Five Epic Worship Fails and What We Can Learn From Them

00 Introduction: Why This Matters; Concepts of Worship, The Bible & Theology

5 Fails title slide-02

[Note: This is a 6 part blog series based on a recent webinar workshop I taught for WorshipTeamCoach.com entitled “Five Epic Worship Fails and we can learn from them.” It is intended to be used as a biblical training resource for your worship team. These are offered as a series of short videos (5 to 10 minutes each) with a study guide and questions you can use to facilitate conversations for growth. You can find that a replay of the original webinar and a link the resource here: Five Epic Worship Fails Replay. ] 

In the series we will look at Five Epic Worship Fails from scripture,  what we can learn from them, and how we can apply their lessons in our lives and ministry. 

First, let’s pray: 

“Father I thank you so much for your great love, thank you for everyone who is reading this series. God I pray that you would give us ears to hear and that you would anoint our minds to know You. Soften our hearts. Inspire us to grow in your ways. We pray for your anointing to be on us as we study and learn. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord my rock and my redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Who Is This For?

This teaching series is designed with the Worship Ministry Volunteer in mind. This is for you if you serve in any of these capacities:

  • Musician
  • Vocalist
  • Choir Member
  • Audio /Video Technician
  • Worship Leader, Music Minister or Music Director
  • Pastor
  • Worship Designer, Planner, or Coordinator

Why is this Important?

Well for starters, the better we understand Biblical worship, the more effective we will be as worship leaders. And if you serve in any way with the worship team – playing an instrument, singing vocals, audiovisual, whatever – then, you are a leader of worship.

Second, the worship ministry volunteers role is first and primarily a spiritual one, then secondarily a musical one.

Third, God has a vision for worship, that “We will be his people and he will be our God” (Exodus 6:7, 1 Peter 2:9)

Therefore it’s important that the way we do ministry be aligned with the ways of God, beginning with our mentality.

The mindset we have when we serving in worship ministry is important. Your mindset is your belief system. It’s the mentality that shapes your perspective, choices, attitudes and behaviors. Aligning with the ways of God begins in the area of the mind.

My hope is that this study can be a catalyst to encourage you to go deeper in your knowledge of the word of God regarding worship, and that it will be a method of empowerment and transformation in your life. That you would be anointed (or even more anointed!)  to do the work of God, God’s way.

God’s Personal Development Plan For You

God has everyone of us on a personal development plan – that is to become transformed people who are conformed to the image of Christ. (see Ephesians 4:11-14, Romans 8:29).

I love the vision Paul casts for us in 2 Corinthians 3:18, and I pray you receive an impartation to become a living breathing example of this description:

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

The more we know the Lord through his Word and His Spirit – the more we will love Him, and the more we will reflect His glory.

Our Common Struggle

Now that’s all fine and good but, the reality is, we are all in different places in this journey of understanding what worship in Spirit and Truth is all about and growing in the grace of God.

I love this quote by worship pastor and songwriter John Chisum, in a recent interview with worshiplinks.us, when asked about his biggest challenge in worship ministry, he replied …

“I assume way too often that they [my team] have the same heart and vision I do for worship, when they’re really only trying to make it through their own struggles and play a little music for Jesus.”

I can so relate to this … oftentimes I’m just trying to make it through my own struggles … and lead worship the best I can.

How about you?

So the first thing I want to say to you, dear Worship Ministry Volunteer musician, is

THANK YOU!

Thank you for serving and sacrificing.

Thank you for investing for your time, energy, gifts and talents in your local church worship ministry.

And thank you for your commitment to grow and to be the best you can be.

Who Is Teaching?

I think it may be helpful for you to know something my background and story to understand the perspective I’ll be sharing. There’s more in-depth info on my About page. But here’s a mini-summary.

I’m from a small town on the Eastern shore of Maryland, moved to Nashville and became a music producer working with the best musicians in the world for over 20 years.

Worship changed my life, I wrote a bunch of worship songs that got published by the largest publisher in the world, some that are sung all over the world.

Missions ruined me for the ordinary, I’ve taught on songwriting and worship theology in over 20 nations, mostly the formerly communist nations of Eastern Europe.

I went back to school at the Institute for Worship Studies (Robert E. Webber) and it radically impacted my understanding of Biblical worship.

In this little study I’m going to share some insights I’ve learned during my journey. I do not present myself as an academic theologian or some kind of guru or expert.

The perspective I share comes from years of  leading in a wide range church and missions contexts – some healthy, some not so much; years of experience producing music with skill levels from studio pros to adolescent beginners; a lot of study at the graduate level in leadership, music and worship … and a lot of scars.

Maybe mostly scars. I didn’t go to seminary, wasn’t raised in a ministry family and have not been a career vocational minister. Ministry has been my second “chapter” so to speak. I’m just a regular person, a sojourner on this path of faith … sharing what I’ve been learning along the way.

So here we go …

Preliminary Concepts About Worship & The Bible

Now just a few preliminary thoughts about “Worship” .

First idea is to see worship as a worldview and a lifestyle. As we examine the Bible, we’ll see worship is understood as far more than just music and beyond just religious activity – it is both a worldview and a lifestyle. It is a way of seeing the world and way to orient the way we live in the natural realm.

Second concept is to know that everybody worships all the time. We can deduce this from from personal reflection, anthropological examination and cultural observation. [See this article for more on this idea].

Broadly speaking, “worship” is putting something or someone in the position of glory in your life. There is a “worship impulse” built into humans. People throughout history and to this day are inclined to dedicate themselves to something or someone that they highly value and make sacrifices for that which has the place of glory in their lives.

The issue isn’t whether you chose to worship or not, because everybody worships something, the issue is:

What is the direction of your worship?

Is it to the God of the Bible? Or not?

I love how Harold Best frames this in his book “Unceasing Worship”, (I recommend this book to every student of worship!):

“We are, everyone of us, unceasing worshipers and will remain so forever, for eternity is an infinite extrapolation of one of two conditions: a surrender to the sinfulness of sin unto infinite loss or the commitment of personal righteousness unto infinite gain. This is the central fact of our existence, and it drives every other fact. Within it lies the story of creation or final loss” Harold Best , Unceasing Worship


[APPLICATION INSIGHT] A common challenge for many worship leaders leading is congregants who don’t appear to engage or participate in the worship activities of singing, showing enthusiasm, ect.

The view point I want to offer is that “everybody wants to worship”. It is our assignment to make it easy for them to engage.

Part of our role as worship ministry volunteers is to help awaken that worship impulse residing within the people and help direct it towards the One who is most worthy of all of our praise. Part of your role is to encourage and model wholehearted worship in spirit and in truth for your people.


Third idea is to see the Bible as the story of God. It has a design that tells the story of God and man.

The Bible is Theo-centric, it’s God-centered, it’s all about God. When we read it, we want to see what it’s telling us about God. When I first “got” this concept during my classes at IWS, it revolutionized the way I read and understood scripture. As you read, ask “What does this passage say about God?”

Christians believe the Bible is unlike any other book, it is is unique. It is a supernatural book that is authoritative, trustworthy and the source of all truth.

Fourth, the Bible is a big book with a lot of information. Much of our culture is basically illiterate about the Bible and what it has to say, especially compared to earlier generations. Many church attenders and even worship team members don’t really know much about the word of God.

Therefore we’re going to embark on a bit of in-depth Bible study for this series. We’ll use the inductive method of studying scripture by asking these three questions:

1. What does the text say?
2. What observations, lessons, take-away’s do you see?
3. How can you apply this to your life or context, especially in worship context?

Right & Wrong Worship

As I have studied the Biblical narrative I’ve pondered a provocative question ….

Is there a right way and a wrong way to worship?

What do you think?

I think this question is relevant because all over the world and in many different contexts I’ve run across this idea or mentality that basically says “Hey man as long as my heart is in the right place, whatever I do in worship is ok”.

While there may be some degree of truth in that perspective, I submit for your consideration that we should consider more deeply what the Scripture teaches.

What I’ve discovered in the Biblical narrative were several occasions where God was not pleased with someone’s offering of “worship”. That’s what we’re going to explore in this series.

But before we move into that, let me wrap up this intro with a few more brief words about theology of worship …

Your Theology Matters

Theology is literally, “words about God “, the study of God. It’s what we think about God. Our theology, beliefs, and actions are intrinsically interwoven and affect everything we do in worship. Our theological beliefs especially impact the people we are leading.

We are practicing theology every time we lead worship. We are literally putting words in peoples mouths. We are setting the example for them to follow.

What we believe about God, about life, and about ourselves overflows as our expression of worship.

“And if our beliefs are inaccurate, we will (even with the best of intentions and a sincere love for Jesus) behave in ways that are not how God intended.” – Robbie McAlpine, Post-Charismatic (book introduction).

If our beliefs are inaccurate … wow, then everything can get distorted. When our understanding of truth is distorted, then really bad things can result. We want to avoid that, don’t we?

Now with an open mind let’s move on to Epic Worship Fail #1, from the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4. [Look for that in the next post].


Note: You can find a replay of the original webinar and resource links here: Five Epic Worship Fails Replay. ] 

Thanks for reading! The purpose of this blog is to encourage wholehearted worship worldwide. Partner with us!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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