Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should churches use praise teams?

 

I question the use of praise teams. I have noticed the singers chosen are always very attractive as well as being very talented. I also notice they seem to be performers instead of leaders of worship. It seems the majority of churches that use praise teams are in the process of transitioning into the emergent church movement. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Okie dokie, let’s start off with some definitions and caveats. In the interest of full disclosure, my husband is a minister of music. We have usually served at smaller traditional churches (100-120ish in attendance on Sundays), some with only choirs, some with only praise teams, and some with both. I have always sung in those choirs and praise teams.

If you’re not familiar with praise teams, a praise team is a group of about four to eight singers – usually headed up by a worship leader or minister of music – that stand toward the front of the stage and do what choirs used to do: lead (by example) the congregation in singing. Some churches (usually the more traditional ones) use a choir and praise team. Some (the more contemporary ones, or small traditional churches that can’t support a full choir) use only a praise team. In more contemporary churches, the praise team, worship leader, guitar, drums and other instruments are often lumped together as a single entity – the worship “band”.

When pastors, elders, ministers of music, and others in church leadership are trying to decide what should or should not be included in the worship service, the first place they need to go is the Bible. If the practice in question is either specifically commanded or prohibited by Scripture, it’s quick and easy to make a decision. We do the things required by Scripture (such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and we don’t do the things prohibited by Scripture (such as women preaching or the worship of other gods). (If your church isn’t doing the “do’s” or is doing the “don’ts,” it isn’t a church. You need to find a real church – a biblical one – pronto.)

Your pastor and other leaders should also examine their motives for wanting to implement (or do away with) a particular practice. In the case of starting a praise team: Are we doing this because we want to look cool and attractional to the outside world? Is it a wiser stewardship of our music budget to switch to a small praise team instead of a large choir? How will a praise team make our worship service more God-glorifying? Not only should the practice itself line up with Scripture, but the leaders’ motives for implementing the practice should line up with Scripture.

As church members, when we take a look at what’s going on in the worship service at our church, we also need to make the Bible our first stop. First we need to examine whether or not the practice in question is biblical. If the practice in question is biblical (or at least isn’t unbiblical), we need to look at another passage of Scripture:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews 13:17

I think a lot of Christians forget this principle of authority in the church. Church isn’t Burger King where you can “have it your way” and you get to gripe all over the place when you don’t like something. If your pastor and other leadership are godly, biblically trustworthy men and they implement something that’s in line with scriptural principles, but rubs your personal tastes and preferences the wrong way, trust them, support them, submit to them, and give it a chance without complaining.

There’s nothing in the Bible that either prohibits or commands praise teams, so if your church leadership implements one, and their reasons line up with Scripture, that’s not ungodly or sinful in and of itself. It’s a decision each individual pastor has to prayerfully make as he seeks to do what is best, wisest, and most godly for his particular church.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of your more specific concerns:

“I have noticed the singers chosen are always very attractive…”
This may be the case in your church or churches you have watched on TV, but I can assure you it’s not the case in every church that uses a praise team. My own church “beta tested” a praise team in our traditional (choir and hymns) service several months ago. Because most of the people who attend that service (including the choir from which the praise team was chosen) are older, the praise team was of the middle aged to senior citizen demographic. I didn’t think any of them were unattractive because they’re my church family and I love them, but they weren’t 18 year old supermodels either. And I’ve seen plenty of other praise teams made up of people who are average looking, older, overweight, disabled, etc.

“…as well as being very talented.”
Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean here, but I’m not seeing the problem, either biblically or logically, with people who are talented in a certain area serving the church in that area. If you were going to put together a rotation of people to cook the fellowship meal prior to your midweek service, would you recruit the people in your church who are known to be good cooks or the ones whose casseroles everyone avoids at the monthly potluck? Do you ask people who can’t balance their own checkbooks to serve on the finance committee? If you’re putting together a music team, you want people who are talented and skilled in music, not the ones who are tone deaf, have no rhythm, and can’t read music. There’s biblical precedent for using people with certain talents to serve in certain capacities in God’s house.

“I also notice they seem to be performers instead of leaders of worship.”
I appreciate your use of the phrase “seem to be.” It’s extremely subjective and unfair to make a judgment call on whether a person is “worshiping” or “performing” based solely on his appearance, facial expression, and singing style during his time on the stage. The minister of music needs to be pastoring the praise team (this is why we need to have pastoral ministers of music instead of lay “worship leaders”) toward spiritual maturity in selecting, rehearsing, and ministering to them. He needs to ensure that the people on his team are genuinely regenerated Believers who exemplify humility and the desire to serve Christ and His church, not people who see singing on the praise team as merely a stepping stone to an appearance on The Voice.

“It seems the majority of churches that use praise teams are in the process of transitioning into the emergent church movement.”
That has not been my experience, but I don’t doubt that that’s true for some churches that use praise teams. But praise teams are not the linchpin on which churches turn to apostasy. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of perfectly doctrinally sound churches that use praise teams and have no intention of going emergent. And, there are doctrinally unsound “churches” heading toward becoming emergent that also happen to use praise teams. It’s the doctrine and theology of the church, and its view of and fidelity to Scripture, that causes a church to either strive toward being a biblical church or becoming apostate, not whether or not it uses a praise team.

In summary, there is nothing patently unbiblical about praise teams themselves. The fact that some doctrinally unsound churches use them should no more preclude doctrinally sound churches from using them than doctrinally unsound churches having small groups should preclude doctrinally sound churches from having small groups. Personality, spiritual, and doctrinal issues affecting a praise team should be dealt with biblically in the same way these issues are dealt with in other groups in the church. Whether or not to have a praise team is an issue the pastor of each church must study Scripture and pray about and decide for himself. It’s not something we can biblically make a blanket statement for or against.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

8 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Should churches use praise teams?”

  1. Of course it becomes a ‘production’ and no longer worship. This is entertainment and really has no place in a church as it actually cheapens it and our approach to God. This becomes something like the ‘greatest hits’ of the bible and along those lines. Thanks for your posst.

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  2. The church is the people, let’s remember that and if one is going to pick at that little thing, then know that the whole church,all of us, need to be looked at,from the pulpit to the pew, because it’s a lot of stuff going on that’s against God’s word.
    For that to be written, one can not base this on all churches. Seems like this is a personal assumption of the one that wrote it, because when you’re really truly in worship and your heart and mind are on the Lord, all that is not even important.

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  3. Hello,

    Ministry is about acknowledging the Holy Spirit in all aspects of it. Prayer is utmost important. before joining any ministry; I believe you must be led to the ministry that the Holy Spirit prompted you to. Remember, the spirit gives life; Ministry shouldn’t be done in the flesh that’s why praise , prayer , & worship should be at the forefront of any ministry. A Christ centered Church is to follow Christ not their cultural mores.

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  4. As it is at the church we attend, when the praise team drowns out your own voice, in addition to the brothers and sisters around you singing – there is a problem. Are we paying royalties to sing someone else’s praise to God? If so? That is odd.
    Coming out of false religions, many new believers now attending Biblical churches are not even familiar with the grand old traditional hymns, filled with theology, yet are encouraged to sing words from a screen with no musical notes corresponding.
    Isn’t it good to be wary and cautious when the church is trying to sound and look too much like the world? Why must the music in church sound almost indistinguishable from many current secular radio stations? “Christian rap”? Where does it end?

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  5. Some musicians and vocalists at my church work in the music industry or have been contestants on shows such as The Voice. They seem to be performing for an audience. Once upon a time, choirs sang in a loft behind the congregation, and the people in the pews never saw them without turning their heads. I doubt that the praise team at my church would act the same way if they weren’t seen.

    We also have fog machines, spotlights, and so forth, and if you don’t listen to Christian radio, you probably don’t know the songs.

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