Wilt: Joy, Facial Expressions, and Visual Leadership

Gotta Look Cool

Quick! Think of a situation (outside of church) where you can readily find musicians playing their instruments and smiling at the same time.

It’s not the norm nowadays, is it? We much more commonly see facial expressions that communicate some mixture of concentration, angst, smugness, pride, or the general impression of being too-cool-for-school.

What about when we play music in the church? We know that our goal is encouraging the worship of God’s gathered people, but are we conscious that our facial expressions are part of that? As Dan Wilt so helpfully reminds us (below), what is happening on our faces will always communicate something to the congregation. There is no neutral. When the church is gathered, the musicians’ faces are either adding to the call to worship, or subtracting from it.

Let’s not forget the role of joy in our congregational worship. For musicianship outside of church expressing joy may be strictly optional, or even uncool, but inside of church that must not be the case.

A People of Joy

Christians are a people of joy. Yes, we know sorrow, pain, contrition and repentance over sin, and sharing with Christ in his sufferings (Rom. 8:17, Phil. 3:10, 1 Pet. 4:13)—and the church weeps over these in lament. (More on attending to honest lament here.) But the church's song doesn't end here. These are chords, to use a musical analogy, borrowed from another “key,” from the “key” of this world that is passing (1 Jn. 2:17, 1 Cor. 7:31). Those are not chords from the key of Zion, where our home and citizenship finally and truly abide (Phil. 3:20, Heb. 11:10). The real key of the church’s song is resurrection life, victory, and joy (Phil. 4:4).

The fact we gather on Sunday speaks to this. Given that Christ was crucified on Good Friday, we might have expected Friday to be the time the church gathered for worship. If we Jesus followers were going to switch away from Saturday worship (Sabbath, as Israel had kept), why not shift worship to the time of Christ’s death on the cross, on Friday? It would stand to reason. (Other reasons the early Christians switched away from Saturday worship here.)

But for millennia it has been Sunday morning that the Christians gather. Why? Because Christ was raised up from the grave on the first day of the week, and we celebrate his victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. Sunday became the primary day for congregational worship because of the joy of Christ’s resurrection. No matter what else flavors our worship, the one constant is the joy of celebration. The old has gone, the new has come: Christ has redeemed us for himself, clothed us in his righteousness, filled us with the Holy Spirit, and given us every spiritual blessing in him. A great church leader once said, “Christians are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.” Hallelujah indeed!

As worship musicians, playing for God and his people, we know we strive to play with musical excellence (Ps. 33:3). But we’re doing a lot more than just playing notes. Our souls are actively engaged along with all God’s people. Let’s remember to play with a countenance reflecting the joy of the Lord.

I highly recommend you read Dan Wilt's thoughtful encouragement here.