All musicians - all artists, for that matter - crave bringing our very best performance to the table. This is just something that comes with being an artist and has probably been the case since the first time Grox picked up a stick and whacked it against a stone wall, bellowing out noises of various pitches. Grox thought, "I do better next time. Grunt."
Certainly, as God-worshiping Christians, we desire to bring our very best as an act of worship to our Creator. Like how the builders of the original temple used the finest metals and woods as they created a "worship space." We musicians desire to do the same. Our desire is to play the guitar, or drums, or sax, or bass, or keys... or to sing... at the highest level of perfection because we know that will please God in our worship.
In fact, we believe that the better we perform, the better God is worshipped.
Or, at least, that's what we church musicians say - because it helps hide the fact that, sometimes, we are more interested in showing off our talents than simply worshipping God WITH our talents.
Did I say that out loud?
Whether we are willing to admit this or not, the truth is that all current church musicians live in an age of ultra-entertainment. It has been this way for several decades but in recent years has become even more pronounced. Most would agree that in many churches, the "worship set" has evolved (if that's a fair word) into more of a "God Show" where our bands and vocalists are performing songs that do speak of God - but songs that attempt to replicate what is heard on Christian radio - more than actually "leading the congregation into worship encounters." (by the way, if the goal is to simply copy what is heard on the radio, why not just play an mp3 of the songs and let the worship band sleep in on Sundays...)
Trust me - I know that sounds a bit harsh. It's meant to.
Average Christians in the pews (or bean-bag chairs, depending on your worship room) have been noticing how simplistic many of today's worship songs are. Christian comedian, John Crist, does a great job of narrowing down today's trend towards creating simple Christian hit worship songs in a humorously biting video. You can see that video HERE. (But then, come back to read the rest of this article!)
Now, here is where this blog post will take a detour. I actually have no problem with simple, 3-chord worship songs - provided they transcend mere entertainment or "hit song" fodder - and, instead, actually help usher the worshiper into a Spirit-led and Spirit-breathed encounter with the Lord.
There actually is a difference between 3-chord fluff entertainment (think of any Monkees song) and 3-chord Spirit-led songs (think the book of Psalms).
The difference is found in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and, surprisingly, it is easy to miss - even for today's "American Idol-tainted" worshippers.
Sometimes I try to imagine David playing on his harp (lute) and ponder what his music - his songs in praise and worship of, and towards, God - might have sounded like. He may not have even had "chords" as we know them. Perhaps he sat on a rock near a stream and strummed or plucked his way through lyrics that are now forever cemented in the pages of scripture. No doubt he offered his best to God - but the question is - - his best "what?" I don't imagine David strumming and worshiping and then suddenly stopping and thinking, "God would be better pleased if, instead of this V chord, I played a IV chord..." David would simply strum and worship, strum and worship, strum and worship...
The simplicity of a worship song structure is not what makes the song inadequate or unworthy of honoring God. It is the simplicity of the worshiper's heart that lessens the "worship value" of a song. A song can have 7 chords, 11 changes, 2 bridges, augmented, diminished and inverted chords, rich with deep lyrics that match the greatest theological depth of any classic hymn. But if the person playing or singing that song is only in it for the performance - it is NOT a "worship song" designed for God - regardless of how "holy" the words might sound. In other words - your great performance will NOT please God if it never rises above the level of a great performance.
Likewise, a song with only 3 chords and simple "Psalm-like" lyrics, when sung or played by someone who's heart is only focused on God, WILL be a song that not only worships our Lord but helps others do the same. I know this for a fact because I have seen it and I have done it. When the focus is solely on the Lord - with our talents and abilities thought of as one might think of a set of tools in a toolbox - THAT is when God is actually pleased. THAT is when God is actually worshipped.
For this reason, I am far more interested in the simple, 3-chord worship song that is truly worship-filled, than the mega top Christian "worship hit of the day" that is sung or played in a Godless manner. It's not about the HOW. It is always about the WHO.
If you are a church musician, or one of the worship leaders, your job is NOT to sound amazing. If you do happen to sound amazing, that's great! Keep it up. Bring your best. But make sure you are bringing your best WORSHIP rather than your best performance. God is not more pleased or worshiped any fuller simply by your slick guitar licks or 5-octave vocal range. And - He is ALWAYS more pleased with the worshiping heart of the "pitchy" singer.
I challenge you to make your next worship set less about matching top Christian radio hits, and more about singing simple songs that use less instrumentation but clearly help focus the congregation on the very reason you have all gathered in the first place.
Focus on the WHO and the HOW takes care of itself.