Take Aways from the Worship Leader Gatherings

If you aren’t aware: on Wednesday nights this past month, I met with the worship leaders and team so I could explain the theology behind worship at High Point Church. While we will have separate bands, I wanted to make sure we had one unified theology of worship that was the backbone of the teams.

Well, one is that snow comes in winter and the classes are sometimes canceled. The last gathering is still a week away.We started off with a number of directives from the elders for the worship team leaders. We were attempting to be noncontroversial and helpful, and I think there was some clarification and realization that will lead to unity. The main issue that seems to interest people is how we talk about and labeled the stylistic differences between the two services. In-house, we have called them upbeat and edgy. Those words aren’t all that clarifying. In some ways, to get different styles, you can only identify bandleaders and tell them to do what’s in their hearts.

However, that didn’t stop us from spending a good bit of time trying to explain the difference between the two.

The picture to the right, recognizes that the two styles need not diverge very far to radical extremes, but should diverge enough to reach people of tastes sufficiently divided that we need to offer another environment to better reach them. (This is my very own drawing… aren’t you impressed?)

The catchphrase to take away is:
two styles built on one theology. Many churches have one or two services built on no theology. And theoretically, a church could have 25 different styles built on a single theology for different kinds of people. We would expect this if two people with the same theology built churches in radically different world cultures – one in Atlanta and the other in Beijing. Yet sociologically, there are very different cultural profiles just within the city of Madison, even just on the west side. Age has some effect on this, but age is not the determining factor of the two sentimentalities.

Two categories we talked considerably about are: plausibility structures and sentimentalities.

SENTIMENTALITY: an emotional structure that causes us to relate to something positively and emotionally even if we can’t explain why. Imagine a story or song that causes you to cry, but then you look to the person next to you and they are clearly not even engaged. Why does that happen? It is usually not because one person has emotions and the other doesn’t. It is because that particular song or story “touches” one person, and does not have that effect on the other. This is because of their sentimentalities.

PLAUSIBILITY STRUCTURES: are simply our structures of thought that make things sound plausible or implausible. We are have sets of beliefs we are already committed to, and these make other claims sound plausible or ridiculous.

Because worship is always in the “short form argument” (they can’t take the time to make substantive arguments that would change somebody’s sentiments or plausibility structures) worship has to teach and seek to connect in relationship to the sentimentalities and the plausibility structures that already exists in the people present, or those we are trying to reach. Any context in which a full and substantive argument can’t be made is one in which a short form arguments must be – and worship leading is one of those situations. That is why an extended sermon can do things that a worship set simply can’t. But it is also worth noting that worship sets can do things that sermons can’t.

But whatever the sociological differences are between the people we seek to reach, we spent two weeks talking about what we all share: theology, anthropology and psychology. That is, no matter what someone’s culture is, who God is doesn’t change. What a human being is doesn’t change. What happens inside human beings doesn’t change. Even though we need to have different cultural expressions, we are not dealing with a different kind of human, a different kind of heart, nor are we glorifying a different God. The unity of these three things should allow us to have a single and unified church even while having truly different worship styles.

And if we understand these things well (multiple bands and multiple styles), we can still lead towards a single unified goal. There is always temptation along the way for ungodly competitiveness and jealousy. But this is the case even within one worship style if we will give our hearts to jealousy and competition rather than focusing on the mission and the priorities of reaching those far from Christ and teaching Christ more deeply to those who follow him. To make true disciples of Jesus for the Glory of God and the good of all people.

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