The Empty Orchestra
Strangely nervous, I grabbed the mic and pressed play on the machine. I’m regularly up in front of people singing, but something about following that little bouncy ball as it hops over each word puts the fear in ya.
You know what I’m talking about. That’s right: karaoke, the wonderful gift the Japanese have given to the world, allowing anyone to embarrass themselves while attempting to perform their most loved (and most loathed) songs in front of their friends and complete strangers.
It’s really a strange phenomenon. In fact, as a musician’s musician, I have always hated Karaoke—kinda like I hated cover bands—because of the cheapening it does to those who put real heart into writing and playing real songs with real instruments.
But I had an experience that will forever change the way I look at Karaoke. Not because I have a newfound respect for it (heavens, no!), but because I learned something about worshiping God through it.
Karaoke Is OK
We recently held a party thanking all of our music and production volunteers for being faithful and doing such a great job. (This is something I want to encourage you to do with the volunteers at your church, too, but that’s a different article, and I’ll save it for a later time.)
After we had a potluck and celebrated God’s grace in our church, Cam, our Downtown Seattle music director, and I got to cast the vision for where we feel Christ is leading us as a team. After that, we invited everyone else who could to stay, hang out, and sing Karaoke.
Initially, folks were tentative. We had trouble getting the ball rolling, but after the first couple tunes (including Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together,” sung by yours truly), there was a steady stream of people seeking their own shame, one after the next. Before we knew it, nearly everyone in the room had a go, and we were all actually having a lot of fun!
There was something very human about it. Not in a sinful way, but in a good way. Even the most reserved people were expressing themselves and enjoying just being ridiculous with everyone. Sounds strange to say it about karaoke, but as a team we had just reflected on God’s grace to us, and we were still worshiping.
As the night went on, everyone was dancing and really going for it. That’s when it struck me: I rarely, if ever, have seen us responding this way in our church services. Why not? Do we enjoy God? Yes. Are we connected to him through Christ? Absolutely.
Not to oversimplify, but I believe we don’t respond this way because we think we’re not supposed to—that somehow having a good time is irreverent, that somehow it’s more “worshipful” to respond to God’s holiness and righteousness than his friendship, love, and joy.
Mars Hill, my prayer is that we would let go of our inhibitions and allow the Spirit of God to move in us, expressing as much or more during times of gathered worship as we do when we celebrate in other contexts. Whether we’re at a football game, our favorite bands’ concerts, or just sharing a meal with our friends, I hope we can be reminded that God wants our whole life to reflect his work in us, and we have the freedom in Christ to do that—even at church.