On page 3 (and continued on page 12) of this month’s Christian Chronicle there’s a story that praises a congregation’s “western themed cowboy church Sunday” out on an old movie ranch. Well yee-haw! I didn’t realize that it should take any theme other than God and Jesus’ sacrifice to get a person’s schedule centered back around worship, Bible study, fellowship and good works. But something else got my attention too while I was reading about the congregation’s get-together.
Included with the story is a sizeable picture of an audience sitting in the middle-ground with trays for communion in the foreground and a “praise team” in the background. Contrary to the picture though, I believe the order of the arrangements were completely the opposite. And by that I mean that the “praise team” was front and center with the communion trays sitting nicely in the backseat.
I never have understood the name “praise team” when it comes to the churches of Christ who are looking to spice up the worship services by adding a little more “spirituality” and “good emotions” to the mix. If you’re going to have “praise teams” then have them. But at least be honest enough with yourself and with others to call them what they are. They’re choirs without the robes! The rest of the religious world has no problem with calling their “praise teams” by the proper name. The only thing that I can figure is that they don’t want to look like or sound like the rest of the religious world too much. Too late! If it walks and quacks like a duck, then odds are it’s a duck!
And all duck references aside, please know that I didn’t grow up attending the worship services of the churches of Christ, so I’m more than just a little familiar with what I say. And I know that some won’t like what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it anyways.
“Praise teams” take the attention off of worshipping God as a congregation in song by putting the emphasis on certain singers above the others. Try to spin it however you want – that’s the truth! I’ve seen the “applications” for those “praise teams” before. You have to be considered worthy to join. They’re not interested in making a “joyful noise” unto the Lord – they’re interested in people-pleasing notes and lyrics. “Praise teams” are exclusionary by their very nature and that’s why I am 100% against them. They take an act that’s meant to lift up God and they turn it into an act that lifts them up. And it doesn’t matter if it’s people up on the stage or “miked-up” voices in the pews; the goal is the same – a “better sounding” version of the song to the ears of people when the goal should be God centered worship.
“Praise teams” and their promoters need to remember who’s meant to get the praise during the church’s worship of God and start forgetting about what sounds “good” to their own ears.