I read James K.A. Smith’s blog post and he brings up three points, mostly centering around a congregation’s ability to sing. But I think the heart of what he is saying is, that if the focus is on the band, then it not about Jesus.
His first point is about volume-there is a place where volume can become so loud that focus the worshipper’s thoughts are on the uncomfortable volume.
His second point is that if we are not all singing the same song, then it’s not worship. I agree and disagree. I think James is trying to make the point that if the band is displaying talent and skill level that is beyond the common person, then the congregation is distracted. It’s less about Jesus as the center of focus and more about the band or musicians.
On this point I’d like to add that when singers are more concerned about changing the key of the song so they can sound their best, and thus putting the song out of most people’s ability to sing, or in a key that is more difficult to play for the musician, then it is more about performance than it about being a servant to the congregation and facilitating worship.
The third point is interesting to me. Almost every church that has “Modern Worship” has the musicians on a stage in front, facing the congragation. This is not the same as in the days of Israel, when the musicians went before the army singing and playing the praise of God. The Israelis didn’t face the army. As a matter of fact, they were between the army and the enemy, facing the enemy, similar to David being between the army of Israel and Goliath. But when I went to my grandmother’s Catholic Church as a young child, the musician’s were in the balcony, out of sight, and the congregation faced the Altar which they believe held the real body and blood Jesus. They believed that Jesus was present on the alter and even bowed when they walked passed the Altar because Jesus was present.
Now the bread and wine are not even present in the service we call worship and the congregation faces the band. What are we really worshiping by our actions?