Confessions from a Worship Leader…Part 2


Pat Altes is an Elder and has led worship at Christ Community Church for close to 20 years. In this post we asked Pat to help us understand the importance of stlye in Worship. Here is what he wrote. Thanks Pat!

Here are a few words recently added to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

dot-commer (noun): a person who owns or works for a dot-com

bubble (noun): a state of booming economic activity (as in a stock market) that often ends in a sudden collapse

dead-cat bounce (noun) [from the facetious notion that even a dead cat would bounce slightly if dropped from a sufficient height]: a brief and insignificant recovery (as of stock prices) after a steep decline

avatar (noun): an electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user (as in a computer game or an online shopping site)

None of these words were known, or were in circulation, when I began leading worship at CCC. Now there are thousands of words just like this out there. What is that telling us? It tells me we should be constantly reevaluating how we present the gospel in preaching (Larry and Anthony actually do this really well). And I believe it is saying that we should constantly reevaluate how we express ourselves to God in worship. Why do I say that?

More than ever, culture is changing around us at a dizzying pace. Trends, nuances, even the words we use are changing at an ever increasing speed. Do preachers always have to drop the latest catch phrase, or do we have to always employ the latest musical trends? I would say “no” with a caveat; we do need to be aware of what is going on around us if we have any hope of understanding the culture we claim we want to connect to. Also, I believe how we choose to express ourselves should generally reflect the culture around us.

Ideally, the church should be the source of new and creative art, as it was in the Renaissance. But in the absence of the church being the fountainhead of good art, “Plan B” would be that we should at least creatively use the musical art forms around us. As far as music goes, I think we should be careful not to assess our level of cultural relevance through the music we hear on Christian radio stations. Some songs are often a second-generation attempt seeking to mimick a current musical trend.

As musicians, I think we have an obligation to be aware of what is happening, musically, in the world around us, and respond with either creating better art….or, at least, faithfully representing the art of the culture.

Our goal should be to never erect an unnecessary cultural barrier that hinders the gospel of Christ.

Is there any value in adopting outdated language or contrived, church-based mannerisms in preaching?

What’s the value in safely burrowing ourselves in musical expressions of 20 years ago?

I would say there’s none, yet that’s the avenue many churches take.

This is why missional churches like Christ Community and Restoration’s presentation of the gospel will be ever changing.

Because it really should be.

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~ by Anthony Orzo on March 2, 2010.

4 Responses to “Confessions from a Worship Leader…Part 2”

  1. I really appreciate your willingness to write about an issue that seems somewhat like a no brainer, but really can be a source of tension amongst Christian faith communities.

    I often find it ironic, or somewhat strategic, that one of the very things meant to unify the people of God (corporate worship) can often be so divisive.

    To quote Dana Carvey, “Hmhhhhhh…can somebody say Satan”.

    Again, thanks for the post.

  2. I love what you said about the church no longer being a source of great music or art. After I became a Christian, I wanted to find music in the styles that I liked. I had limited success with that, but I dove in. Sometimes I found really good profound music, sometimes it was just fun to find some music to rock out to without worrying about vile lyrics. So often though it was (and is) a poor imitation of latest secular style with a sickening sugary over-tone. The writers of the old hymns and of the vespers were so much more honest. They struggled with sin and fear and illness and slavery and death and war and called out to God for help through song. They praised him for being delivered from those things they feared and for being delivered from themselves. Perhaps the musical style is archaic, but the lyrics are not. So much of “contemporary” Christian art, music, and thought is dumbed down to make it marketable…pretty pictures and catchy perky tunes and easy-to-remember catch phrases. It is no wonder the world doesn’t take us seriously. Your son put it well when he said as Christians we tend to be like “babies marninating in our own stink.” God doesn’t want cute and insincere. When we worship we need to be honest, to sing to God our fears and failures and hopes. It needs to be done in a way that reaches the culture and shows “them” that we are just as battered and weary as they are and point them to the One who hears us when we cry out in pain or laugh with joy.

  3. My past two posts have been sort of “tips and techniques” at least from my perspective. I don’t think those really are the biggest issues, at all, about the value of worship. I have been simply speaking about my opinion of the “expression” of worship. The substance really is the main thing, by a long shot.
    I think Sharon touches on this when she speaks about the ancient hymnwriters addressing God in response to fear, illness, death…real life issues, in which the heart is often driven to the Cross and its message of forgiveness and hope.

    • That’s a great point Pat, however I would not (as I know you are not) ever short sell the importance of expression.

      If we express our values in a way that does not take into account our culture my fear is many people will never get to the substance we value so higly.

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