By Grant Norsworthy
Have you heard a World Cup soccer crowd sing? Absolutely incredible! I’ve never heard it in person but, even from the telecast of matches I have watched, it’s impossible not to be blown away by the volume, passion and unity on display as the crowds sing in support of their teams.
Soccer crowds – for pretty much any professional league around the globe, but especially for the World Cup – sing with more volume, passion and unity than any Church congregation I’ve ever heard. They sing, yet no-one is choosing the setlist, no lyrics are displayed, there are no rehearsals, no-one chooses the key, no-one leads, and there is no instrumental accompaniment. There’s no CCLI or Planning Center to help soccer crowds get their music together!
I’m not trying to make some huge statement by pointing that out, except this: I believe that perhaps one of the main reasons for the fervent singing from soccer crowds is that they are all in complete agreement about why they are singing. They know what the goal is. They are unified.
Soccer crowds have an agreed, clearly-understood and measurable goal. A typical “team” of Church singers, instrumentalists and technicians does not.
The soccer crowd knows exactly what they want achieved, and what criteria must be met to achieve it. The “team” responsible for inviting a Church congregation to worship God through songs is often a collection of individuals who are trying to achieve very different things from
one another. Maybe:
- the audio engineer is trying to craft the best, concert-like listening experience possible,
- the drummer wants to satisfy his own musical desire to play drums,
- the backing singer wants to get to that particular, transcendent state that she identifies as “worship”,
- the musical director wants the band to play the songs without any obvious mistakes,
- the “worship leader” desperately desires for the congregation to experience God’s presence like he does when he plays these songs on his own in his office,
- the projectionist is tapping on the “advance” key because she didn’t know how to say “no”.
Bur what if our team had an agreed, clearly-understood and measurable goal like soccer crowds do? That would be powerful! If we were all shooting for the same goal – and we could tell when we’d achieved it – it could transform what we do and how we do it. It could inspire, bring purpose and unity.
At this point you might be thinking, “But we do have an agreed goal. We want to lead our congregation to worship God!” That goal might even be communicated often and clearly to the whole team by leadership. Absolutely! I agree. Yes, we want God to be worshiped. But I see two main problems with communicating that as our goal to the team:
- Not everyone will fully understand what the term “worship God” means.
Some – even sincere Believers – might be totally confused by that goal.
Furthermore, there could be (probably will be) disagreement between team members about what actually needs to happen to achieve the worship of God.
- Surely, the only entity that can truly measure whether God is being worshiped (or not) is God Himself! We humans may have some sense or even discernment of what is worshipful, but we ought not consider ourselves to have the ability to definitively measure success (or otherwise) in the worship of Almighty God. Let’s leave that to God, can we?
A “goal” set by a team that cannot be agree upon, nor measured, is no goal at all.
Back to the soccer crowd: It could be argued that the World Cup crowd’s goal is to win the World Cup and – in a sense – of course, it is. But it’s more true to say that their real goal is to put the ball into the back of the net more often than the other team. They know, that if they score goals – soccer match goals – better than any other team, match after match, the World Cup will ultimately be won. They need not focus on the World Cup itself. Just do what needs to be done to win matches and the World Cup will look after itself!
They are in the grandstands, wearing their team’s colors, waving their banners, cheering and singing songs to inspire their team to kick an inflated, synthetic leather sphere into the back of a net. They all agree on that. They know when it’s happened and when the match is won or lost.
I am sure that we – the teams responsible for leading our congregations to worship God through songs – all want God to be worshiped. But our objective of worshiping God should be what the World Cup is for soccer crowds. We want God to be worshiped through our singing, our playing and our teching, but we would do well to remember that only God measures the worshipfulness of our worship and that we know that the opportunity to worship God is actually in every moment of every day (Romans 12:1) not just when we gather and sing to Him and about Him.
So how about this for an agreed, humanly-measurable, “ball in the back of the net” goal for our teams: Get the congregation singing! Everything we do as a team – the singing, the playing and teching – should be crafted in such a way as to invite our Church family to sing passionate prayers to God, praises of God and truth about God as an expression of worship. With the unity of purpose that this agreed, humanly-measurable goal brings, making the right decisions to achieve that goal will become a lot easier.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
As the written Word of God clearly instructs us to do, let’s sing together! As a team of vocalists, instrumentalists and technicians, let’s make our musical and technical choices with that specific goal in mind. All our personal, individual, goals must become lesser, sub-goals to this bigger goal, or perhaps vanish all together.
This is a game changer.
I believe with all my heart that the unified voice of your congregation singing fervent, heart-felt, passionate praises will be a well-received expression of worship to God – but only God knows that for sure.