Worship Unplugged {A Less Digital Life…Day 6}

pianospotlightThe bassist leans forward and presses a button on his laptop keyboard to start up some YouTube sensation, two oddballs singing the praises of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Across from him, the big kid guitarist whips out his smartphone and tucks it away again, a tick of habit, and then closes his eyes to snooze off the sleep deprivation from the usual Saturday night club gig.

A fork full of waffle helps the fried chicken go down. Ridiculous makes hilarious. We all chuckle on the greenroom couches. And so the bandmate clicks to replay.

I check the clock, the ancient variety with the round face and hypnotizing hands. And then the saxophonist, a philosopher of sorts, turns to my husband to ask what’s going to become of the book industry with all this new media.

We talk of folded page corners, notes penciled in margins, and the cracking sound a book makes when its covers are pulled back like shoulders stretching to the spine. I think of our little library at home whose shelves are lined with the Harvard Classics I rescued from a dumpster. Talk turns to end times and conspiracy theories, and I scoot out to the edge of my seat. What will we do with all of the quiet if the grid should ever fizzle out?

Soon, our friend, the worship leader, comes in to pray over the band, that we will make more than a joyful noise, that we will play with excellence. It’s a quick amen and we’re stepping out into the dark hall backstage. I put my hand in the bend of my husband’s elbow and let him lead me to my mic on his way to the drums. I squint in the beam of a spotlight.

Across the platform, the newcomer grand piano glows in the colored stage lighting, promising to rival the usual synthesizer keyboard. The mics are hot and ready. The electric guitar revs. The snare whips. The saxophone whirs.

And then something pops loud, something unseen.

It kills the rainbow of lights, the white noise of speakers, the slight feedback of amplifiers. A few scattered lights compete with the dark. Tech guys scurry, tugging on wires, twisting plug-ins. I look past the hundreds of chairs, only half of them filled, now stuck in the shadows of the power outage. At the faraway entrance, natural light and gawkers peek into the black. They stop their feet at the doors.

I set my mic back in its stand and catch a wink from my husband, the only unpaid musician in the band. He turned away his share of the Sunday morning money and makes do with the joy of feeling the music in his muscles. He mouths the words to the beat, an offering. The partial power outage may be our little dream come true, this whole worship of excellence finally unplugged.

The piano’s lid prop points up like an old church steeple. I picture us all gathered around the instrument, blending our voices in mid-air, hearing them resonate as one.

There are skitters and whispers behind. I turn to see the lead pastor in a panic, looking for the culprit. Nothing’s working, not switching wires, not flipping switches on the circuit board, not restarting things in the soundbooth.  To me this is a sign to go with it, to let the people be more than an audience, more than swaying spectators whose voices have no chance of being heard over the booming speakers. This is our chance to let them be a congregation. Minutes are ticking by. The pastor sends the worship leader out with a prayer to stall for time. His voice is small in the sizable space.

In the balcony, there is a laying of hands on the soundboard. I cringe. I know God will probably give them over to their desires like He did when Israel begged for a king so they could be relevant.

Another unexplainable click and pop and then something that sounds like an old slide projector. Red, yellow, green, blue. The lights cycle through as the system reboots. Our opportunity is lost. A tap of the mic. Check- 1, 2, 3. A strum of the acoustic. The rumble of the bass. People applaud as they crowd in. And someone onstage sings out in a farcical vibrato the cliche meant for concert halls: “The show must go on.”

Disclaimer: This is not a scene from the church where our family attends and serves now. And while the church in this story had its focus wrong in many areas, I don’t mean to say that all churches who have professional-quality bands falter in the same way. Some of my dearest friends provide top-notch music with a tender heart toward the Lord in a band at a very large local congregation. It’s not that excellence isn’t a worthy endeavor as an act of worship, only that it is dangerous when people worship excellence itself.

lessdigitalHere’s a little Internet break for you. Right now, before you do anything else online….
Close your eyes and sing a hymn or a worship song, meditating on the meaning of the words.

{I’m linking up with Nester for her annual 31 Days blog get together. Don’t want to miss this series? Be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box on the homepage sidebar. Find all posts in the series here.}

One thought on “Worship Unplugged {A Less Digital Life…Day 6}

  1. I was right there with you in that experience. Love your voice and your heart. Been there in many ways. One time I remember we were rehearsing at the church I used to minister at. During the rehearsal I was singing like I usually do. Not that I don’t read sheet music and stay in key, but I am not religious about it. If something feels like it should be sung a certain way then that is what I do. Someone got so mad at me because I wasn’t singing exactly how they wanted me to. I was singing it like the artist sung it. Not the worship leader. Another vocalist had constantly been criticizing me for weeks. So I said, “Insert her name here, this is worship practice.” It was like the worship was being driven clean out of there. The criticizing stopped after that. I didn’t mean to in anyway hurt her. In fact I cried about our confrontation because we were so close. I think the words helped her back to surrendering worship. There have been other times when I just wanted to stay home when I was heavily involved in ministry because I just wanted Jesus that day.

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