I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life leading musical worship publicly.
There is, of course, much discussion (and dissent) over what is “real” worship. The only “real” biblical answer is that real worship happens when our lives reflect the character, nature, and attributes of Jesus, aka “spiritual transformation.” To reduce authentic worship to lively people singing loudly, clapping their hands, or otherwise jiving to the music is to only see part of worship, that part that can make the least difference in a person’s life and in the coming of the kingdom on earth.
As a worship leader, I will ALWAYS hope and pray that people engage with the music I provide. It’s so much more fun that way! I can be guilty of judging people as “lifeless” and “Spirit-less” but that certainly isn’t always the case. Maybe sometimes a particular person in the service hasn’t encountered Jesus personally and therefore feels no impetus to be lively in their singing, etc. Then my prayer must be that the Holy Spirit will make Jesus real to them and lead them in their own expression of praise.
Or, maybe someone is introverted or even ashamed of their lack of rhythm or a mono-tonal voice. While we would encourage people in either case to “make a joyful noise” or clap along the best they can, they feel intimidated somehow. Often, I’m sure, people just don’t like a style of music being used and then don’t feel engaged in the service. Visually, this is completely discouraging to a leader like me, but it is just part of the reality I deal with week to week.
There is a strong heritage of Hebrew worship in physical expressions that we can enjoy as Jesus followers. There are at least seven words that are translated as “worship”, “praise”, and “singing” but that actually refer more deeply to shouting, bowing, dancing, and even falling prostrate before Yahweh. We, unfortunately, have created synonyms out of the words singing and worship. This is an impoverishment of our deep heritage, but, hey – at least we still sing!
SO – my stance is that my job is to provide the best opportunities I can in any given service for the most people to enter in. This is ultimately the individual’s choice regardless of the musical genres in play. My prayer is that we can all be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and even forget about the style of song. Jesus is worthy of ALL of our praise and devotion. Let’s join in unity and love to worship Him!