Worship teams. “Worship team” is one of the worst phrases ever invented. Much less Biblical than “prayer warrior,” yet more aggressively insane-sounding when dropped into casual conversation. “Yeah, after we rehearse for the Hearts on Fire Crusade 2007 in the public middle school gym this Saturday, I’m taking the worship team to Applebees.”
In my brief Evangelical interlude as a teenager (yes, as all these stories do, it started with some wonderful young woman), I saw plenty of worship teams: skits, matching t-shirts, and surprisingly competent musicianship. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it.  It isn’t that I don’t understand the need for cooperation or sociability or community in church life.  That all makes perfect sense.  But what on earth is a “worship team” really?  I mean, I think I have even seen one in action once or twice, but I had no idea what I was looking at when I saw it.  To me it was a group of folks, undoubtedly terribly well-meaning, serious folks in their way, playing instruments and singing treacly songs about Someone Special whom I assumed must be God.  Was this worship?  I am sure that the people doing it believe this deeply. 

Perhaps where this sort of thing loses me is in all of the swaying to and fro.  In Russian churches, there is no swaying–none at all.  You typically don’t move much at all, except for making the Sign of the Cross or making prostrations.  Perhaps that seems bafflingly strange to our friends on the worship team, I don’t know, but I am fairly sure that it has rather more to do with worship than putting on a music show (even if the music is good, which this music typically is, well, not) and getting your spiritual groove on.   

To some degree, I feel like Irinaios trying to make sense of Valentinian Gnostics, and I don’t mean that at all as pejoratively as it sounds–it’s simply that this sort of thing is so extremely far removed from anything I know as worship that I am baffled by it.  As I look into the matter, I find that there are worship team guidelines and handbooks (as I suppose there would have to be) and an entire lexicon that has grown up around such “teamwork” (do you worship “frisbee style”?).  It is clear that they take all of this terribly seriously, and it is also clear that many people respond to this sort of thing.  But to what are they responding?  What exactly is going on here?  What, I ask you, is the point?  Would it make any difference if we called them not worship teams but worship bands?  If it wouldn’t, does it really make that much sense?

Normally I do not trouble to comment on the life and practices of other confessions, because I think it is generally not my place and not my business to do this, but this is one of those things where I am so astonished that I simply must intrude and ask: why?

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