When the Music Fades

What would you do with the realization that something you have done for many years–long enough to do well without a second thought–is… wrong?

I’ve quit worship-leading. Indefinitely.

This is a decision that comes after several months of processing the question that I one day asked myself: “Is my ‘worship’ leading emotional manipulation?”

I’ve come to the belief that much of contemporary worship music is emotionally manipulative–indeed I’m not sure that we could really say that any music is not emotionally manipulative; after all, music moves us all. But the lines really grey out for me around worship music because there tends to be a heavy emphasis on the worshipper’s experience with God and church, and the worshipleader’s ability to create that experience. I realize this in myself when I begin to think of myself as successful or unsuccessful based upon the outward emotional responses I see both in myself and in those I am leading. Some worship leaders could bring you to tears or have you jumping for joy at the whim of a carefully-selected song list.

To be clear, I’m not condemning worship-leaders. I’m not saying that worship music is wrong. I used to believe that worship-leading was my dream, but I’ve come to the realization that creating art–and particularly music in this case–is a powerful gift much bigger than how we experience church; it truly is how we experience the divine in ourselves and in each other. And with the traditional views of church that I could never quite settle with follow my traditional views of worship-leading, because I do not want to create a church experience. I do not want to tell you through my music how to experience God, and I do not want to base my success or failure on my ability to emotionally woo you into my pre-conceived ideas about experiencing Divine.

I have reasons beyond that: namely that I don’t have time. I love music, but I’ve come to the disappointed realization that I’m not getting to the level I want to achieve at, and I probably will never get there without much more serious focus. I’m losing my vocal range and set variety because I don’t have time to exercise or learn new songs. I’ve never really relished the idea of creating music uncollaboratively, and so I find doing it alone more draining for that reason as well; I would fit well in a supporting role behind someone else’s spotlight, but I don’t have ties to a lot of other musicians because I haven’t taken the time or opportunities to make connections. 

Beyond all that, I’m tired. I don’t want to make music in this chapter of my life–and I certainly don’t want to make music merely because those I do it for tell me I am the best they have. And perhaps now we are really down to it; I’m burned out, and I don’t feel right about being at the head of something potentially–if I’m successful–emotionally charged, because I’ve lost my personal confidence in the ethics of the thing itself.

And so I won’t be leading worship any more. I do hope, one day, that I will find my music niche. But in the mean time I continue to wrestle with the implications of what has been made conscious to me, and I am done robbing energy from ventures more in line with my current vibrations to beat on tired horses; it’s time to go further up, and further in!

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