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Monday, March 23, 2015

What to do when worship is flat, boring, non-engaging, lifeless, cold, or just plain bad.

[This was a question raised by a reader to the blog on "Worship and Entertainment" [http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2010/03/worship-and-entertainment-church-that.html?showComment=1427126227579#c473495135174592819]

I really couldn't address the issue in the short space for comments, so I decided to broaden it to place it here.   I think this is one of the questions that I get that is difficult to deal with on several levels. I will attempt an answer, and I welcome the dialogue that I imagine it will bring.]

Wow. If I ever write another book, I think I would write it about exactly what you mentioned. The last thing in the world I want you to think is that I have the answer in one neat little package. I don't. I really don't think anyone does. but there are steps toward a solution that we can take.  For general reference, refer to a blog I wrote that touched a little on the subject [http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2011/01/what-to-do-when-you-are-having-problems.html ]

Worship is almost always going to be laden with distractions, some by the devil himself and some by our own making that Satan will use to his advantage to keep us or pull us from genuine worship. I think our first step is to go back and review what biblical worship is: that obedient response to God’s revealed nature and character.  We must understand that we do not initiate worship, God does. The bush was burning before Moses got there.  We join what God has already started when we enter into worship. God puts that desire in our hearts to desire Him, or as Paul said in Philippians, “He helps us want to obey him and then helps us to do want he wants.” [ 2:13]

That will lead us to unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, unwillingness to ask for forgiveness, and a host of other possible things in our lives that would keep us from worshiping.  Once we have confessed and thank God for the forgiveness He offers, we are free to be able to hear the Spirit more clearly.  It is not dependent on our expectations or there may or may not be a deep emotional response. There is a deepening sense of Who He is, What He has done, and more than just a desire to obey, but actual obedience.

Some of the most powerful worship moments were not in services with perfect musicians, incredible singing, and powerful preaching.  Rather, they were services in which the leadership on the platform was offering a “widow’s mite” of talent and sharing, but it was the very best they could offer. It was convicting. It was brutally transparent. It was a sacrifice of praise.

When everything is “bad,” that is, from a human viewpoint, we are left with a choice: Go somewhere else [which, if you are on staff is not probably not an option], or choose to focus on God alone, asking God to help us look past what is going on in front to see what is going on in your heart that might keep you from seeing Him.  Let’s look one step further into your question; I want to look at the words you used, though I have heard them used many times by many people including my students who have asked the same questions:

“...what should our response be in a situation where the worship is described as flat, boring, non-engaging, lifeless, cold, or just plain bad. Lets say the music is terribly off and the leaders appear to just be going through the motions.

Focus on the following words: “flat, boring, non-engaging, lifeless, cold, bad.”  These are words of perception of the listener. They are responses of the listener. When we say someone is boring, we think we are making a judgement on the character or delivery of the person, when in reality we are revealing the response of the listener. Perhaps the person is speaking out of his or her learning style, which is different than the person making the response. We are not called to judge another’s character, nor are we responsible for another’s actions, however we are responsible for our own.  A similar evaluation may be taken from the next sentence of the commentary: “and the leaders appear to just be going through the motions.”  These too, are character judgments that we are not equipped to make, nor commanded to make.  

I have dealt with poorly shared music in several blogs, so I won't rehash that, but sometimes we just need to realize that what is there may be the best they can offer and it just might be the "widow's mite" of offering given to God at that time. Pray for them, but don't criticize them.You might do ten times better than those leading, but at the moment you are not, so just pray for them. If God opens a door to help them and they are receptive, take advantage of the opportunity to share what God is teaching you. However, please do so in a spirit of humility, not as "I'm better and you must listen to me."

So what can we say? Let me summarize and I hope this will be helpful to some extent:

1. Know what biblical worship is. Review it. Make the personal preparations so you can worship.
2. Ask God to help you worship. You know that is His will, and you should do this before the service.
3. Ask God to help you focus on Him, on His Word, His message through the texts of the song and sermon.
4. Close your eyes if need be. [I have found this necessary when those on the platform become distractions themselves.]
5. Begin to praise God for Who He Is and thank Him for What He has done; focus on rehearsing God’s character and nature.
6. Commit to God to be obedient, regardless.

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