Professional Worship

I just finished N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope”.  It’s a book about heaven and the future, but he touches on a very wide variety of subjects, including worship.  I don’t have the book here in front of me, so forgive my paraphrasing -  He writes that some Christians have looked down on traditional liturgical worship as “professional” worship – requiring a great deal of special training such as what vestments to wear on what occasions, how many times to swing the thurible, knowing what a thurible is, knowing how to spell thurible, etc. They view contemporary worship as simple and pure.  And yet, the contemporary worship leader needs to know contemporary music, powerpoint, sound systems, lighting, etc.  We’ve just exchanged one form of professionalism with another.  Then I got my weekly Robert Webber quote in my email this morning:

Congregations . . . should recognize the difficulty of leading contemporary worship. One cannot simply pick up a guitar, assemble contemporary instruments, pick out the right songs, and expect it to go well. Worship leading requires certain skills, a good grasp of how to accomplish the transitions from one phase to another, an ability to make the right connecting comments between songs, a strong bond with the congregation, and a heart in tune with the Spirit.

Robert Webber, Worship Old and New: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2004), 160.

I agree that leading worship is a craft that requires a great deal of skill to do well.  I think we can romanticize it, along with perhaps preaching, and think that it ought to be easy – just get up there and worship – but it is a discipline to learn all of these skills.  Reading Webber’s quote encouraged me this morning.  It’s not easy because it isn’t supposed to be easy!