shaping worship culture


“I think the worship has become too much about performance.” “Did you see the guitarist this morning, what does he think this is, a rock concert?” “Can we go back to the days when worship was about praising God and not all this production stuff?”

You may have heard these comments and others like it – or at least identified or felt the sentiment – the criticism that worship in song is about performance. Or perhaps just comments about worship in general. As one of the more visible aspects of our Sunday church gatherings it seems to cop a high degree of opinion and, ultimately, criticism. Song style, song choice, drums, volume, musicianship, lyrics …it all gets critiqued and reviewed. 

Here’s some of my least favourite comments. 

  • “I think the worship team is a little too obsessed with excellence.”

Of course we use skilled musicians and singers! We don’t let just anyone do maintenance on our building, lead in our kids ministry or cook for our gatherings – we get the ones who can do it to do it! Just because worship teams are up on stage doesn’t mean excellence equals showmanship. 

A worship team exists to lead us in worship, to carry our praises, to draw us to greater love and adoration of God – one of their main tasks is to not be a distraction. Musicians and singers can inadvertently draw our attention to themselves when there is a shortfall in their skill. 

“Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.” ‭‭1 Chron‬ ‭15:22‬ ‭

  • “They’re too focused on performance.”

How on earth can we judge that from our pew? What do we know of the state of the heart of a singer or musician that could lead us to make that assessment? Undoubtedly there are people who can become (or appear) overly concerned about how they look or act on stage – but I’m not sure we are ever in a position to know for sure that their love for God or heart for worship have been superseded by that. 

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7

And as a part B to that – everyone in the church determines the worship culture of that church. Everyone. If you are a spectator, you’ll be feeding a ‘performance’ culture. If you are a true worshipper you can lead from the floor in a way that influences those on stage and around you. Your posture in worship as much as your comments to others afterwards shape the attitude and expectations of people around you. We need to all take responsibility for the worship environment of our churches.

  • “They’re trying too hard to be modern or relevant.”

Those songs that we hold up as traditional were once deemed to be controversial because they were too enmeshed with culture. Much of what we now know as hymns (a word taken from scripture referring to music more generally that is now immortalised as a specific genre or style of music) were theology set to local folk tunes and melodies as a way to help illiterate people gain access to the gospel message. 

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:3

Sing to the LORD a new song … Psalm 96:1 

We are to be always singing a new song. A fresh response of praise and worship to God. It should be flavoured with the sound of a new generation, speaking the language of their hearts and encouraging them to learn their own way of worshipping God. Just as was afforded to us each in our generation.

  • “He/she is only in it for the fame.” 

Let’s be honest. A 7:30am start on a Sunday morning for a non-paid playing spot in front of a couple of hundred people who are often vocal in their critical review is not where you’ll find musos looking for their big break. They are there because they love Jesus and they love you enough to serve with their best. 

Can we not be “those” people who complain and criticise? Can we be people who trust our church leadership to steward worship in context to God’s leading of us as a faith community? Can we be champions of those who faithfully serve our churches and also not be long-distant judges of the Church? Can we be active contributors to dynamic, authentic worshipful gatherings and be positive culture-shapers? Can we seek to understand and support one another in our pursuit of true worship and God encounters? 

how to fix your church 


When your children or youth are reluctant to go to church things can get hard. (Read more – against their will

If you’ve elevated and communicated the value of church attendance, negotiated and threatened your lips off and offered bribes of every incentive you can possibly imagine but are still struggling to get buy-in from your kids – there’s only one thing left to do. 

You need to fix your church

You know the old adage about not just identifying the problem but being part of the solution? Yeah, that. It’s time to roll your sleeves up and get involved in fixing your church. 

It may seem like a big challenge (depending on what your church dynamic is like) but it may take less than you think. Here are some low output-high impact first steps. 

  • Show up yourself

Passionate, genuine, supportive and committed people who show up regularly and consistently make every/any church better. Whether your attendance almost doubles the size of the congregation or fills one of 60 rows, every person who shows up contributes something vital to the dynamic of a gathering. 

It may seem a little arrogant to assert that your very presence could improve your church – but flip it over and consider what would happen if everyone thought their attendance didn’t matter and didn’t show up!

And as a side note – not surprisingly, your kids won’t be passionate about attending a place that you are not demonstrating a passion for. If your attendance is more about a week-by-week decision based on feelings and schedules rather than an anticipated fixture in your weekly rhythm you undermine the integrity of your desire to see your kids engage. 

  • Serve. 

There isn’t a church in the world with the budget to professionalise all aspects of church life. And even if finances allowed it, it would not reflect the church as Jesus declared it or as Paul and others advocated in the New Testament. 

Pretty much every service your church provides is possible because of the contributions of “someone” like you. “Someone” with skills, time, talents, heart and availability to serve one another – and the desire to see needs met, people connected, God encountered and disciples developed in a variety of ways for a diversity of people. 

The only way your family benefits from corporate worship, generational ministry, events, and shared faith experiences is because “someone” serves. “Someone” gives their Friday night or their Sunday morning over to teaching and leading – in music and word. The building is physically ready and you are welcomed because “someone” comes early to prepare for you. Small groups happen because “someone” opens their home. Morning tea is served because “someone” sets up the urn and packs away afterwards. 

Again, if everybody thought that they didn’t need to contribute you would show up to a very different kind of service, in a very different physical space and ultimately be paying for some very expensive psychiatry bills for your burnt out Senior Pastor! It’s not rocket science. You need to give something for the system to work. 

Side note – your child is much more likely to feel connected to a faith community when they experience a sense of ownership and purpose (true for you too). Serving is essential for fixing your church

  • Influence the influencers. 

All people thrive under the intentional investment, discipleship and encouragement of others. In any church environment there are going to be specific people who have influence over your child/ren. They may be positional influencers – those with the title of “leader” or “coordinator” in specific departments or ministries. They may be proximity influencers – those they’ll serve next to or find themselves spending time with. Or they’ll be influencers by personality – that cool young adult that everyone gravitates to or the super caring and connected person whose name your kids remember and repeat most often. 

If you want to spend your fixing energy wisely, direct it to the influencers. If, by your investment, care and counsel, you can help an influencer flourish you will be influencing your own kids through them. You will be making the church a better place for them (and others in kind) to connect to and thrive in. 

Invite your kids’ youth or kids ministry leaders for dinner or to birthday parties and basketball games. Host their groups in your home. Pray for them. Know them well so as to be able to assist them best. 

You can fix a lack of leadership or develop the competency and confidence of leaders by your intentional encouragement and support of those who God has appointed and who stand to impact your child’s sense of belonging in a faith community. 

***

Again, they’re simple steps but also essential. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who will speak of their disappointment in them or their families not finding a place of belonging, connection or support in a church community and they haven’t tried any of these fixing tips. They’re certainly no guarantee that your child will grow to love God and church – but their absence has a far greater likelihood of assuring the opposite. 

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #5: Looking Outward

The central message of Christmas is one of sacrificial giving. The God of the Universe gave His only Son, Jesus – born in a manger, killed on a cross, raised to life – so that we might experience the ultimate gift of Salvation. While all sorts of other things will compete to crowd out that truth … the reality of this incredible gift needs to draw us to a different heart posture and a different response.

The Christmas season provides us all manner of opportunities for self-indulgence or to facilitate the self-indulgence of others, it takes a fair degree of intentionality and a whole lot of clear communication to write a different story for ourselves and our families.

Here are some ideas for ways to foster an outward focus during the Christmas season.

  • Give gifts that support other causes. Many organisations have developed creative ways to give to need locally and around the world through unique gifts such as a goat, a toilet, a well or a mosquito net given on behalf of friends and family. You can talk about them at home in the planning stage and then you have further opportunity to speak to it when the gift is exchanged.
  • Serve together as a family. Shop together to buy food or gifts for families in need. Deliver hampers or food through your church or a welfare organisation. Donate time to wrap gifts in a shopping centre. Serve at a community meal.
  • Open your home. Invite someone in who doesn’t have family to spend Christmas with. Include a family for a meal that might otherwise struggle to afford a more ‘special’ celebration. Do an ‘open invitation’ for a Christmas Eve or Christmas night drop in time so people have a safe and hospitable opportunity to connect with others over the celebration period.
  • Perform random (anonymous) acts of kindness. Pay for the person behind you in the drive through at McDonald’s. Offer to return someone’s trolley to the bay. Leave $20 toward a person’s petrol while you’re inside paying for your own. Leave a cake or some Christmas goodies on the doorstep of a neighbour. Handwrite Christmas messages and post them or leave them under someone’s windscreen wipers.
  • Include the WHOLE family in your planning and giving. As a family, discuss the ways you can be generous together – how will we serve, who will we bless? Wrap presents together so everyone knows what you’re giving to family and friends. Handmade is always a special touch – include children in baking/icing/decorating or in making cards, wrapping paper or tags.

What ideas have you seen/heard of? What have you tried yourself? What have you been the recipient of and how did it bless you? How can we make sure the greatest gift of all to us incites a gratitude that inspires giving?