Are “Praise Teams” Biblical?

Busy days for me, so I’ll let someone else do the writing today.  This is a thought-provoking article dealing with how Biblical worship is hindered by a praise team / praise band / group of praise leaders / (choose your own nomenclature).  He is not writing for or against any particular musical style, but rather focusing on three things, that singing be congregational, together, and enthusiastic.  He argues that the use of praise bands hinders those things.

The hesitance of the congregational singers is an unavoidable consequence of using a Praise Team rather than a printed (or otherwise displayed) musical score; and the drowning out of the congregation by the Praise Team is due also to the fact that the Praise Team functions as the musical score, albeit one that is heard and not seen. Some Praise Teams are worse than others, of course. Some introduce more variations between stanzas than others, and such variations create even more hesitance for the congregation: Will there be an instrumental bridge between the stanzas or not? Will the same harmonies be employed in each stanza, or not? Will portions of the refrain or one of the stanzas be repeated or not? The congregation does not know—indeed cannot know—how each stanza will sound until it hears it, so the congregation sings tentatively, hesitantly, and a micro-second behind the Praise Team. The Praise Team has unwittingly become like the third grade jokester who invites you to have a seat, pointing to a chair. When you go to sit down, the jokester pulls the chair away, and you land on your backside. The Praise Team does the same thing musically; the congregation never knows (indeed, it can never know) how the Team will perform each stanza until the congregation hears it. And it can only hear it if the Praise Team is amplified to the point that it effectively overpowers the congregation.

This is a long article.  But if you have an interest in thinking through the use of music in Biblical worship, you’ll need to consider what T. David Gordon has to say.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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6 Responses to Are “Praise Teams” Biblical?

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Pingback: The Difference between Congregational Worship and a Concert | Intelligence is not a Sin!

  3. geofkimber says:

    Hi Jon, I agree with the concerns addressed here, and his reference to a 3rd grade jokester is a little humorous… 🙂 but I’m not so sure printed music is the answer to hesitancy as much as familiarity (or the lack of it) with the songs. And the way they’re led.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Geof. Thanks for the comment, and a very fair point. Though perhaps we could take it a little further, because if familiarity is a requirement, we’ll never learn any new songs, right? 🙂

      I suspect our author grew up in a similar situation to mine growing up. Everyone had a hymnal with the musical score. Not everyone could really read music, but most were at least familiar enough to be able to tell from the music when to go up (if not how far) and when to go down, and at least make a guess as to how long to hold a note. We could sing a hymn we’d never sung before reasonably well. Musical literacy, at least on a rudimentary level, was encouraged as part of our worship to the Lord.

      That said, when we put a hymnal together for our church here, we made primarily words-only versions, because that is the British way. I think the way I grew up with was better, but not enough better to make it worth fighting centuries of tradition :). We fall back on the “familiarity” solution, typically singing a new song for several weeks until people learn it.

      “… the way they’re led.” That’s really the biggest issue. Familiarity and musical scores are two ways to solve the same problem — people have to know what they are singing. If they can’t read music, the score doesn’t help. If they rely on familiarity, new songs are tough for a while. So neither is a perfect solution. But neither does any good at all if the “leaders” are lone rangers instead of leaders, striking off alone into a melodic wilderness where no man has ever gone before.

      Having now mixed metaphors and cultural allusions so horribly as to be nearly incoherent, Tonto is whispering in my ear that it is time to stop. 🙂

      • geofkimber says:

        🙂 Yes, well said. Sounds like we have similar backgrounds and approach. I try to introduce a new song by playing it preservice, or maybe over the offering to help break it in. A good song doesn’t take too long to pick up, eh. Blessings mate.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Thanks for the good thoughts, Geof.

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