Why Your Worship Is Just Horrible (or What I Learned From Of Monsters and Men)

This past Saturday night I went with my oldest daughter to see an up and coming indie music group, Of Monsters and Men.

As soon as we sat down I was struck by two things. First, I was easily the oldest person in the room. And second, I was pretty sure I was the only dad to ever introduce the group to his daughter. It’s usually the other way around.

I’ve always loved the freshness that leaks out of indie groups before they get “discovered.” There’s always a peculiar originality that comes when you combine hunger and talent, one that rarely can be sustained once music executives start dangling contracts and business plans in front of artists.

Of Monsters and Men hails from Iceland, and quickly became a local favorite in the Philadelphia music scene after someone from 104.5, a local rock station, discovered their music a few years back. Like U2 back in the early 80’s, Philly truly gave Of Monsters and Men their big break, and it was a pleasure to see them before they become a household name.

A number of things impressed me about the experience, but what will forever stick out in my mind was my reaction to the band’s rendition of their song “Yellow Light” to close the concert.

I was totally caught off guard.

It’s hard for me to put into words what happened.

All I can say is that as the song built in momentum, and as the drums and guitars and crowd and lights crashed together like a street symphony, I experienced the grandest, most rapturous moment of transcendence I’ve experienced in a long, long time.

I worshipped like I never have before.

In a bar.

With people drunk all around me.

To a song wriiten and performed by a group of non-believers.

Who weren’t talking about God at all.

I worshipped, truly worshipped, like no other time in recent memory.

I don’t know exactly why or how this happened, but I have my guess: they believed what they were playing.

Which almost never happens in a worship service.

Like ever.

Seriously.

Don’t believe me? Contrast how people in the Bible reacted when they encountered the divine (ex. falling dead from fear, repentance, etc.) to the average insipid “worship time” that is proffered in the typical church.

It’s obvious the people up there don’t believe what they’re singing any more than the people in the seats do.

And that, my friend, is why the typical church worship service is simply horrible.

While we may have had different objects of our worship on Saturday, it was a privilege to be in the room, if only for a brief moment, with people who believed what they were singing.

I needed to feel that again to remind myself that it is still possible.

Your thoughts?

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • Tim Donovan

    Brian,

    Vey well said.  Recently while listening to the radio, the question was posed; wouldn’t everyone want Christ to come back today/tomorrow… right now?    I thought, well of course.  But then I thought, how many would merely want Christ to come back just to prove their faith was correct… but that their hearts were empty?

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Yep. That would probably be my motivation unfortunately.

  • Dave Miller

    B – i have had this experience many times.  i have challenged many worship leaders to go see a great band in a great bar.  i have told many that john mayer, cheezy taylor swift, others (just pick your style I actually don’t care) are the best worship leaders of our day.  go watch them work an arena, then watch them on palladia work a room of 100 in an unplugged venue setting.  it’s about craft, understanding this stuff, but mainly (as you say above) the fact they actually believe.

    i used to think back in the day that my church band had to be the best in town (and hey, i was in vegas!) and this was not easy.  now i’m just coaching leaders that the music has to ‘work’ and i define it exactly as you say “do you believe what you are saying?”  if you do, and if it’s just half good – i bet most of us will bop our heads and we’ll connect.  (it happened just yesterday for me).

    if you’re still reading…my first experience and ‘ah-ha’ of this was a Prince (dating me i know) show in grand rapids more than a decade ago.  after doing the first set, the house lights came on in the arena of about 9,000.  people began to file out to get their beer, etc.  10 minutes later an acoustic guitar begins and we look down to the stage now illuminated by fluorescent lighting and there’s prince, on a stool, singing. no lighting, no video, just the work lights and prince.  people flock back to their seats and he proceeds to play for another 20 minutes going from one hit to the next with just his guitar and basically ‘leading us’ in song together.  9,000 voices lifted singing versions of his songs, until the band came back out for the final hour.he could have asked us to do about anything and i believe 8,999 of us would (no, of course I’d be standing there with hands in my pockets but i did remember the chorus of little red corvette).the final hour was this transcendent thing as you mention and actually at one moment prince stops and runs over to this older grandma like lady (who he’d pulled up on stage to ‘dance’ – funny) and asked her “wait, what did you just yell?”  and she says “we are having CHURCH NOW.”  at which point the band kicked it up a notch.  it was amazing.i walked in their with my free ticket, disinterested, having remember 1 or 2 tunes from my childhood of him (since we weren’t allowed to listen to such things) and walked out a ‘believer.’  i was converted.  i wanted to come to the front, fill out my contact card and get the free gift or something.it struck me as to what it took prince to get us to that place that night.  the rapport he built with us, winning us over, laughing, a story, the setting, the fun, the permission to do whatever, the craft, the pretense, the lack of it – all of that.many many worship leaders/pastors today don’t understand why their congregations don’t ‘get it’ – why don’t they worship like the crowd does in that _____ live recording (fill in your best cont worship leader name here).  why can’t we just jump to our feet close our eyes lift our hands heavenward at the downbeat of the first song?  (you know, after we have fought the traffic, dumped the kid in the children’s ministry, got the coffee, tried to wake up, argued with the wife, etc etc).  it takes this thing you are talking about and as a SP you should continue to talk about it.  the fact that your example is not 20 years out of date like mine is even way better!there are many many sitting in the back half of the room and i still believe – no matter the model of the sunday morning – they will ‘go there’ and this transcendent thing will happen when it all aligns. and when that stuff happens we’ll get to meet more than just the artist formerly known as prince and we’ll be clear headed enough to receive what it is we really came for.keep talking about this.dave miller

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Prince??? That’s had to be a great experience. Right in line with what I’ve been thinking. The thing is the avg worship leader can do this. Leading like you actually believe what you’re singing is possible for anyone, and undoubtedly happens different places. Just arguing that it should be the norm, not the exception.

      • Dave Miller

        totally agree.  keep beating the drum.  we need senior pastors talking like this.

        • Rob Harris

           amen and amen…

  • Eric Radecki

    I appreciate your provocative thoughts, but aren’t you contradicting another blog of yours, “Lies Worship Leaders Tell You.”  In that article you point out that worship is more than music and is lived out in the lives of the believers.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Possibly. That happens on occasion. My point is I love it when I see worship leaders (paid and unpaid) truly act up on stage like they actually believe they’re singing to God, instead of just performing. Actually worshipping. I think that does someone when they see someone not just singing, but in their heart of heart, no joke, honestly think they’re singing before a holy God.

  • http://MikeLoomis.CO/ Mike Loomis

    Way to step out there, Brian!  I’ve often said that a U2 concert in 2001 (right after 9-11) was the best church service I ever attended.  This post reminds me of one of my favorite movie scenes, from “Walk the Line” (Johnny Cash story) when Johnny was playing those “gospel” tunes for the record exec – and got called out!

  • Andrea P.

    Paige and I love that band, sorry we missed the show.  However, we did get the chance to see Florence and the Machine perform.  I very much like it when Paige makes this comment, “Mom, I am really glad that you like the same music as me.”  Warms my heart as a parent to hear those words, from my 17 year old.  I am glad you both had a fantastic, memorable time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adickson311 Andre Dickson

    Thanks. Beautiful.

  • Chad

    So if I’m hearing you all right, worship is about you. What you experience, how you experience it makes all the difference. In other words, you’d really have a hard time “worshipping” God in a small country church where the vocalist and the instuments are just average. I get that leaders should be into it, believing it, but there’s more to worship than just singing songs with powerful instruments, and I’m sure we’ve all had days when we sang the words but didn’t “feel” it. 

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      I agree.

  • Timgacc

    I think I would like to repress this on my timogle.wordpress.com “Becoming A Follower” blog.
    I will wait for permission.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      No problem!

  • Jim

    Whoa…why don’t you try a worship band that us comprised of church members? We have a couple of outstanding worship leaders that have never made me “feel” as if they were just going thru the motions. They lead in prayer as well as in music worship. The congregant members of the band are all men and women that express their worship and lead the rest of us in zealous, honest and confident worship.
    Brian, are you expecting a performance? Perhaps that’s your issue.
    Love ya, pray that you can instill in your worship music makers some honest passion when worshiping and leading.
    Jim Beckner. Katy, Texas