In many contemporary churches, whether charismatic or noncharis-matic, the choir has been replaced by the worship team." Such churches have sanctuaries that boast few religious symbols (except possibly banners).
At the front of the stage is a simple podium, some plants, amplifiers, speakers, and lots of wires. The dress is usually casual. Folding chairs or theater seats typically are used in place of pews. The standard worship team includes an amplified guitar, drums, keyboard, possibly a bass guitar, and some special vocalists. Words are usually projected onto a screen or a bare wall by an overhead (or video) projector or by PowerPoint slides. The songs are typically selected before the worship service. There are rarely songbooks or hymnals.
In such churches, worship means following the band's prescribed songs. The praise and worship time typically lasts from twenty to forty minutes. The first songs are usually upbeat praise choruses.' The worship team will then lead a lively, hand-clapping, body-swaying,
Senn, Christ/an Liturgy, 490.
Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worship, 127; Wilson-Dickson, Story of Christian Music, 137. Senn, Christian Worship and Its Cultural Setting, 49.
A. Madeley Richardson, Church Mus/c (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1910), 57.
Denominations like the Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, and Hope Chapel hold the market share for these sorts of churches. However, many denominational and nondenominational churches have adopted the same style of worship.
The recovery of singing choruses of Scripture was brought in by the Jesus movement of the 1970s. David Kopp, Praying the Bible for Your Life (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 1999), 6-7.
hand-raising, (sometimes dancing) congregation into a potpourri of individualistic, gentle, worshipful singing. (Typically, the focus of the songs is on individual spiritual experience. First person singular pronouns—I, me, my—dominate a good number of the songs." In some contemporary churches, the trend is moving more toward corporate, first person plural lines—we, us, our. This is a wonderful shift.)
As the band leaves the stage, ushers pass the offering plates. This is usually followed by the sermon, and the pastor dominates the rest of the service. In many churches, the pastor will call the worship team to return to the stage to play a few more worshipful songs as he winds up his sermon. "Ministry time" may ensue as the band plays on.
The song liturgy just described works like clockwork in the typical charismatic and nondenominational church. But where did it come from?
In 1962, a group of dissatisfied British church musicians in Dunblane, Scotland, tried to revitalize traditional Christian songs. Led by Congregational minister Erik Routley, these artists were influenced by Bob Dylan and Sydney Carter. George Shorney Jr. of Hope Publishing Company brought their new style to the United States. These new Christian hymns were a reform, but not a revolution. The revolution came when rock and roll was adapted into Christian music with the coming of the Jesus movement. This reform set the stage for the revolutionary musical changes to take root in the Christian church through Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.53
The origin of the worship team goes back to the founding of Calvary Chapel in 1965. Chuck Smith, the founder of the denomination, started a ministry for hippies and surfers. Smith welcomed the newly converted hippies to retune their guitars and play their now redeemed music in church. He gave the counterculture a stage for their music—allowing them to play Sunday night performances and
This maps perfectly with the baby boomers' self-focus .
Since the advent of contemporary Christian music, the "worship wars" have begun, constituting a divisive force that has balkanized Christian churches into "old-styled-traditional-music lovers" vs. "new-styled-contemporary-music lovers." Not a few churches have been splintered right down the middle over what form of music is to be used during the church service. Contemporary vs. traditional music has become the root, stem, and branch of the new sectarian, Christian tribalism that plagues the modern church.
concerts. The new musical forms began to be called "praise and worship."' As the Jesus movement began to flourish, Smith founded the record company Maranatha Music in the early 1970s. Its goal was to distribute the songs of these young artists."
The Vineyard, under the influence of musical genius John Wim-ber, followed suit with the worship team. Wimber, a former Calvary Chapel pastor, became head of the Vineyard movement in 1982. Since that time, the Vineyard has probably had more influence on establishing worship teams and worship music than Calvary Chapel. Vineyard music is regarded as more intimate and worshipful, while Calvary Chapel's music is known for its upbeat, praise-oriented songs."
In due time, the guitar replaced the organ as the central instrument that led worship in the Protestant church. Although patterned after the rock concert of secular culture, the worship team has become as common as the pulpit.
SO WHAT'S THE GRIPE?
Perhaps you are wondering, What's wrong with having a choir leader, a worship leader, or a worship team to lead the church's singing? Nothing . . . if every member of the church is content with it. However, many Christians feel that it robs God's people of a vital function: to select and lead their own singing in the meetings—to have divine worship in their own hands—to allow Jesus Christ to direct the singing of His church rather than have it led by a human facilitator. Singing in the early church was marked by these very features.
Listen to Paul's description of a first-century church meeting: "Every one of you hath a psalm" (1 Corinthians 14:26). "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19, NIV). Consider the words "every one of you." Song leaders, choirs, and worship teams make this impossible by limiting the headship of
Michael S. Hamilton, "The Triumph of Praise Songs: How Guitars Beat Out the Organ in the Worship Wars," Christianity roday (July 12, 1999).
Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism (Berkeley: University of Berkeley Press, 1997), 65, 83. Ibid., 19, 46-52, 84.
Christ—specifically His ministry of leading His brethren into singing praise songs to His Father. Of this ministry (which is little known today), the writer of Hebrews says, "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, 'I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation [ekklesia] I will sing your praises" (Hebrews 2:11-12, NIV).
When worship songs can only be announced, initiated, and led by the talented, this element of the service becomes more like entertainment than corporate worship." And only those who "make the cut" are allowed to participate in the ministry of leading songs. We would argue that according to New Testament principle, the ministry of singing belongs in the hands of all of God's people. And there should be an outlet for this ministry to be expressed.
I (Frank) am no theoretician. For almost twenty years I have gathered with churches where every member has been trained to start a song spontaneously." Imagine: Every brother and sister free to lead songs under the headship of Jesus Christ—even to write his or her own songs and bring them to the meeting for all to learn. I have met with numerous churches that have experienced this glorious dynamic. Someone starts a song and everyone joins in. Then someone else begins another song, and so worship continues without long pauses and with no visible leader present.
This is exactly how the first-century Christians worshipped, by the way. Yet it is a rare experience in the modern-day institutional church. The good news is that it is possible and available for all who wish to experience Christ's headship through song in a church meeting. The singing in such churches is intensely corporate rather than individualistic and subjective."
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when
I have no problem at all with talented musicians performing for an audience to encourage, instruct, inspire, or even entertain them. However, that ought not to be confused with the ministry of praise and worship singing, which belongs to the whole church. I (Frank) explain practically how a group of Christians can lead their own songs and write their own songs in my book Gathering in Homes (Gainesville, FL: Present Testimony Ministry, 2006).
Ephesians 5.19 and Colossians 3:16 capture the flavor of the corporate nature of first-century Christian singing.
we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?" . . . " When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them" (Psalm 137:1-4; 126:1-2).
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