Recently I tuned in to watch a live stream of a conference. The leader had given a welcome and began the time with prayer. As he prayed, members of the worship team walked onto the stage, cued up the songs on the MacBook, and got their instruments ready. Immediately after the prayer was ended, the music began.
This article is not to debate whether churches should have praise teams. This episode occurred at a conference put on by a para-church organization that advocates “gospel-centered principles and practices that glorify the Savior”, and not at a church. Conferences can be an encouraging and edifying time for Christians. However, several questions arose in my head from observing these “behind the scenes” actions:
1) What are these events considered to be? And what is the purpose of such events? There is prayer, song, and a talk on a theological topic. Would this be some form of informal worship service?
2) Why did the praise team not join in praying? Are they not part of the event, but merely “players”? Now I was watching this on the computer, but if I were physically there, as a Christian, shouldn’t I participate in the prayer? I could understand if there were an emergency, like my toddler had to go NOW or the baby was screaming. But if you’re on the praise team, can’t it wait? You may be praying while setting up the lyrics on your computer, but generally it is considered respectful to be still and wait for the prayer to be over. Does this not apply if you are part of the leadership?
3) How important is the “flow” of a service? Is a 10 second delay to be avoided at all costs? Will you lose your “congregation” if there is a pause between the end of prayer and the beginning of music? Or is this not a meeting of the church, but a performance? In a performance, timing is everything. Cueing the lights and music at the right time is crucial for the desired effect upon the audience.
4) So what is the intended effect on the audience? Is it to provoke some mood? Could this mood be recreated without such seamless transitions? Which is more important: the mood of the audience or allowing all people at the event a chance to join in prayer?
Much thought goes into planning such conferences. Yet a simple act of a praise band setting up during a prayer implies that this is entertainment, where the audience is a spectator and those onstage are not participants in a shared experience, but performers. It also demonstrates the priority placed on singing rather than prayer. May the organizers consider how to best glorify the Savior, and whether that means musicians forego joining in prayer.