Let me say first of all that I'm appreciative of the talent and creativity we see in music leaders in the church today. Part of being made in the image of God means that we should expect certain people to be gifted in the arts. I for one am thankful for my brothers who are exceptionally talented in music and seek to use these gifts to serve the local church.
Furthermore, let me make it clear that what I'm about to say doesn't just apply to the "hipster" type music leaders only. Whether you sing straight out of the Heavenly Highway Hymnal, or have an iPad stand, or you're anywhere in between, I implore you to listen to an important truth from Scripture about facilitating worship: get out of the way.
We all know the passage in Isaiah where the prophet has his vision of the Lord seated on His throne, high and lifted up. We often (rightly) make a point of Isaiah's response, but he's not really who I want to draw your attention to in this particular pericope. Consider this:
Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. - Isaiah 6:2
Seraphim. You want to talk about creatures in the presence of a Holy God! Are there any closer than these? The name literally is conveying the concept of "burning ones." And it's been said the reason they are burning is because they are simply emanating the light of the ineffably Holy God to whom they sing their never ending song. What do you think about these creatures? Do you imagine them to be displeasing to the eye? I don't. I think a case can be made that these creatures are indescribably beautiful. That if you or I were to see them, we simply wouldn't be satisfied with any beauty to be found in this fallen world. I imagine their song to be magnificent as well, as nothing less is befitting of our holy and awesome God's unceasing praise.
So here we have these amazing creatures. They are closer to the holy presence of God than you. They are more beautiful than you are. And then to top it off, they sing better than you can! Yeah, so what? They've never known the Fall! And Jesus didn't shed His precious blood for them! True. But I still think we can learn from them. Let's look at the verse again:
Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
Did you catch that? As glorious as these creatures are, what are they doing? Getting out of the way. They are doing everything they can to say "Don't look at me!" They literally shield their bodies as if to remind us that to even consider them as we worship the Holy Triune God is both heinous and foolish. The song they sing would probably disappoint advocates of "new" stuff as it never changes. At the same time it would probably disappoint advocates of "traditional" stuff as the whole song is less than 20 English words and sang on repeat! Now, I say those last two sentence in slight jest, but really in this vision the emphasis isn't on engaging style or presentation gimmicks is it? The focus is unquestionably on the LORD of hosts.
Look, we ought to do things well, don't get me wrong. But I wonder what your church's gathering would look like if you were more concerned about showing the congregants the holiness of God than you were about what you and your band looked and sounded like. If you were intentional about not singing songs describing what you or I do and instead sang more about who He is and what He has done. Holy, Holy, Holy.
So here's my plea music leaders: would you work this week on getting out of the way? Dress well. Sing well. But also lead well by covering your face (in the figurative sense of course) and fading into the background. Let folks think in worship not how great a particular guitar or drum solo is or how many octives you can switch or how many "good ole time religion" songs you may sing, but rather let them think about how glorious, awesome, and holy the Lord God Almighty is.
It's interesting how divisive music can be in our churches isn't it? And how much money churches will spend on smoke, lights, lasers, screens, and presentation software. It's almost as we've been duped into thinking we need something extra in order to make God's holiness "unboring." Like, if we aren't staying ahead of the technological curve, there won't be any exciting experience. Or even, if we can't get people jumping, flipping, dancing, or shaking, they might not find things engaging enough. But I promise you, show your people God's holiness and (if they see that) no one will leave bored. Sure, it's possible some may respond in Woe!, but none will respond with "meh." Don't be complicite in anything that works to take people's attention away from the Holy One. Don't be a part of anything that works to make the music about the music and creates an atmosphere of entertainment instead of an environment of reverence. What do you really have to offer in comparison to the Thrice Holy God anyway? Or simply put, work harder at getting out of the way. Show us Christ.
And then, let me say one final thing. Pastors, there's a lot of application in this for us as well. I don't want to walk away thinking about how funny or winsome you were. I don't want to be amazed at your creativity and innovation. Show me the Holy and He will suffice.
He must increase but I must decrease.
Grace and Peace.