How can a church profess to be faith based and support the Biblical teachings and yet fool its own congregation by presenting its music as a “live band”, whilst really engaging in what amounts to a segment of karaoke? What does this say about church leadership that allows this to happen? Is this question too judgmental or is it just the church following the trend?
On August 27, Brad Morehouse witnessed this very thing in a small town in Colorado, where he visited a church. Morehouse described the church, “For a small town church they had all the lights with large video screens and a big stage. Very professional looking.” But, what he noticed following this observation perplexed him.
Mr. Morehouse is an entrepreneur and journalist with a wide variety of talents that include being a musician and live sound engineer. According to him there were five musicians and three singers on stage. “I was very impressed by the sound that I was hearing, but as I began to watch the musicians, I noticed something strange”, he explained.
“The bass player was playing a high B note but what I heard was a low B note . To my amazement the bass player was not heard but the background track was”, he said referring to a pre-recorded track that was actually being controlled and mixed by the worship leader.
In Brad’s words he was playing “air guitar.” He said that he looked to the left and saw that the lead guitar was playing a “lead hook” and could tell that he was actually listening to a karaoke music track because the lead guitar did not match what was coming out of the sound system.
The following truly confirmed that there was karaoke style track playing instead of real musicians when what the music community commonly refers to as a “train-wreck” occurred. The following song had accidentally been started via digital media in the middle of the song. The worship leader who was controlling it accidentally started the karaoke tracks in the wrong spot. It was an explosion of noise that the “band members” were unable to react to. You could hear drums, guitar, strings and background vocals and it was loud! It proved that actual volume of the karaoke background tracks were completely covering up the musicians on stage.
Mr. Morehouse acknowledged the potential impact of this by speculating, “I wonder what percentage of the audience realized what was happening?”
According to him worshiphousemedia.com and other companies create the soundtracks that the churches buy. The studio records each instrument individually, which can be muted or mixed in according to a live band’s needs. The idea is that a church, then can use it to cover for a missing band member.
However, Mr. Morehouse says as a musician, “I have helped churches for over 3 decades with sound and what is truly happening is the worship leaders are more and more mixing out or drowning out the real players on stage and choosing tracks over live players. The real players don't realize they are nothing but props because each musician is given a small little mixer headphone device to where they adjust their mix. I always turn up my guitar so I can hear it says Brad but what is heard on the main sound system is a different story.
The audience doesn’t know if they are listening to a track or an actual band member. This is particularly bad in the case of band members who have worked very hard to perfect their music only to be covered up.”
If used correctly, these pre-recorded tracks can be a good tool, but as Morehouse puts it, “God will fill the gaps or missing instruments.” He also points out, “Multi-tracks run on a fixed time which means there is no chance to extend the song. You cannot fully let creativity or the spirit flow.”
But, the bigger issue with using this system, as Mr. Morehouse pointed out earlier, is that it can be used to fool a congregation with what is really no more than karaoke on the highest level where vocals and instruments are faked.
Mr. Morehouse also said as a musician there are two reasons to serve in a church worship band besides worshiping God and that is if I hear a need I will step up and help out but if I hear a super grand full (karaoke) band why would I volunteer as I am not needed. "This fake karaoke has replaced my need to serve."
Morehouse who posed the following questions: “Does the bass player and most cases the whole band realize that they are not heard and the worship leader has replaced them with a recorded track? Did the lead guitar player get used for a stage prop to fill the stage to give the impression of a high energy worship service? Do these musicians who practiced for hours realize they are not heard? Or, How about the worship leader accepting compliments like ‘Wow! The music was really good today!’?"
While some may not consider this a major issue, the implications are serious. Music performed by members of a congregation is not meant to strive for perfection due to judgment by peers as in the case of a piano recital. Rather, it is an expression of faith that assists members of the congregation to open up and engage in Christian fellowship among themselves with God. “Moving in the spirit”, as some refer to it, is a life changing and healthy way to share in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
It is not to say that this can only be accomplished with a live band, as the participation and bringing glory to God is really what matters. Music played in the absence of a live band to give members of the church something to sing praise with is perfectly acceptable when that is how it is presented.
However, a live band is literally the manifestation of the talent that God has given to the congregation to help rejoice in his name. The band playing together, in the name of Christ is a holy experience that simply cannot be faked.
In addition, it could be argued that faking a band could very well be a slap in the face of the church members who may feel like they are being “played” as the “band” fakes a holy experience. Members who feel this way, would most likely take issue with what amounts to being lied to. This obviously runs contrary to the Christian message.
Most Christians understand that it is their faith in God that sets them apart from those in the secular world. Having real faith means trust must be given to the Lord that he will see through whatever issues that may confront the congregation. In essence, a church leadership must lead by faith and not with “smoke and mirrors”.
Will we soon see "Karaoke free worship" advertisements in churches in our near future?