I Don’t Know Good Worship From Bad Worship

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I am a lifelong musician and I have been involved in leading worship or playing on worship teams for more than 10 years. I’m a singer, songwriter, guitar player, bass player, drummer and I can wing it on roughly 20 other instruments. I can transpose music for any instrument, I can chart an original arrangement of a jazz standard and I can tell the difference between A 440 and A 442 without a digital tuner. As a 40-year seasoned musician you would think I would have a really good grasp of what “good” worship music is.But I don’t. And I challenge you to admit that you don’t either.

I can tell good singing from bad singing, good guitar playing from bad, good songwriting from average songwriting ,and great arrangements from mediocre. But that’s just all music stuff. Worship is a different thing. Does singing off key constitute “bad” worship? Maybe. But what if a failed attempt at good singing pleases the Lord? What if great musicianship that lacks authenticity doesn’t?

Maybe this is too simplistic. Maybe a “joyful noise” of worship in the privacy of your own home is just fine and pleasing to God. It may also be possible that the “noise” of off-key singing could distract someone in the congregation and prevent them from reaching a real place of worship in the corporate setting. But then again, who are we worshipping for? What is the responsibility of the worship team and leader?

Psalm 150:1-6 says, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”

I don’t see anything in this passage (or any other I can find related to praise or worship) that says, “Play your instrument well.” Or “Praise Him with excellent singing or musicianship.” There’s no mention of the quality of the praise or worship, just that we do it. But “where” we do it may determine “how” we do it.

As leaders charged with bringing our congregations to a place of worship, do we have the responsibility to be excellent at what we do? At David’s tabernacle (1 Chr. 23:5; 25:7) there were 288 singers and 4,000 musicians that were employed as their full-time occupation to minister to the Lord and serve the community. Note that they were employed, which I would argue implies a certain level of professionalism, training and quality.Maybe.

I’m asking a lot more questions than I’m answering, if for no other reason to challenge you to think outside of your box. This is difficult for me. I want great musicianship and singing, team members with good Godly character and thoughtfully chosen songs–and I want it all presented with just enough technology to be professional but not a show. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe God wants a joyful noise from anyone that will bring it? What do you think?


John Amodea has more than 35 years of experience in the music industry. His more recent music experience…

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