The Worship Service Snobs – Confronting Our Christian Consumerism Post 3

How many times have I left a worship service raving or complaining about a particular song in the worship set? I’ve been thinking about how we consume certain elements of the worship service and the two most obvious elements are the sermon (covered in the previous post) and during the time of singing.

I remember a stretch of going to church with a consistent group of people where the entire worship service was under constant evaluation. The worship leader’s attire was discussed, “Stop wearing those pleated pants!” The back-up vocalists had a ranking system “She’s like the second worst alto. I literally can’t sing when she sings harmony” and of course, the guys would have a different ranking system “Who cares if she can’t sing, she’s beautiful and she loves Jesus – what’s her name??” Clearly we were here to worship.

The song selection began another conversation. “Not another Chris Tomlin song!” “I think they dug this hymn out from from the lost tapes of Charles Wesley. They should have left it there.” “Please stop singing ‘Second Worst Alto!'” and “Crowder’s ‘O God Where Are You Now?’ would have worked better here.” And on it went. As I look back, not only do I regret our lack of reverence and hate the thought of how distracting we must have been, I also regret how our cynicism might have shaped our understanding of worship and community for each other.

We were worship service snobs. We picked on the shortcomings and expressed how unimpressive the better moments were, “I’ve heard that done better.” Every sub-culture has something like this and it has more to do with cynicism, boredom, lack of substance and a disconnect of local church’s reason of why we worship.

Perspectives of elements of the worship service vary from, “I just love everything the worship team does!” to “They always suck at leading.” Worship leaders are put on pedestals by some and put on crosses by others.

Indeed some worship leaders are vein, indeed some are angry, and some have no place leading worship in a church. There will never be a shortage of stories of where the worship leader/pastor yelled at someone before the worship service and moments later announced to the congregation, “It’s great to be here in the house of the Lord – Amen!”

At the same time, some worship leaders have not only amazing musical talent but incredible hearts for God and people. I remember one worship leader telling me one of his favorite moments in life was watching a woman fighting cancer singing with passion and fullness as he led. He said to me, “It’s a little weird because you have some people who are clearly not enjoying being part of this and another finding the presence of God and you’re part of both.” And of course there’s a lot more going as everyone enters the sanctuary brings a different set of things in his/her heart.

These days I fear for the churches and worship leaders who are playing the game of trying to be the best worship band in town.” And my heart goes out to those who see the worship service more as a concert singalong then a time dedicated to bring our praises to God together. While its good to find a style of worship that fits us and community of people that we feel comfortable and desire to grown with, we ought to always remember the reason for our worship is to align our hearts with God in forms of giving thanks, building unity, receiving the word, and serving others.

While each worship team has a duty to bring their best to lead the church in worship, that best includes the heart and not just musicianship. Similarly we as worshippers enter not to evaluate but to commune. Our snobbery, pride and consumerism is what holds us back from drawing closer to God – not the pleated pants, song selection or a particular style, name and or brand of the contemporary worship scene. From those on the platform to those in the seats, the best worship services are the ones we bring our best offering to God.

Confronting the consumer mentality has been a good thing as I find myself raving and complaining less and enjoying the time spent with worshipping alongside others more. Frankly, I still have a long way to go on this as I try to find the balance of quality of service and the heart in the service as there is stewardship in both.

A couple more posts about consumerism then shifting gears a little, the turmoil in Egypt has been on my mind – would welcome your thoughts via comments or email at any time- thanks for reading.


  1. Howie Cruthers says:

    I agree that a consumer mentality is obviously a problem in churches across America, and even other parts of the world. But part of the blame lies with church leaders who have become marketing experts rather than shepherds. If you market Christianity as a corporation markets its products, you’ll inevitably end up with consumers.

  2. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a thought.
    Completely agree with the what you’re saying about marketing creating consumers.
    I do think there is a third way – one between marketing and intentionally doing no marketing that can create awareness in one’s community.
    Which leads me to think that no church actually does no marketing because as soon as they put up a sign (and they sit in a meeting discussing what the sign should say, “It should include our times, it should sound welcoming, it should be, small, it should be distinctively …) they’ve entered a marketing conversation. So maybe I should have said little marketing.
    Anyway, I think there is a third way of creating awareness, being public and intentional about the local church without selling out.

  3. Wendy MacNeill says:

    Hi Tim,
    Loved reading your thoughtful post and it hit home with me! I don’t think people actually realize, at least I haven’t thought of it…of the more “subtle” ways Satan works to tempt us to distraction, even in the house of God…or, if he can’t there, he gets us in the habit so we bring our constant comparison attitude, of wanting the best of everything, keeping ahead of the neighbors, etc…so we easily slip into that whenever we are distracted. I can actually chuckle a bit as I think of the “consumer mentality” as being something we think or speak of, while at the same time “shushing” our kids from fidgeting and not paying attention to the service, LOL! We are not above the kids who can’t always focus. So anyway, I think in order to try and change this habit in church one would really have to adopt a more grateful, respectful and gracious and worshiping attitude at home, first, both proactively with spiritual exercise and avoiding situations that might cause us to compare too much (like fast-forwarding past commercial, or not watching “Project Runway” or whatever. Love this sentence you wrote: “While its good to find a style of worship that fits us and community of people that we feel comfortable and desire to grown with, we ought to always remember the reason for our worship is to align our hearts with God in forms of giving thanks, building unity, receiving the word, and serving others.” and…Similarly we as worshippers enter not to evaluate but to commune. ” Further on with the comparison to parents…we teach our children not to talk badly about others..”if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” (I’m sure there’s scripture to back that up) but as adults we so often indulge in gossip that is really destructive. So I challenge you in your next blog though…if you’ve already addressed it, please forgive me…if one becomes dissatisfied with whatever is going on during a service, if you manage to restrain yourself from gossipping…it would still be hard to shake the FEELING. We get such a rush when things are fantastic, I suppose you could make an argument for endorphins and addiction, really. So we get “grumpy” when they play songs we don’t like, or whatever. What do you suggest when a person is internally challenged like that, so they can focus on aligning themselves with the Lord again? And, what if, perhaps, something should be done or said…for instance, at GC it used to be the 8am service was the most traditional, but my Dad said they modernized the music too much and he just couldn’t sit through it all anymore and left the church because of that, and missing Gordon’s style. What if changes are made that might make us legitimately fear losing those seeking because they can’t be engaged? Of course, we can pray about everything. But I do think some evaluation is important to some degree, certainly not the obviously petty comments. Thanks for the thought-provoking blog, I’ll trying to make it a point to read more, but forgive me as I comment…brevity has never been my strong point :)

  4. Thanks so much for reading and leaving your thought, Wendy.
    Aside from this moment, brevity as not been my strongsuit either ;)
    I’d like to engage with some of what you said – will do soon.

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