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Are We Staging Sex-Appeal in Worship? (ThinkJump Journal #78 with Kim Gentes)

As Leonardo DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man" reminds us, for thousands of years society has searched for what they consider the perfect person- the ultimate physical shape and representation of humanity.  Do we search for these qualities in our worship leaders as well?

As our churches have adopted more modern styled music and instruments that reflect a semblance of popular culture, we can also see that we are beginning to expect something different of our leaders who stand up on the stages in our local churches. But even while these changes are happening, we rarely talk about them openly.

Should leaders be "attractive"? Should worship leaders be trim? What if they are overweight?  As strange as these questions might seem, if we do not talk about them we risk letting our unspoken actions become what guides us for the future. Indeed, it is our actions (and not our words) that ultimately attest to what we truly believe. Some would say that our actions in churches across America show that we are copying the modern music culture by trying to present leaders who look the role of pop musicians/artists. Is this true? Let me start with a couple of stories.

 

Sunday Morning: Weight and See

Several years ago I was leading worship for a special event. Myself and three other (more well-known) leaders were providing the leadership for a worship conference. During a break in the conference a person came up to me and introduced themselves. In the course of conversation, they said,

...I was glad to see (leader's name) leading at this conference. It's been a while since I've seen them on a stage. They've really put on the pounds! Probably why they aren't as popular these days. It's a shame to see leaders in God's church let themselves go like that...

After the initial shock of their statement left me, I realized that this sentiment was one I'd heard and even felt before. I looked down at my own stomach, and realized the extra 40lbs of weight I'd put on in the last 15 years had probably not endeared me to a "stage" either.

Sometime that same year, I was talking with a well-known and well-traveled worship leader. He spoke candidly about his attention to staying thin and trim, believing that it was important to maintain his credibility as an "on-stage" personality.

Fast forward 6 years. I was at another event in another location across the country. After a good time of corporate worship, several people commented to leader on almost exactly the same two points- what a "great" time of worship it was; and how the person looked "good".  Person after person said almost the same precise thing:

"That was a great time of worship. Man, you are looking real good these days."

What struck me about this last example was how many people said the same thing, and how they chose to say those two specific things.

 

The Big Question: Are Ugly Leaders Allowed On Stage?

The reason I am bringing this up is precisely this- what does worship leadership have to do with how a person looks? If I am overweight, should that be a consideration or qualification of "stage" leadership? Think about this in two ways-

First, what is your philosophical response. In other words, what should be the position we take about how a person looks that gets on a stage. Taken from Biblical, theological, value-based perspective what should be our position on this.

Second, what is your practical response. In other words, what is the pragmatic position that you or church actually do take? Do you ask leaders to stay in shape, thin or look a certain way? Is there spoken or unspoken expectations about what is acceptable on-stage in terms of weight, style and attractiveness?


The Modern Church: No, Not on Stage.

Philosophically, I don't know of too many churches that would say overtly that a worship leader should be disqualified for leading from a "stage" because of their weight or appearance. There are some that argue (and I have heard this often) that leaders should show by example that they are people of moderation and control, and this includes their weight.  Of people who say this, I have never heard anyone say the primary concern is the health of the individual leader, but rather it is the image they are portraying that reflects poorly on "God's best".

Practically speaking, modern churches seem to be gravitating more and more towards an emulation of their worship leaders as "music artists". I believe this is because the "worship leaders" as we have known them have become a group that is highlighted by a few successful/popular commercial artists. Those worship-leaders-turned-artists (such as Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Gateway Church, New Life Church, Paul Baloche, Lincoln Brewster etc) become emulated by the leaders in the huge number of churches that love and appreciate their music. As a practical result of that, it is human nature to emulate those we admire.  We see those people who are "successful" as "worship artists" and in churches across America we see worship bands and leaders trying to emulate the look as well as the music and style of their "heroes".

Let me say a few things here.

First, I have worked with literally thousands of churches in the last 15 years through various work related contexts. In that, I've had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of leaders personally. My statements and summarizations that I am giving here is a reflection of those connections, discussions and communities. Certainly, I did not take a scientific poll to come to the characterizations I have come to in this article. But it does reflect a broad number of churches in a varied number of settings.

Second, I know some, and have personally talked to many, of the people who are  prominent "worship artists" (such as Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin and others). These are genuine folks who desire to follow God, to equip His church, and see God receive all the glory due to Him. The vast majority personalities that have become successful "worship artists", that I had the opportunity to get to know, are truly worship leaders whose one desire is to see God magnified.

Third, as in almost all things in life, most people learn to do things by imitation.  Carpenters, lawyers, police officers, speakers, cooks, writers, engineers and musicians all learn to do their craft well as they see what others do and take the best by imitation, incorporating that into their skill set. We would be silly to think that this would not be the case in worship leadership as well. Mentors and gifted leaders in every facet of life provide us with living "lessons" from which we can learn what practically works and what doesn't.  I say this because I do not know of any worship leader who consciously set out to simply copy the image and techniques of a popular "worship artist" with the hopes of duplicating their success by using those attributes.

But what do we actually see in churches?

 

Today's Worship Leader: Mimicking the Professional Artist.

What one actually encounters in many contemporary churches is a reflection of years of transformation of popular artist image being mimicked by local worship leaders.  The results of this show up in very practical terms:

  • Be fit and trim.
  • Wear appropriately cool, but not too dressy clothing (depending on the worship artist being emulated).
  • I've even heard the occasional accent and voice inflections of popular artists being mimicked.
  • Often times there is unspoken desire that if they play all their "cards" right, some day they will make it on a released worship recording, write a song sung by the nations, or become a worship leader in a large church.

Of course, this is usually not said explicitly. But the culture of the local church and pervasiveness of this trend seems to go on almost unquestioned.  Some might say "Not fair, you are stereo-typing people". That might be true. But stereotypes appear because of real commonalities.  I've heard this and seen this from so many places and people that I've come to believe it is at least as common (if not far more) as the stereo-typed angry church lady playing the same tired hymns on a dusty old organ in the dying rural church.

And this brings me to a personal confession as well- as a worship leader, I've felt and heard the pressure to follow these kinds of expectations as well. I've asked myself the questions "do I need to lose weight to be on stage" and "am I wearing something appropriately cool enough to lead worship today"? Thankfully, over the years, I've had some encouraging mentors and friends who have reminded me of the important values related to worship and leadership that reoriented me to help answer these questions for my life and in my local church responsibilities.

My question is not about the people who are, in effect, emulating the image of their heroes (with or without knowing it) as a way to envision their own success for the future. My question is about the people (the rest of us) who do not meet those expectations of stage sex-appeal.

 

What About Joe Normal and Jane Average?

What if you are overweight? What if you aren't attractive? What if you don't dress like a successful/hip/cool musician or artist?

Do we have a place for those people in church leadership? Or has sex-appeal become such an important consideration in our "stage" presence that we need to make sure our "up front" people represent something attractive about our churches?

I realize that I am asking questions that seem rhetorical to some.

Some will outright demand that spiritual and leadership qualities are all that matter- but is this what is truly being practiced in your church?

Others will say that we must show "God's best" and this might mean asking people to hold to certain appearance standards when it comes to weight or even looks- but is this truly about  glorifying God, or more about wanting to draw a crowd, and build a church through what marketers call "sex appeal"?


Your Thoughts?

The goal of this article is to get leaders and churches to think about the issue here of "image" of our stage leaders.  Are we creating cultures in our local churches that intentionally rely on sex-appeal to attract visitors? If so, is this ok? We must talk about these things with our church staffs. If we do not the unspoken values of pop-culture (in this case, the values of the successful musician/artist) will continue to be duplicated without honest, Biblical and Christ-like thinking helping us to direct our church communities.

Look forward to hearing others thoughts on this...

 

Sincerely, 
Kim Gentes

 

p.s. be sure to post your thoughts or comments below..

 

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Reader Comments (62)

Hi, a worship leader from my church [Every Nation Taipei] posted this and I thought it was a good read.

You make a good point in saying that people tend to imitate what they admire. I don't think Christian communities mean to do this. I think people's theology (simply: their understanding of God) has a lot to do with how far they push that imitation. I think the more you know how much God loves you for what you are in him, the more you are also in love with who you are in him and don't need to imitate others (you still learn from them of course, and I think imitation is OK for people just learning things). Self love is very legitimate if you are looking at yourself as you are in him... people should be confident in the uniqueness God gave them, and be willing to grow so that uniqueness turns into excellence.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid in Taipei

I agree with your article, but it leads me to an issue I see among churches of today. Whether you are a gifted and spirit-led worship leader who has 25-30 years of worship leading experience ( and even in the best of physical conditions), or whether you are younger with fewer years of experience in worship leadership, the bottom line is that many churches are looking for an image when looking for a worship leader. I may be able to sing, write, and present the same songs and styles that "younger" worship leaders may be presenting, but because my hair has started turning colors, I am considered "disqualified" to lead a more "contemporary" worship service. When a church is looking for a worship leader, I believe they consider a person's age, appearance, and appeal more than they look at spiritual qualifications and experience as a worship leader. I also agree that as a worship leader, I am not to emulate someone God has not created me to be. God has given each of us a unique personality and ministry. However, I am saddened to think that churches who limit their selection process to appearance and image may be missing some well qualified and spirit-led worship leaders. It also saddens me to see these "more experienced" worship leaders be "put out to pasture" because of limited opportunities to serve. My thoughts. Your thoughts are also welcome.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Sarratt

I have been a worship leader for approximately 12 years. I served in my church and various other churces on Sunday mornings and at many retreats and seminars. It took me a while to get comfortable with God's calling on me in that direction. I am not a "professional" guitarist or singer, but my heart is certainly in the right place. I have so much gratitude to the Lord for what He has done in my life and I want everyone to know that they too can have that same love. But, over the past few years, the church has establisehd a worship band in the church and I was bumped out completely. They didn't see me professional enough to be "in the band", and then I considered maybe my season to be over and was grateful to God for my time that I was able to be used.. I'm still being used periodically... just not allowed to be in the band. I'll be honest to say that, it hurt! But, our church's problem is not judging looks as much as judging "profesiionalism" and not giving others in the church a chance to step up. Our band has has received lots of training and they have so much talent and gifts to offer others - to mentor others (youth and adults) to bring up other leaders but they choose not to let anyone else in. It' seems to be a fear of worrying that someone else might be better than they are...or worse yet, "not good enough!". The band plays the same songs with the same people week after week, year after year. To be honest, it gets boring and our attendance has dropped during the worship. People have been coming in late (after the worship is over, just to hear the sermon). I believe that worship leaders are definiltey called and used to glorify God, but doesn't glorfying God also come with loving,accepting, and helping others grow? I believe that a worship leader (myself included) must always do a heart check as pride can destroy a ministry. Stop looking so much for "professionalism', but look for people with a sincere heart of worship who are full of the Spirit and can relay the message of Christ to the people. Mentor others along the way and help them come along side of you and grow. Maybe God wants to use them too.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Bam.

I wonder if "ugly" is less than issue, than it's opposite - we want "attractive" worship leaders.

I've heard things behind closed doors at record labels that made me shudder – when sales drive your industry, what sells to the church consumer is not always so dissimilar to what sells to everyone.

Could it be that CD covers power the leanings, rather than the person "live"?

Thanks for opening up this conversation, Kim.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan Wilt

As a 6' tall not-petite woman, I can assure you that I can relate to this article. And, what about age? Its not just shape that is an issue. I have often said that I would love to simply superimpose a painting of Jesus on the platform and sing from behind a curtain. Culture that has elevated worship leaders to idol-like status needs to re-evaluate why we do what we do. It seems that the central issue is self-centered. How do I 'feel' about how the leader looks, sings, dresses, walks, talks... How was my worship 'experience'? We have failed in focus. And we have failed in truly discipling people in the understanding that true worsip is focus on Jesus Christ. It should not matter one little bit who is leading, if their heart is attuned to giving praise and honor to God. But, it isn't about just one 'leader' ... as it is the responsibility of every believer to 'sing and make melody IN YOUR HEART TO THE LORD...' Eph 5:19 Sad to say, many are hooked on the overall experience, rather than our Creator.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoy Woodruff

Though provoking topic.. this is a subject that I've often thought about but never really verbalized... I think that our Sun AM worship time should work on at least 3 different levels.. 1. For God..(from pure hearts and passionate lovers of God) 2. For the people in your congregation (the lyrics, melodies, style and presentation should help them to draw close to God.) 3. For people who are just visiting your church (the music, mix, sound level, lighting, personal dress, stage presence of the team, etc).. Stage presence is huge.. we communicate more non-verbally than verbally... that includes the passion in our actions and facial expressions, how we dress, how we maintain our physical bodies, etc... Can God use us in spite of our own limitations and flaws?... of course.. Does that mean we can let ourselves go?.. no, of course not. I think we should always endeavor to be the best version of ourselves that we can.. There's always a balance to consider.. 1. The most important thing is our heart... 2. then working on becoming a skillful musician.... 3. then making our outward presentation as good as we can... We are called to love God with our whole heart and also love our neighbor... (first God.. then people).. make your worship work for God and people!

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark Cole

Great, great article!!! You are speaking about what everyone is shoving under the rug. We've turned our worship leaders into a celebrity culture. Tragically true, 'Worship' is no longer 'the Worship of God' – it has become a 'show.' The expectations are more about the worldly and superficial, than about God. How do we 'look' how are we dressed, do we look cool enough, young enough? A respectful appearance should be the goal as in showing respect to the Lord. But, sadly, that is not enough. The last commenter brings up ageism, and being passed over as too old, that happens all the time. I am an interdenominational 'artist.' I sing in churches of all denominations, including Catholic, and what I'm seeing is devastating. I believe by now, we could write quite a powerful book on this subject. God's people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and all ages. Yet, how worship leaders, church leadership and congregants are 'sizing' us up is no colder an assessment than Hollywood, New York or Nashville. If you don't fit the young, sexy image of the entertainment industry, there is simply 'no room at the inn' and you need not apply. We are railing against the Lord of Life, and giving into the dark death of this culture which tells us that one persons life is more important and valuable than another. Not to God, this is coming from the enemy who divides us, this is not what the Word of God says. We call ourselves Christian, while we spend more time emulating celebrities, instead of worrying about walking in purity and humility before our God. I came to the Assemblies of God from the Catholic Church and I love my people and experiences of both denominations, they both love Jesus. My son once asked me a question that some would find funny, and others irreverent. It was as unexpected and subtle as an elephant walking into a room. He asked me, "How comes so many nuns are fat?" Immediately and with no hesitation, I couldn't believe my response, because it fell out of me without even thinking. I said, "You won't find a bunch of nuns at a Jazzercise class, they spend their days on their knees praying and begging God for the sorry likes of you and me!" Couldn't believe that came outta me that fast, but there was an expression on his face that the Truth had just stung his heart... never heard a 'fat nun' comment from him again! Whatever church you lift up the name of Jesus in, His Word never changes. He hates haughtiness, Jesus marginalizes and pushes no one aside, He is a 'Come just as you are' God. We are supposed to be contrite, to remain small, that He may be lifted up, scripture warns to walk humbly before our God. As I travel to many churches, I can tell you, it is rare to see humble in today's Praise & Worship.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Frances

Geez! I am a 50 year old fat lady who is on the praise team at church and sing with a ladies group! Our church is going "younger" with the music and I have thought about this for a brief second. But it's like this, having me on stage, not just appearence wise, but also talent level (I'm average) in my opinion encourages worship. That's right, people look at me and hopfully see my heart for the God I serve and the love I have for HIm and want that too. I am immulating my hero on stage! Half the time I don't even realize there is anyone else in the room! Just worship people and stop making it such a ordeal. Love God, let Him know you love Him through worship and song. No matter what size you are or how you look. After all HE did create you!

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSonda Buchanan

As a middle-aged worship leader who has already lost 80% of my hair, and my facial hair is turning grey; I have no illusions about looking like a 'rock star". However, I have tried to keep my weight fairly steady. (I weight 200 and am 6'4").

But what does bother me is how many pastors are grossly overweight and/or unhealthy. The last two pastors I worked for both had diabetes and were at least 40 pounds heavier than they should have been. One even lost his leg to poor eating habits.

It's time to put away to theological books, get off your butt, start eating right and exercise. Think about this: Did Jesus, Paul or Peter spend the majority of their time sitting behind a desk?

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterblair frodelius

"The world is so much with us." As you point out, we often have specific images of worship leaders that have nothing to do with biblical values or kingdom culture. And that is one reason why worship often slips into performance rather than leading people into worship. There is something to be said about being reasonably fit (gluttony is, after all, one of the seven deadly sins, so a classical category - but it should apply to all types of consumption, not just the consumption of food), but only if this is what is being taught and discipled into the whole congregation. Furthermore, while worship leaders are often expected to have sex appeal, preachers are not infrequently given a bye. Maybe because the pulpit covers it (if one uses a pulpit), maybe because we do not want the preacher addressing body care since that might mean we would have to change, maybe because we do not care if the preacher has sex appeal, the same standards do not apply to preachers. Of course, it is also true that there are fewer women preachers, so that could also be part of it. But, in the end, the issue boils down to whether or not we are going to follow the culture or follow the king? I do not mind encouraging body care as part of creation care; I do not mind discouraging gluttony in all forms (I am cutting down on books, computers, and also food); I do not mind encouraging healthy living if we are going to pray for health and healing (i.e. not working against what we are asking God to do) - but only if this is a body a value, not if it is a performance value that we fail to apply to all of us.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Davids

This is a topic that I have discussed many times with my own pastor. I serve as the "choir" director, pianist, and worship leader for the praise team. I think the devil uses my age, to put doubt in my own mind that this is where I need to be. I am 57 years old, so I struggle with the thought that I should move out of the way and let younger individuals serve in this capacity. The problem is we individuals that sing well, but do not have a comfort level as leaders. I take pride in the music program and feel I have a responsibility to allow the worship hour to point those in attendance to God and focus on him, rather than those of us on stage. It is important for me to remain in daily fellowship seeking Gods direction for worship that truly exhaults the name of Jesus and brings glory to him, not the people on stage. We try to incorporate many styles of worship. Most churches around us have long since given up the hymns for the modern more contempory praise songs, we have not. As far as the image we project, I do think we have a responsibility to look as nice as possible. There are three of us that are in our 50's, three are in their 20's, but it works. So my two cents is if the hearts of those in leadership roles are more focused on the Saviour and not so much on ourselves, He will use our efforts, tho ordinary they may be, if God's in the middle of it, the worshp will be directed in the right direction. My prayer is that when it is time to step down, God will raise up my replacement and he will let me know. until then I will continue to serve to the best of my ability.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Hendricks

I think image is important to the extent it reflects ones attitude. Being "ugly" should not be a disqualification, but being "sloppy" should be. Our bodies are a temple of God. If we demonstrate a lack of respect for that temple, then we have spiritually disqualified ourselves from being a good Christian example. The same goes for dress. Would you were a T-shirt and shorts to a wedding? The why would you wear such to a worship service? Well, you'd do it because you have little respect or regard for the reason for your are there (to meet with the creator of the universe and your personal saviour).

Would you allow the town drunk to be a worship leader? Of course not, since the credibility of the worship would be lost. By the same token, the church should not sacrifice the credibility of the worship service by using a person that shows no respect for the occasion in their appearance (clothing or weight).

Note that being 'ugly' or disfigured or disabled or financially poor does not denote any lack of respect for the worship service. Thus, none of these things should preclude participation. When someone is wearing their 'Sunday Best' it does not matter how good it is - the fact they put their best foot forward is what matters.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I have visited contemporary services in several churches including my own and found that I was too distracted by the physical appearance and mannerisms of the female singers. As a man, I am subject to temptation of the eye gate. I think that many men if honest would agree with that experience. I had to continually keep strongly focused on Jesus to keep Him in view, rather that the worship leader or singing group. At times I just had to look away from them as they led and participated in the music. The last place I want to feel the need to fight Satan on that subject is worshiping in church. I do not believe the ladies intentionally do this, but may be unaware of the look and diversion they may project for men in a worship atmosphere. The last service I attended, the worship leader was dressed in very tight jeans with high boots, etc, was very attractive, and in a mans eyes seductive. Some reading this may suggest that I am just a foul minded man, but I am faithful to my wife and have no intention of violating the sweet connection with her or with my Lord. "Just a thot ladies to take seriously how you look...seek to please the Lord by helping all to focus just on Him as you serve."

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjames

This is a perceptive analysis of 'worship' practices that are infiltrating the church in America and realistically all over the world in places that use media methods that reflect our current markets penchant for entertainment. For the most part, they are inappropriate. When people talk about 'God's best', they certainly mean what they confer their approval on. They know that heaven will be full of people just like them with their same understanding of what 'God's best' is. And when someone doesn't measure up to what they think 'God's best' is, then they are dismissed, set aside or put into roles that won't affect the public perception of that particular congregation. What we've done, in essence, is to create a working popular standard that our target markets would appreciate. Young, energetic, submissive, willing to serve whatever agenda that a particular pastor/church desires to put forth as 'God's best' for their lives and relationship to the church. It's become a formula in many cases, to attract this market demographic. It is similar to a church leaving a community in a poorer neighborhood to go to a suburb where the demographic has more financial resources. We cite that our vision has changed, or we're going in a new direction but really, it's just a church acting like a business. For businesses today to succeed, they need to be snappy, market driven units with a consistent product that people want to 'buy' (with their support, tithe and offering). I reflect on Jesus and the disciples singing a hymn before they went out. No electric anything and yet, they changed the world. Not because it was a 'snappy worship presentation' but because of who Jesus was / is.

That said, I'm a product of our generation and don't discount the tools we're given to lead people to Jesus. I've been part of these bands and still am. Most of the worship leaders that I've worked with are genuine and their sole desire is to bring people into a life changing worship experience. The Holy Spirit working in their lives to say and sing the word over the body of Christ in a way that prompts a sinner or a saint to be full of desire to call on the living God. I must say that the Lord is entirely unconcerned with how we make our rag covered bodies look 'presentable'. We do that for ourselves for the most part. God is only concerned about it in that it affects us as His children. If we are anxious about our clothes, we're a lot less likely to enter into worship. We have lost an aspect of thankfulness concerning the gifts we've been given. We set standards of dress and uniformity of presentation, that in the end are just the scurrying of ants. They have no bearing at all on what 'God's best' really is. God's best is a person, not what we do.

When it comes down to spending time in the presence of God during a worship service, what really matters is minimizing the things that distract from that experience. If there are things occurring that pull away from the experience, then we need to minimize them. Microphone and instrument feedback, a lack of unity in vocals and instruments where the clash is obvious and intrusive. If we're distracted by 'ugly' then we really don't need a worship service, we need a repentance alter. If we can't enter in to worship because the song leaders white coat shows off his large waist line, we need to leave that alter and go worship at the one we're comfortable with, say the model's runway on Madison Ave. It's abominable to be concerned with how someones appearance 'affects what we call today 'corporate worship'. I believe that James called them out in James chapter 2 v 1 calling them judges with evil thoughts. Jesus didn't come to save the pretty, talented and perfect as we like to intimate by these actions, but the lost, the destroyed, the harlot, the drunk and the pervert.

If our goal is presentation, then all of that fleshly stuff is important. If our goal is pure hearted worship, then these devices that we use for presentation take on the role that they were meant to have. Tools for service. As you can probably tell, this is one of the things that I'm passionate about. We've been deceived by thinking if the presentation is perfect, then the Holy Spirit is putting His 'God's best' sticker on it. It is not so.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Burns

I have been involved in worship at several different churches in the past, and I am a woman who has struggled with my weight. I don't think the past couple churches I have been in include or exclude anyone in worship because of their weight, age, image or attire but more focus on their heart and abilities. I do think however, that churches shy away from addressing the sin involved in being overweight for fear that they might offend the overweight person. I have always thought that being overweight is sin (gluttony) but this past year God has really shown me the bigger sin issue in my weight...turning to something (food) other than Him to fulfill my needs. Which in essence is believing the lie that God is not good enough or big enough to fill that part of me. Food has never truly fulfilled me or made me happier or filled that void that only God can. Every struggle in life is ultimately a spiritual one. As He has evealed this to me I have lost the weight and am learning to have a healthy attitude toward food. It is not about the appearance of the person in the mirror, it's about the spiritual health. I wish pastors would address the root of this issue more.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Having played in a couple of different churches as a music team member, I agree with the perceptions and views posted on this subject.

The first problem is the stage. I always thought we should be in a pit, out of site. The stage provokes a "performance" mentality.
Secondly-health and looking healthy should be a character trait of anyone wanting to stand up in front of any audience. I'm always blown away at how much food gets eaten at a pot-luck, and what is often on the buffet line.
Lastly-the problem seems to reside more in mega churches. At the large churches whose services I've attended, there was a definite pattern of youth and looks. Pastors with frosted tips, spiked hair, hip clothing and worship bands that did nothing but the hits! I don't hold any of these in judgment, because I understand what the organization is trying to accomplish. Having said that, it's obvious that the attempt at relevance is pretty shallow.
I've never played for a congregation over 300 people, Our lead singers were overweight, but were so good, nobody cared. Some of my leaders were very attractive and very skilled in keeping God first in the service through exultation. My current leader is also well trained and disciplined to make the Lord first on stage and with the congregation...and he trains us and we must be dedicated to the pursuit of God Himself.

I still think a pit would solve a lot of the mis-perceptions.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRandall

Well finally someone is talking about the elephant in the room. American Idol(atry) worship of the worship leader's appearance. I've been in worship ministry for 19 years. I'm still called to lead worship and obeying the call. Age and appearance shouldn't be primary in our qualifications for leadership. I know worship leaders with medical issues that affect their weight, stress issues, family problems, addictions, etc. It makes me wonder what the "pretty" people struggle with if not their weight? Perhaps we really are sinners and all struggle with something? Imagine that! (sarcasim) The Bible reminds us that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. Is 53:2 reminds us that Jesus had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Why should the church follow the world's litmus test when the Bible seems to point in the opposite direction of the heart? Just my $0.02

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Excellent question. I have enjoyed my most recent church because the music...worship...leadership rotates through various groups over a 6-week cycle. It means that the too-loud group is spelled by the slightly-historical individual, etc. It does allow for the inclusion of more participants without locking into a single style.

I have been impressed with Robin Mark as a leader when he has been in my area. His music has considerable content and variety and he doesn't look very young...actually when he is really singing hard he looks like Mr. Magoo of the comic strip...yet his heart for God shows through.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTom Schultz

When I was a new pastor I learned this while visiting the Church on the Way in Van Nuys for a couple of services:

stage EVERYBODY.

They had people of various ethnicities, shapes, sizes and ages.

That, to me, was beautiful and attractive.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Moore

... or age.
IMHO, the 'Passion' movement has cleverly been driving out qualified, experience, called servants of all shapes and sizes... and ages. Actions speak louder than words, and these actions, (innocent as they may be), are disappointing. I wish they'd quit trying so hard to be 'authentic' and just get real.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathyrn Ann

I was ready to post, but read Keith's reply and he said it all. The kingdom of God is not about outward appearance, but the heart. But tension can lie with the "need to be relevant" for the seeker. Despite this, we must grasp tightly the vital priority of growing toward the heart of Christ, as humble servant, who lifts and empowers others rather than self, and who lives and leads for the work and glory of God alone. BTW, I don't see David Crowder as one of those beautiful people. His content and character are what have brought him to the forefront. I just wonder how many called and gifted people are overlooked in the pursuit of relevance or even "success."

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRuth King Goddard

What about Susan Boyle? She stole the heart of a nation with the beauty of her life, song, and message. Don't worry about God he will bring glory to himself no matter what.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe MacDonald

I believe that there is an unhealthy fixation on outward attractiveness, which I believe is just a further manifestation of our general narcissism. To me this is especially sad when considerably less focus in placed in wholeness, Jesus-connectedness, and faith maturity. This suggests to me that worship is not our first priority when it comes to worship leading. This is profoundly sad.

I think there are many complexities and nuances embedded within this topic that require more lengthily discussion. For example - Can a worship leaders appearance be an indicator of an issue that needs healing / maturing / repentance? Can a worship leaders appearance be a distraction to worship (of Jesus)? And so on. All that to say, I don't believe that a worship leader's appearance is unimportant. But that issue needs to have its proper place and perspective, which I do believe is lacking today.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

I actually managed to convince one of the pastors I've worked with, to have the band lead worship behind the congregation. My argument was that no one in the band were performing, but rather playing music. Since the lyrics were already projected on a screen, people were more focused on the words and not the band or myself. It really worked well, until the pastor did a 180 and went in a hyper-conservative direction.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBlair frodelius

Love this discussion. I have been concerned with this subject for the last couple years. We have young ladies in our worship band that do not know what appropriate clothing is - strapless tops; shorts; short skirts - things I don't even consider proper anywhere let alone for worship leading. I voiced an opinion and was told that it was not my place.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

The problem seems to me to be one of perspective. Though well intentioned one can see music as a performance more than an interaction with Jesus Christ. I.e. if the performance is good we have enjoyed the service and reach that subjective state that feels like we have met the Lord Jesus. When the music is concert quality this passes well enough, regardless; but when the music is a garage band quality, at best, one hears what they know in their head, maybe. How many would say with me that most oldies are better in their head than on an actual recording? The fundamental Christ in worship issue is much deeper. Worship is where culture meets God and the truest worship is a folk medium. Not necessarily folk in a classic sense as much as where any culture's music interacts with the revelation of Jesus Christ and expresses it in a community environment. Musicians are musicians, they can no more stop making music than they can stop breathing. One of the problems of modern culture is the idolatry we readily accept when a musician is really good at their art. What has become of the ability to take a song that we like and make it our own changing the chords, key, instruments, vocals, rhythms, dynamics, lyrics, etc. because that is when it speaks to us?. Who said worship has to be homogenized and pasteurized? How this relates to how one looks on stage? Jesus is our vision of worship not some schlub on stage and we need to gently express, to those who misunderstand, that our need is for Christ in every circumstance, especially in worship.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Mahay

At St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church,( www.stbs.net ) the music is led from a elevated choir loft in the back. It requires leading from audio only, (not visual) with the use of a service bulletin, but eliminates the issue of the "look" of the worship leader. In addition, the music is led by a group of voice on mic (4-5) and instruments, rather than a single voice, further removing the issue of "worship leader personality worship." Even though we are in Nashville, it is not a church were one on mic might be "noticed" in effort to get a record deal, as it is sight unseen. The congregation faces forward, not noticing who is leading but focused on the cross.

It does take extra care in musical arrangements to let the congregation know entrances, repeats, etc., but over time we have learned how to taylor our arrangements to signal where the song is headed without visual or verbal cues and it works very well each week. I, for one, would find it hard to go back to leading music from the front, as I did in two previous churches prior to St. Bartholomew's.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Wyse

Kim--great points and this topic has been one I've noticed for quite some time, especially for those of us who are aging worship leaders. We don't have the "look" necessary for the more modern church it seems although our skill set may be broader and more defined than the present niche leadership. While I use Average Joe to lead on our praise teams (they also sing in the choir) I must admit that as I've crossed over the half century mark in age, I recognize that my height and weight (I'm undertall!), probably positions me less favorably with potential employers, partly due to the American Idol effect. The "look" is definitely a cultural thing and many of our younger worship leaders are simply emulating what they see from the worship artists. It's a difficult thing but I'm not sure that it's just the worship leadership that falls prey to this--pastors and other leadership searching for worship pastors also are very sensitive to appearance on the platform.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRandall Hall

I think my stand about the image that a worship leader should have (physically) is this, anything that you wear,may look like, say or do on stage that may refocus the attention of the congregation to YOU rather than to God, who is the true subject of our corporate worship, whether it be our make-up or the lack of it, our gestures and expressions, our clothing and hairstyle, our weight and everything else we can control in our physical appearance is dangerously bordering "inappropriate" or "distracting." Anything else that we can NOT control, the feelings and views of the people we lead, their spiritual understanding and maturity, their value transformation is their own accountability to God. The question for us leaders is this, what is it that we fear - the view of God or the view of the congregation towards us? Do we fear of not attracting people to come to our church or loosing the ones we have to the other "better" church? Remember that in Acts, when the church was just starting, people just did what pleased God, and it was God who added to the church daily. Our own fear is something we can control. It is also something that can control us to act and behave in certain ways if we let it.
This issue of image and appearance is not just an issue that worship leaders should address in their church. I believe that if the entire church leadership - the ones on stage and the ones off stage - addresses this among themselves of what is important and what is the ultimate goal of worship, this will flow through them by influence to the congregation they lead. Besides, there are more of us (including myself) who wants to belong to a group who love me for what I am and not accept me for just what I look like. My God is like that. And this is one of the messages I want my congregation to feel and understand when I lead worship.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTriciaInAsia

This thread reminds me of the Petra song, "don't wanna be a man pleaser, I wanna be a God pleaser!" I have too often seen and been a part of pleasing man both on and off stage. As I grow in years I see the need to be who God created me to be, to seek Him and His agenda for my life rather than try and emulate someone else's. We can be quick to judge another's motives but ultimately it is God who searches hearts and promotes the humble as He did with David. It is my honest opinion that if one truly is putting God first in their life they BECOME attractive. Not in the Hollywood sense, but people are just drawn to the joy and light of what God is doing in their life. When the Holy Spirit is directing your life you are free to be the TRUE you, not what someone thinks you should look or act like. So WHO CARES what so and so is doing or what they look like? Do what God has called YOU and your church to do and that's when we will see the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth where 'neither moth or rust destroy' and where we stop bickering amongst ourselves and get to doing what the King has called his bride to do...make disciples! Not idols!

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNeo

Kim, I have written many letters on this exact same issue. However, I am an unknown nobody, so few people read, or care about my opinions. Often, i am accused of just being bitter, envious, or judgmental.

But you have a bigger audience, and Im glad you wrote about it. This is painfully true in my life experience. Although I have always taken care of my body and been in good shape, I have a face that is NOT considered attractive or handsome. Add to that, my hair was wispy, shapeless, and thinning by my early 20s. So when I made the move to the Christian musician mecca of Nashville in the mid 90s, I was not exactly welcomes with open arms.

I remember being in a home fellowship group where a guy was praying for a bass player for his band. I happen to be a seriously gifted and experienced bassist who can sing as well. But when I approached him afterwards, he just kind of looked at me in a disapproving manner and gave me the 'Nashville Brushoff' by saying, "oh, I'll pray about it." Sha right! He wasnt interested simply because I didnt have the right look.

I cant even begin to count how many churches that were seeking worship leaders overlooked me, in favour of much younger, less experienced candidates.

Look at the covers of most Christian music CDs. Almost everyone is attractive. Consider Darlene Zsceck, the most beloved, biggest worship hitmaker of the 90s. Not that she isnt truly gifted and talented. She is! However, would she had been so immensely loved and popular if she so darned cute and adorable looking? If she sounded the same, but looked like Susan Boyles? (the frumpy lady who became famous by shocking Simon Cowell and the other judges on Britain's got Talent) I guarantee, if 'Shout to the Lord' had been written and performed by someone who looked like Susan Boyles, the world probably never would have heard it.

Michael W Smith is another great talent, on keyboards and as a songwriter. His singing voice is up for question...but he was so darned cute, who could not just love him? He was once even included in People Magazines 'MOst Beautiful People' issue. However, if he had the same talent, but looked like me, I doubt we would have ever heard of him.

Like I said, I am a truly gifted and seasoned bassist. Evidenced by my many full time paid positions playing bass on cruise ships and in casinos. But I just didnt look good enough for the Christian bands around Nashville in the mid 90s, nor any churches seeking worship leaders.

The most obvious and painful dis of all was in 2004. I was faithfully volunteering my bass gifts on the praise team for the Monday Night Singles Service at Christ Fellowship Church in Florida. The worship leader and guitar player were and are the main guys in CCM hitmakers Tenth Avenue North. They hadnt made it big yet, but they were touring and getting known. At the time, they were planning to replace their bassist.

Everyone told me I should be their bassist. However, the band just ignored me, never aknowledged me as a possible candidate, despite my obvious abilities on bass. No one had the courtesy to even talk to me about this. They just pretended I wasnt there, even as I played with them every MOnday night. They eventually hired the sound guy to play bass, even though he had never played bass before. But he was younger and cuter.

My life serves as solid evidence as to how much churches and Christian bands value and emphasize youth and attractiveness, even though they will never openly admit or affirm it as true. One would think that the world would place more value on appearance than the church, but its been the world that has hired and employed me using my professional level musical gitfs, while the church and Christian bands have blatantly overlooked and rejected me. Its been very painful to be left out of the world where my gifts were most shaped for.

After all, God gifted me. Not men. I never had a lesson in my life. Nor any encouragement, no family musical legacy, nothing. I just picked up a guitar one day for the first time at 19, and I was able to feel around and pick out melodies I had heard by ear. Soon, I was playing better than my friends who all had been given lessons, and encouraged in music. It came so naturally and effortless to me. Obviously, it had to be a gift from God. Yet, Gods people have pushed me aside, as I dont LOOK like a worship leader, or a CCM celebrity.

So, while my heart is so inclined towardd praise and worship, I am left to earn a living playing in pop cover bands, entertaining the world, with the gift God gave me for worship. Sad, but I now accept it.

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKurt Kelley

Kim, You are correct, of course, that attractiveness (or, at least, trying to look like the latest, hottest "worship performance artist" out there) is of paramount importance in many settings. I noticed this about 15 years ago, and, even then, wondered how seemingly spiritually sensitive people could be so led astray by such trivial worldly pursuits.
Things have not improved since then, but, in my local church, where I am the music director (not the P&W leader), we still depend on the old reliable. One of my favorite sayings is, "That's why God made choir robes!" Yes, we do very contemporary music (mixed with some black gospel and some Southern gospel), we raise our hands, we clap, and generally participate actively in worship, but wearing choir robes through it all has solved many problems.

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEddy Wilson

Thanks, Kim for a well-written, thought-provoking article. As I was reading, I thought about another related topic: aging. I need my childrens' (all twenty-somethings) passion, freedom from the excess religious baggage that I've sometimes been weighted down with, faith and love for Jesus. They need the wisdom that I have gleaned from almost 30 years in full time music and worship ministry.
We westerners have a tendency to glorify youth and ignore people of age. I trust that we will all remember that we need each other, the generations can learn from, respect and value each other as well.
My two cents!
Godrest and Godspeed,
David Baroni

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Baroni

Don't you realize you're playing old peoples music? Don't you realize that young people have different tastes and a different cultural background? Don't you realize that their musical tastes are their own and not yours? I noted with a friend recently how gracefully Darlene Zcheck relinquished her ministry to others and to the next generation. That is as it should be. How many of you grew up with a changing music ministry. Do you remember how Frank Sinatra was history and crooners were out of style? Do you remember how Elvis Presley became out of date and yes how even the Beatles became passe? Do you think that music just stops to wait for you? My children refer to passion like music as "old folks music". When are you going to wake up? Some people let their young find and produce their own music identity in Jesus. We need to get over ourselves and let our children worship Christ in a real and vibrant way.

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Mahay

Keith,

I wonder if you read the article at all. It has nothing to do with music. It has to do with whether we will only appoint Christian leaders in the church who are "pretty people", or whether we will let their gifts and character make room for them as leaders. Seriously. If you read anything about music style, then you missed the point (unless perhaps you are speaking about a comment posted by someone else). The point of the article is clear, and it has nothing to do with music style, a new liturgy or mentoring the next generation, or releasing them. In fact, if I spoke on those things, you would read a lot about handing off the reigns, empowering young people, risking with people like other risked with you. I am all for that, and continue to be. But this has literally nothing to do with that.

Honestly, you sound like you are jumping in to a discussion throwing insults around when you have no idea what is being talked about. Again, tell me what part of the article you saw anything about style or music or genre-- you won't find it. It is about "image". If you are responding to another comment left by a reader, perhaps you should point out who/what you are responding to. If you are responding specifically to something said in the article, I'd encourage you to quote it. As it is, your comment is so vehement I can only imagine that you are off topic because you didn't actually read the article at all.

January 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

I often wonder if we have lost our way in some respect. The Bible speaks words in Romans like “do not considering ourselves more than we ought”, in Phillipians “consider others as being better than ourselves.” These are the thoughts that permeate the Bible. Today, we have found a way to consider ourselves the example to follow promoting an effort to make ourselves look good to the public eye. Even Paul speaks the words that “one will say, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” from 1st Corinthians 3. Paul himself always pointed the way to boast about Christ crucified. Remember, Jesus was not someone whose appearance was attractive. All of us need to prayerfully consider how God revealed Himself throughout the Bible. The people He raised up where typically not those we would expect or admire, David a shepherd boy, Joseph the last of 12 sons in a world of 1st born rights, Paul the assassin of Christians, becomes a guide to the heart of Jesus, or even Christ himself a carpenter’s son who came as a servant. Doesn’t the Word also say that God will choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise? I would hope that we could move to judging the heart (or fruits) as God does.

If we decide not to consider the outside appearance then how do we deal with issues like abilities or setting a good example? Honesty remains the best policy. Those whose abilities are lacking are really lacking training. So train them. Pray that God would open up a place for them if that is His will. People who deal with weight issues should not be excluded due to their weight, but should be embraced and loved into a healthy life style. Do whatever you can to let them know that God loves them as much as he loves any of us. When the people of God stop caring about the people we are here to serve, then what is the point of being a Christian at all?

January 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTim Dove

Besides Revelation, there may be only one description of Jesus in the Bible: Isaiah 53:2 "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." Basically, by this description, Jesus was at best average in appearance. "Nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him." Almost could be taken that Jesus was not attractive at all; I'm not saying ugly, just not attractive in any way. Except other than the fact He is the Son of God on earth, our savior, and spoke truth in his words.

Here is the thing. Churches are failing now because they do not focus on scripture. Flash, music, shows, drum cages and guitar riffs are great fun, but do nothing to further the kingdom of God. Do they add to worship, for some yes, does a good voice singing praises to God add to worship, for some yes. But, in the end, it is the Gospel that will build a strong church. If your preacher is unable to attract a crowd by just speaking the word, then maybe he is not inspired by God. It's tough to hear, but where God is, great things will happen; where he is not present the church body will die.

If you rely on an attractive worship leader or an attractive preacher/pastor rather than one that has truly been called by God, then you are in a dead or dying body. God did not rely on a beautiful Son to spread the word... neither should we. If the worship leader is filled with the spirit and a disciple of Jesus Christ, appearance won't matter. People will experience God and be shown the spirit because of the person’s possession of the Holy Spirit. The Glory of God can not be contained. However, satan will use our nature to corrupt the body. Satan would rather that we have an attractive worship leader than one filled with the Spirit. So, if you are hiring a worship leader, seek first to understand the individual’s character, relationship with God, and calling before hiring, and then look at skill. Appearance should never be taken into account.

January 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill Burns

Sometimes i wonder if we swing in the opposite direction with worship leaders/teams and their appearance, as in a default position of mistrust if they ARE young and/or attractive. I have been a worship leader first as a solo guitarist for a small youth group in my teens and now as one of the bassists on rotation at my current church. i am 25, and the majority of our teams (we have three teams on rotation) range between 24 and 42. We have a couple of guys in their 50s, and a couple of teens as well. As a group, i would say that most would consider us to be part of the "hip" or "attractive" group. That is not, however, the criteria that went into choosing the band. We simply represent all of the musicians in our church who want to serve in leading worship. Most of us are trained (I earned a bachelor's degree in music) and want to use our gifts to serve. For me personally, the way i connect to God is through musical worship, and in the periods of my life when I am not serving on a worship team, I am singing in my car or in the kitchen.

I understand that it is important to address appropriate dress, attitude of the heart, etc, especially for those who lead from prominent positions. However, it is important not to over-generalize. I don't want to be categorized as a filler or substandard worship leader/member simply because I am young, female, wear knee high boots (I live in Nor Cal, rain central!), etc. In the same token, our older team members should not be judged or accused of trying to look hip if what they wear on Sunday is the same thing they wear every other day of the week. Perhaps there is a greater move to look young or cool or dress like a hipster, but is it truly outside pressure, or is it an internal perception of how being or staying relevant looks?

January 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina

Reading through these is interesting. Playing old people's music? (perhaps this is meant to be sarcastic?) What about the older people? So many churches have moved exclusively to choruses to be more attractive to the "entertainment" generation, treating the older folks in the congregation like fodder, leftovers. Yet many of those older folks have more spirituality in their pinkies than I do in my life. Many of those old hymns have deep meaning that is now being set aside for "I love Jesus" choruses. Don't get me wrong I like choruses.

I enjoy the new and the old, and I am a dying breed it sometimes seems. We've worked in churches that wanted to move toward the new and dealt with the conflict over the old. But the truth is that youth wins out over experience, and appearance wins out over spirituality. In some cases someone who is professional, but may not lead the exemplary life may be chosen over someone who is not professional just because people are impressed with the name of the professional. As I age, I realize that there will be less and less opportunity for me to do what I love the most, which is help lead and shape worship, using my talents to praise God and lead others to praise God.

Then there is the performance issue. The reality is that poor performance can be a distraction to worship. I teach kids to sing in public school and I always want their focus not to be on "me" and "how great I am" but on the transmission of the message, and to get that transmission to be its best, there must be quality; not particularly beauty in the performer's appearance, but quality in the performance. And lets not kid ourselves... there is an aspect of appearance. How those kids take the stage, how they treat their audience, how they represent themselves in their, those are issues, and they are the ugly issues for our worship services that must be hashed out. Is it fair that someone with huge talent is pushed aside because they don't "look" good enough or young enough or thin enough? I hate makeup, but when I am performing or when I am leading in worship, I will wear it because presentation is an aspect of leadership as well as performance. Yes, worship of our Messiah should be our absolute focus, but there are issues that will impact that worship and its effectiveness. Wouldn't it be great if people were blind to appearance and only focused on God. When we can't lead a single worship service without someone complaining about the music (too many choruses, not enough choruses) I don't really think our people have gotten to the place where they are focused only on God. Right now I'm not in a position to lead worship for a variety of reasons, but I continue to use my talents outside the church wherever I am able to impact my community.

But let me throw this into the conversation. When I was a child, I had opportunities to expand my gifts within the church. I was asked to play and encouraged even if the "performance" wasn't perfect. I was asked to sing. Then, since we perhaps had a "song" leader and maybe a pianist, the congregation sang in harmony, and the education was rich! Now with our professionalism and our "focus" on worship, there aren't often solos or opportunities for our youth and children to play or sing. Our worship leaders sing all the solos and the band is often so loud the congregation just sings melody along with the leaders. I've been in many churches where I can't hear myself sing because of the loudness of the music. Most churches have eliminated choirs, leaving those with budding talent no place to explore that talent or to grow it, and also, might I add, losing out on a rich and varied form of music that can enhance worship. Even some worship bands don't know how to sing harmony or read music other than chords. In our pursuit of the popular, we are leaving behind rich traditions, and leaving behind opportunities to get the congregation involved in more active ways in our worship services.

The modern church has not been just about worship for over a century. The modern church has also been grounded in opportunities to learn and educate, first in "Sunday School" where men, women and children found the opportunity to learn to read and write. Historically the church has also been a place providing music education and Bible study. We are losing parts of our rich heritage without even realizing what we have lost.

The fat lady needs to sing, so does the bald man and even the old lady with the warble and the heart of gold, they have richness of experience to share with us. The old people need and deserve to hear their beloved songs, and the youth need to learn that the world isn't all about them and their entertainment needs. The young need to be invited into worship and the older people need to understand their need for music that speaks to them. Most of all, the church ecumenical needs to learn that judgment breeds judgment and the love of Messiah brings forgiveness and acceptance. How we get there, that is the challenge.

January 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdglana

Well, if you're a Material Girl in a Charles Finney world, then you have a shelf-life of a few years, and you'd better be good looking and relevant (whatever that means) because you're part of the theological sales team that needs your good looks and chops to help that poor sinner choose Jesus. I mean, if you have altar calls, you've got to look good for the folks getting close to the stage. ;-) Don't even bring up television/web broadcast, you are doomed. Church folks want rock stars and the church has plenty of them. - the only hope out of that mess is to achieve the place while performing (it's really what you're doing) of actually WORSHIPING Christ while you lead and ignore whatever fashion torpedoes come your way. Good blog Kim.

February 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Interesting article Kim. Its good to think about and discuss even if we don't really find
any easy answers. I think that when a person or personality becomes a distraction,
and takes attention away from worship and onto themselves, then it has become a
problem. However, what may be a distraction for a visitor may be something that
the congregation has gotten used to and embraced. We need to be attentive and
keep a close watch on our motives, individually and collectively.

February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiana J.

Thanks for a thought-provoking article. I've served as a Worship Pastor at two churches, coming out of a career in opera and music theatre. I am truly grateful for the experience I've had in both of these churches. Calling, passion for Christ, passion for the people, character and integrity were the criteria by which my suitability was evaluated. Of course, musical "chops" were a given, you can't have a Worship Pastor who doesn't have the musical "chops", can you? In both churches the congregations have been more concerned with honouring God and truly worshipping Him than with a "show". They are more interested in what the Spirit is doing when we worship than how cool the band is. Our worship is contemporary but more because it is an expression of the Church in the 21st century than anything else. The Worship Artists you mention in the article have the renown they do because of their desire to glorify Christ, not because they have sought to be cool.

I certainly have no problem with people being fit and looking their best, go for it! I think we achieve our greatest "success' when we are true to who God has created us to be, when we put on humility, integrity and character and when we seek to glorify Christ in our worship and in our lives. We'd do far better to emulate these qualities than worry about whether or not our bands sound like the latest studio release.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Timney

A basic dictionary definition of worship is ". . . reverence and respect paid to a divine being"

FOCUS determines the difference between worship and performance.

For a believer/follower of Jesus, true worship focuses on the only object worthy of deep reverence and respect - GOD - the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit - are One. True worship lifts the worshipper into God's Presence, where all else is forgotten but God, and the desire to know, see, hear, and be transformed by God, more and more. Worship is a matter of the heart - wishing to love, honor, please, and gratefully thank and magnify God more and more. Anything less, is not worship.

Performance focuses on who is on stage performing. Performance is NOT worship, except perhaps for worship of performers on stage - like in a secular environment when fans worship their favorite star, band, or group. They worship what they see and hear on stage. Their focus is on stage.

For the musician/worshipper - if their focus is on pleasing and magnifying God, they are worshipping. If their focus is on impressing the congregation "audience" and pastoral team, they are performing. A performer is not a worshipper and a true worshipper is not a performer. King David's focus was only on God. He didn't care about anything else but magnifying and thanking God with all his being. David was a true worshipper.

Just call it like it is - if it's performance, call it performance with all the attractive bells and whistles - do not call it worship. But if the focus is only on God, that lifts worshippers into the very presence of God, the Almighty One - let it be called true worship in spirit and in truth.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterA

Got to have performance. Otherwise, 1. You won't be understood, 2. You'll be annoying.
Actually, nail the performance aspect of leading a congregation and not worry about the subtext of whatever anxieties are going through your head and you can worship while you lead.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Let me throw a question out to everyone.

What if you have a spirit-led, God-honoring worship leader who puts himself into the music and sings the words like a direct prayer to God; but the congregation doesn't respond in kind? Half of them just stand there with their mouths closed, and the few that do sing do so out of obligation. Is this is sign that the worship leader is not worshiping God if they don't want to be led?

I'd love to hear your comments.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterblair frodelius

@Carl- Performance will never equal worship. It can't. It's like grace and works. You can try to 'do good' your way to heaven and still not make it. Only the grace of God in Jesus will take you all the way. You can try to 'perform' your way to worship but it will never happen. Performance isn't the power switch that opens the doors to the throne room. God isn't impressed with phosphorus explosions, moving lights, lasers and the like, they appeal to our flesh in their entirety. They are an attractor at best. God hears those that worship Him in spirit and in truth and, hmmm how did Paul say it 'have no confidence in flesh'. Banking on performance is having confidence in the flesh. It's never gonna quite measure up. In the long run, if we put performance 1st, we will annoy God and there will be an empty feeling in the congregation, and they will wonder why the worship seems empty. If you appeal to the flesh, the flesh will understand, if you appeal to the Spirit, the spirit will understand. They don't need a 'good show' they need the power of the Sprit. A good performance will never lift the bondage of a drug addiction. An encounter with God's spirit will.

That said, you don't want to throw out slop for folks. Offering our best, our first fruits. Do your best, let God get the rest.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

@blair,

Well, most of the time worship leaders have expectations of what a worship service should be. We want jumping, dancing, clapping, praising, shouting and we measure the success of the service on whether or not those things occur. We do err assuming that those with closed mouths are unable to worship or that it's by obligation that they sing. Many of the folk that are in worship services have never been taught how to do advanced worship. They haven't been taught the power of the shout or what the surrender of the lifted arms does for the spirit. It might just be ignorance. We err if we depend on our expectations as indicators of how others should enter in. There is power learning the word regarding worship and it's affect on strong holds and the worshippers responsibility to pulling down those strong holds during worship. Our worship wages war on the strong hold in our own lives. It may just be that they lack the tools. It maybe that they need to repent and be saved. There could be a lot of reasons. It maybe that there is a lot of pride in the worship leader that's interfering with the flow. Unsaved people don't know how to worship, new borns are much more likely to freely enter in. It may be that they congregation has the weight of life on them and can barely get their mouths and bodies to move to lift off the weight. It could be bad teaching from the pulpit that places the rule of the law on them as opposed to being free by the grace of God. Bro .. it could be a lot of things.. PRAY and ask God to bring them out of their shell. Pray and ask God to reveal what it is. Start small and teaching them the powerful components of worship.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

@George,

I don't think we have the same understanding of "performance". Performance is technique, is consideration of culture, and is being understood and imparting "something" to your audience. Whether you impart insecurity or adoration for Christ and his finished work is up to the performer. Performance is like money. It's not an idol until it's made into one. -I also disagree theologically that there is some threshold of sincerity God is waiting for us to reach in order to "throw open the throne room doors".

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

@Carl: Well, theologically, the veil has been rent from top to bottom. We can come boldly to the throne of Grace to obtain mercy and grace in time of need. So the time of need is available when ever. During genuine worship, there is a moment when we let go. The moment when we no longer care what other people think and you 'enter in' to that place where it's just us and the infinite God that can spend all his time with us. That's what I mean by throwing the doors open. My point is no amount of personal self-effort by a worship team is going to generate that moment. I understand that there are methods that facilitate an environment of worship. This would be your reference to technique. Uncontrolled amp and mic feed back, big squeals from the sound system, scratchy amp chords, bad equipment are all detractors, a lack of proficiency to accomplish the song without missing tempo, time and chord structures fall into this as well.

Given the breadth of input in this blog, there are worship leaders from all aspects of musical preference variation. None of us want to hear badly performed music in our respective services. If we had a choice, we want it to sound great. This particular article is focusing more on whether or not we've allowed Hollywood and the music industry to define what is appropriate in our services and that includes the presentation. We've let our godly and ungodly heroes dictate what our worship experience should look and feel like. Ugly or Normal looking vs pretty and industry mold fitting just right for our presentation looking people. It's entirely a heart thing and sad to say, our churches have fallen for the lie of the 'perfect presentation / performance'. Love is not something we perform, it's a relationship. Worship is not a performance, it's the response to that love relationship. I know that we're hitting semantics here and we're flipping the same coin. So I will always choose doing my best to create an environment where those moments can occur. We can force them because Christians can be obedient little followers when they are told that 'This is what God wants you to do', but in the end, that is vain and self serving. A room full of jumping dancing people is a party, but if we force it, it's just a party. If we choose to lead them in instead, we offer that opportunity for people to enter in, to have those moments that are personal and life changing. Getting them to this place is our ONLY job as worship leaders. After that, it's up to God.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

@George, I think I'm tracking better with ya now. I'm definitely biased towards music and worship being responsive. I've never had a life changing moment during a music set, but rather during the preaching of the word.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

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