[Word count: 723. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]
“’Cause if you ain’t got it…
Think about it—wait—erase your rhyme.
Forget it, and don’t waste your time.
‘Cause I’ll be in the crowd if you ain’t controllin’ it.
Drop the mic.
You shouldn’t be holdin’ it.”
While at a rehearsal where members of the worship ensemble were trying their hand at singing lead. I heard a pastor remark quietly, “They ain’t got it.” This struck me as odd because it’s what you expect to hear on American Idol, not at church.
I auditioned for American Idol once. My performance was great, but they passed on me. It was the best rejection I ever got because they rejected even better singers and accepted some really bad ones, proving it wasn’t about talent. They were casting a TV show. They needed someone with an “it factor”—a charismatic personality and a look that would entertain their audience.
“You ain’t got it” was said about other rejects, so I‘m sure it was also said about me. They certainly acted like I didn’t have enough anointing to lead. It felt like a popularity contest… that I lost. And being rejected at church is pretty demoralizing. Be honest. That bar is low. Church folk will clap politely for some truly awful shit. If I didn’t have enough personality and charm to get on TV, that’s fine. But worship isn’t a TV show… is it?
I was all set to climb up on my soapbox and chastise the church for making worship into a circus! Worship should be about a willing heart that “touches heaven and changes Earth.” How dare they tell anyone “they ain’t got it”?!
But the truth is that they were right. I don’t got it. As much music theory as I know… As accomplished a pianist as I am… As nice as people say my voice is… I don’t got it. Whether auditioning for Paula, Simon, and Randy or Jesus himself, I’m nobody’s superstar. Crowds don’t flock to me. I didn’t know I needed that.
And maybe the hurt wasn’t so much from hearing “they ain’t got it.” It was that they didn’t see enough potential in me to say “you ain’t got it yet.” They invested in others who didn’t quite have it yet. I thought I was worth that kind of investment. I don’t think my pastors agreed, which hurt… a lot. It’s like finding out your boss is looking for a convenient time to fire you. I felt devalued and discarded. I really didn’t feel like singing after that.
The haves and have-nots
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mark. The worship at my church is always amazing every time. Our minister of music personally snatches down a chunk of Heaven, crumbles, and sprinkles it on us like celestial bacon upon a holy Cobb salad.”
Well good for you. Your worship leader probably gots it. If you’re comfortable where you are, don’t move. [Also, try not to breathe. Such ecstasy is fragile and easily disrupted.]
“Actually, Mark, the worship at my church IS pretty unsatisfying and dry as homeless ankles.”
Is it? Awww, I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe your worship leader just don’t “got it.” Get somebody that do, because that’s what it’s really all about. You be encouraged now. Okay?
Can I offer a solution?
(1) If all God is is a feeling, then say that. And keep doing whatever manufactures that feeling. But if God is more than that—if he’s real whether your singers have star power or not—then let him be the star. Stop “helping him” look good. He shouldn’t need hair-and-makeup before he goes on.
(2) If you’re a pastor, you can’t be afraid of displeasing your target audience. They boo and hiss just as much when you preach Bible scriptures they don’t like. People in church are grown ups. Let them deal. And if they don’t like your music and message, let them leave. If you always have to do something to make them stay, you don’t have them anyway.
(3) I was going to wag a victimized, self-righteous finger at the church hurting my feelings, but this particular issue is mostly mine. I already had a wound. Ministry just irritated it. Let this be a lesson own your problems and find the appropriate solutions.
This is #2 in a 5-part series called Exit Wounds: Song of an Ex-Worship Leader.
Read the introduction here. You just read “Church Superstars: You Ain’t Got It.”
- PART 1: The Miseducation of the Worship Leader [1/5]
— Whatever worship is, I thought it was more powerful than it actually is. When I found out how mystical it wasn’t, I could not deal. I wish someone would have done a better job warning me worship wouldn’t protect me from life happening.
- PART 2: Church Superstars: You Ain’t Got It [2/5] — Music was one thing I was sure I was good at, so to hear that I wasn’t good enough was crushing. It left me unsure of “my calling,” and doubting whether I was good at anything.
- PART 3: More Than You Know What To Do With [3/5]
— Help. I don’t fit in church, but I don’t know how to get outside of it. What do I do now?
- PART 4: Performance vs. Worship: When Keeping It Real Is Wrong [4/5] — The act of worshipping in front of an audience blurred the lines between what was for God and what was for people.
- PART 5: So You Think You Can Worship? [5/5]
— The hokey-pokey dance of trying to understand what worship is and isn’t left me confused. I’m still not sure what it is right now.
So much resonates. I think you have the option of wagging your finger, just a little. You may have a wound, but I don’t think it is asking too much for the church to be less like the world.