many teachers… and told us he was afraid that we were taking the music a different direction than he was. He wanted all of us on the same page, his page. All of this apparently had been brought about by our drummers comment to the pastor’s wife one morning, which indicated his preference of my leadership over the pastors. The problem the pastor had created for himself became apparent over the next few minutes.
The bass player said politely that we need to practice more (some). The pastor/worship leader had failed to hold practices for the band and had even introduced new songs that we (the band) had never heard during the worship service. This made the band members uncomfortable and most of the times angry. In fact, recently the pastor had introduced a brand new song during the worship service and bragged that when the lead guitarist had approached him before the service to see the song, the pastor had walked away so “we could all learn it together” (in front of the congregation)!
The pastor was taken back by the bass players plea for practice and verbally went through his weekly schedule and came up with the reply, “We’ll figure it out.”
The next comment was from the lead guitarist who was boiling by then. He said that it was a funny thing that the guitar was too loud because his amp had quit right before the song. He was correct. For some reason, his amp failed before we ever started on the song and we had continued without him. This was a problem for the pastor. Where did this comment come from? Did the people who approached his wife really say that? Hmmm.
After some fumbling and excuses, the pastor regained his feet and proceeded to tell us the keyboards were too loud and that’s what gave the song the “rock” sound. The problem with that was that the keyboard was set to the church organ sound. We had intended for it to sound traditional and although the volume needed tweaking, it sounded more like a traditional Lutheran hymn than a “rock” song. Now squirming, the pastor had nowhere to go except the drums, which I had directed to play a military march. It was a call to worship and the congregation was to recognize their marching orders. It had nothing to do with Metallica!
The drummer spoke up and told the pastor that he believed it would be better if he gave the worship leader role to me. He said “it was better when” I “did it”.
This pastor then made one of the most revealing comments I have ever heard a pastor say about their anointing. He said, “I need the worship music to go with my sermon”.
The drummer rebutted but the pastor would have none of it. He told the truth when he said, “this meeting has went exactly where I didn’t want it to”. He shut down the meeting, collected his guitars and other musical equipment, and took it home. I had never saw a pastor act that way.
I don’t want to linger on but one comment. “I need the worship music to go with my sermon”. What did this mean? Why was it so revealing? Well, I’ll tell you why. He was not enjoying unction, the power of the Holy Spirit in his preaching. Not only was this a revelation, but also it was a self-admitted confession. He needed the worship music because he knew that his preaching had no power and emotional manipulation was his game. We couldn’t practice the week before because the sermon wasn’t ready until the night before. We needed to be spontaneous to evoke a spontaneous emotional response in the congregation. His words could not move people on their own so he needed the songs to preemptively move people.
He was playing a dangerous game. He was pretending to be called; he posed as the mouthpiece of God, all the while aware of his deficiency. Calvin said there are two things prerequisite to someone who would be heard; being called by God, and fulfilling your primary pastoral duty (preaching). Had he simply lost his unction, or had he ever had it? I wasn’t sure at the time, but it would become more apparent to me as I began to pay attention to his tactics and the reactions, or lack of reactions from the people of God.
The praise and worship music is not to be used as a time set apart in the church service to manipulate or convince the congregation to believe the message of the pastor. It is about worship. There is no substitute for unction or anointing.
I would like to explore this further, both in the purpose of worship in the church and the job of the pastor. Next, the 4 P’s of worship.