I just titled this with guitars, but we can actually throw in drums, piano, bass guitar or any other instrument because they all fall into the same category. Plus, I don’t want to pick on the guitarists here. We all know their feelings are the most sensitive…oops.
I’m going to be honest with you, readers. Lately I have been struggling a lot with the idea of the modern church. I find myself questioning our practices, our motives, the very things that became the basis for our entire ministry. My thoughts seem to be consistent with my feelings towards boys in middle school; one day I’m in love, the next day I’m disgusted and ready to quit.
So today I find myself in the in-between. We’ve been in this relationship long enough that I know the other very well and I enjoy spending time with them…but I’m starting to consider their values and morals. Is he genuinely nice or just opening the door because he’s trying to impress me? Does this church truly care, or are they trying to make themselves look that way with flashy videos and promos?
Ya see? I like you, church. I really do! ….but before we take it to the next level I’d like to find out who you really are.
Sunday morning scenario: After a quick kick-in by the drums, the beginning of your favorite upbeat worship song has started. You’ve played through both verses and choruses and are headed full-steam ahead into the bridge. The vocals step away from their mics and the lead guitar kicks on his lead pedal. His fingers wail across the neck, up and down the frets a blur as he races through the notes. His solo inspires the angels to worship. Everyone turns their heads upwards, humbling themselves before Christ. The congregation stands in awe of their Father, they cast their cares upon him an unabashedly participate in pure worship. They barely notice the music in the background. It is simply a support for the intimate experience with Christ. Some fall to their knees. This melody has the congregation focused on God, and God alone. The bridge nears the end, the drums start their crescendo and the vocals step back into place to begin the last full-energy chorus. God is glorified.
This happens every time there is a guitar solo at church, right?
I seem to remember more focus on the guitar player than God during most solos I have witnessed. The first two verses are awesome – people have their hands up by the chorus and the congregation starts to relax with their praises. After the second chorus, the guitar player kicks up his lead pedal. The rest of the band members turn their head to the guitarist with a grin on their faces, he shreds away as the congregation claps. Towards the end of his solo, applause erupts through the audience – even a few shouts of his name “woo! Yeah *enter band member’s name here*!!”
This doesn’t seem right to me.
So how do we make this guitar solo fit into the environment of worship we desperately desire to create?
I’ll tell you another secret. I love the praise band at my church (but maybe I’m a little biased??). I thoroughly enjoy worshipping with the great people in the band. They facilitate my praises to God and I am so thankful for that. Recently I’ve been more of a participant in worship, not a leader, like most of my past. (which is an entirely different post..) Now I am more often I’m in the audience than up on stage (for the first time since I was about 14…) Anyway, this past Sunday they were rocking out (as usual. Suuppperr sweet). I was getting into a song, loving it, and praising God. I was in my happy place. I waited all week to be there. My heart was bowed before God and it was a precious moment of surrender. All of a sudden the song breaks and here comes a solo highlighting one instrument. My eyes were no longer closed and focused on God…they were forced to be opened and stare at the person playing.
Is that okay?
PB can do it. Lincoln Brewster too. What makes it different?
No doubt that instrumental worship IS biblical worship. I don’t disagree with that at all. I also agree when people say they play their guitar solos to God – I think that’s entirely possible. What I’m trying to figure is when is it appropriate for these solos?
I think the answer to this question depends on each church. As worship leaders we must know our congregation. If the congregation uses instrumental breaks as an opportunity to connect one-on-one with Christ, then go for it. But if your congregation changes their focus to the individual playing the solo – that’s not good. A big red flag is clapping at the end of the solo…
How dare we steal away a moment of praise that was supposed to go to God. I mean really, who do we think we are?
Besides, we aren’t there for ourselves. We aren’t there because it’s fun to play music or because we really love shredding apart that solo. We’re there because God has given us a responsibility. A responsibility to lead others in worship. How amazing is that? To be able to say that the God of the universe has called you out to lead others in praising Him? Very cool. To do anything that distracts from that agenda seems irresponsible to me.
I’m not opposed to fast-paced songs at the beginning or end of the service to get the energy level up – this isn’t what I’m talking about. By the time the second song is over – I would argue that there should be no more solos until the end of the service. We should not impose on the intimacy between the worshiper and Christ during that time. The band knows when this moment is. If they are attentive to their congregation they just know. If you’re reading this and have never led worship, then it may be hard to understand that. But there’s a moment when people are zoned in and focused on God. That, my friends, is the fragile state we must be careful with. That is when I would discourage solos.
Does the congregation focus on you, or Christ during your solo?
It’s a matter of the heart. Can a solo be played and worship God? Yes. Can a solo be played and distract people from God? I think Yes too. If you’re humble and actually see them as an offering to Christ and the congregation does too then go for it. But if the focus is taken away from Christ…run away.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you are playing that solo for Christ….but let’s be honest. Is that really the case? For some it probably is, for most it probably isn’t.
Furthermore, playing in a concert and a church service are completely different in my opinion. If I go to a Lincoln Brewster concert I expect to hear him go crazy on his guitar and have fun. Those are gifts God has given him. But if I go to any church on Sunday morning ready to connect with God, and the guitar player is wailing away on a long bridge….maybe I’m selfish but that doesn’t seem right to me. I’m there to worship. Not to listen to how fast you can move your fingers.
It’s not about us. It’s about God. It’s about the congregation we are there to serve. Point blank – if we do anything while we are on stage that distracts people from God, then I don’t think that’s right. Worship Leaders, I urge you not to lose sight of that.
Idk. My opinion on this continues to progress every day. And now I’m rambling.
To any of my lead guitar playing friends… I still love you. :)
What do you think??