An Open Letter to the SBCC Worship Teams

Steve JolleyCommunity News

It is no secret that many evangelical churches have struggled with music and worship styles. And it is no surprise that this struggle sometimes erupts into a full-fledged church fight. These worship wars have plagued the best of churches and have often sucked the joy out of singing and praise from corporate worship.  The battle lines get drawn:  The music is too loud or not loud enough, we never sing the hymns or all we sing is hymns, the lyrics are trite or the lyrics are antiquated.  “I like a choir” or “Choirs are so 1950”. James Dobson of Focus on the Family once commented on his radio program, Of all the subjects we’ve ever covered in this radio program, from abortion to pornography to whatever, the most controversial subject we’ve ever dealt with is music.  You can make people mad about music more quickly than anything else.Whatever our own personal preferences, from rock to Bach, church music and singing has the potential to be divisive.  For thirty-one years SBCC has been able to avoid church-fracturing worship wars.  Put more positively, we have enjoyed singing and praising God together as a united church. I think much of the credit goes to those who lead us in corporate worship. I want to say “thank you” to you, our worship leaders and teams, and to tell you specifically what I appreciate about your leadership.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for understanding that our worship services are about God and His glory and not about those who lead.  The spotlight, Sunday after Sunday, is focused on God.  You understand that it is not about you, but rather it is about Him.  What we get on a consistent basis from you is not a performance, but rather a redirecting of our attention away from the horizontal to the vertical.  You know that worship is about God and not you.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for working together. I have never seen a whiff of competition or jealousy. I have never seen you guard your turf.  As your various teams take leadership at different services, I have witnessed you encouraging one another even when it is not your Sunday to lead.  You know that your individual teams are a part of a larger group of worship teams that lead three services and set the tone for the entire church.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for responding well to the pastoral leadership of Mike Willbanks. Organizing, correcting, directing musicians and artists is not always very easy.  You have embraced his leadership.  This is a gift to both Mike and the church.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for not falling prey to the false division often found in evangelical circles between contemporary Christian music and more traditional hymns.  Our worship services are laced with the best of both.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for writing songs.  Recently, at our two Sunday morning services, four of the songs that were sung were written by SBCC worship leaders. They are good songs! What a gift to our church.  You did this quietly and humbly to the extent that few who enjoyed these songs were even aware they were written by the very people leading them.  Speaking personally, it warms my soul when we move seamlessly from singing songs by Charles Wesley (historically famous), to Chris Tomlin (recently famous), to Chris Mundell (Rev. Karl, soon to be famous).  From our own church we are currently singing songs written by Dan Hislop, Matt Knoles, Chris Mundell, Kathleen Sieck, Curt Crawshaw, Andy and Angela White, Joel Patterson, Dan Bos, and Mike Willbanks.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for practicing and striving for musical excellence and yet knowing at the same time unless the Holy Spirit is present, even the most polished professional worship team around will fall flat.  You know that even on a Sunday when chords are missed, when harmonies don’t quite harmonize, when the sounds system is having a bad day, the song slides are wrong, or your team is not quite in sync, that God can and does still work and melt the hearts in the congregation as we sing of His greatness.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for variety.  Sometimes our worship is quiet and contemplative.  At other times it is loud, exuberant and celebratory.  One service will have a full band and another will be led with just a piano and a voice or two.  Variety is good.  It keeps us awake and focused.

Thank you, SBCC worship teams, for thinking biblically and theologically.  In considering the content of what we sing, you help us to avoid the trite, the silly, and the sappy.  You know that what makes worshipsacred is not the musical style but the message of the song.

Thank you SBCC worship teams for helping us to embody the sentiment of the Psalmist.   Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100:1