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My Struggle With Entertainment and Worship

In my early days of playing nightclubs and private events, I wanted to be the best, most entertaining bass player the audience ever experienced.  I also wanted to have the best sounding and most entertaining band in the area.  Then, I became a Christian…

As a new Christian, I was led to believe that entertainment and worship could not coexist and that loving to perform and entertain in a worship context was evidence of my sinful heart.  As a result of that mindset, I and other Christian musicians would bend over backwards trying to rationalize that we were not entertainers. We would tell our audiences and congregations, “we’re not here to perform, or entertain, we’re here to lead you in worship”.  Instead of calling our concerts, concerts, they were called “worship services” (the problem I have with this is that it seemed to be the way the church justified having a rock band playing a concert in their sanctuary).  Yet, we spent time rehearsing, investing in lighting, fog machines, choosing the right clothes and work on our “stage presence” but would tell the crowd that paid money (or gave an offering) to come see us that we weren’t there to entertain them.  I’m sorry but, Really?   Can the audience quite possibly worship God while being entertained by the band providing an excellent worship music experience?  Or, Can a group of Christian musicians just put on an excellent God glorifying rock and roll show?  Finally, after years of playing for worship services, Christian concerts and telling people that I wasn’t there to “perform” I woke up and realized, that’s exactly what I’m doing up here. I’m performing, my band is performing!  I am entertaining.  That’s what performing musicians do.  The Bible tells us to worship God in everything we do.  I’m a musician.  I perform. I seek to entertain.  However, the thing that ought to separate me from a non-Christian is that my performance is not for my glory, but for God’s.  As a Christian musician, my entertainment must be for the purpose of bringing glory to God.  Whether I’m playing a worship service or concert, my attitude and level of performance ought to be the same, to seek to be the best of what God has created me to be!

Worship bands rehearse, dress, and work hard to create an environment that invites the audience to worship.  Many churches even have elaborate lighting and stage sets that rival top notch concert halls all for the purpose of providing the best worship service possible.  The hope is that the music and decor will create a worship experience that engages and does not distract the mind of the worshiper.  I would argue that when we are doing these things, we are entertaining our congregation with our performance.  Is that a bad thing?  I believe it’s a good thing.  To entertain is simply to engage the mind of the one for whom you are performing; you’re holding their attention.  Good worship teams, hopefully, provide a music experience that keeps the mind of the worshiper engaged and directed toward the Creator of all music!

Entertainment is not a bad word!

Music and art are created to be displayed and performed in front of people, even in a worship context. In fact, music is impersonal and empty if we don’t put our whole selves (ego – personality) into it. We are deceiving ourselves (and confusing non-Christians) when we put someone up on a stage with lights, cameras, and a big crowd and suggest that they’re not trying to entertain, seriously? I know no other way to play music in front of people than to perform, to play the best bass lines, grooves, and fills I can in order to serve the song, move the hearts of the congregation and give honor to my Creator! Yes, I want the people to be entertained!  Am I there to put on a show? Hmmm, I guess the right answer is No, but I must confess that I love when my playing is enjoyed by all, so the temptation is always there and my ego must always be in submission to God. The bottom line for me is to play my heart out, but serve God in humility.  Yes, I believe you ought to perform your music. However, let your performance be to God’s glory. I would challenge any christian musician to play Sunday morning with the hope that everyone loves your performance and worships the Father, Son and Spirit as a result. Risk being a freaking great musician and perform for the glory of God!