Awkward Icebreaker Songs
by Jim Woods
Visiting a church for the first time reminds me of a first date. I’m always nervous, awkward, uncomfortable and sweaty. I immediately look for something familiar that will calm me down and help me fit in. Most churches are aware that first-time guests feel this way, and can take this approach of familiarity and go a little too far.
A few years ago, I attended a new church and I heard music that simply should not be played in any church service. The opening song was Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” As if that was not enough, there were added psychedelic visuals as well, complete with dancing robots and spinning nuts, bolts and wheels. Think of the cartoon imagery from the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” and you get the idea. Not exactly the kind of imagery you’d expect at church.
What followed after that surreal moment is now a blur. I’m not sure if I fainted, or went into a state of shock. I really didn’t expect to hear a song by Black Sabbath, or to see any creepy robots dance.
I understand and appreciate that churches want to connect with a modern audience, but there are times when a worship leader must emphatically say no. There are occasions where the only option is to slam on the brakes, turn around and go in a completely different direction.
I wonder how the conversation went during worship band rehearsal:
Worship drummer: “Hey guys, why don’t we play some Black Sabbath this week?”
Worship guitarist: “Yeah, I’m tired of David Crowder and Chris Tomlin tunes.”
Worship drummer: “Yeah, how about we crank out some “Iron Man,” “War Pigs,” or “Sweet Leaf”?”
Worship leader: “You know, some folks might get offended with songs about wars or smoking. Let’s stick with “Iron Man,” that’s the best choice.”
Worship guitarist: “Okay, cool. But next week let’s play some Metallica or Iron Maiden!”
Worship leader: “Yeah, for sure!”
Okay, I could be a little off in my guess as to how the conversation went in rehearsal. But there are some things that can be learned from the “Sabbath incident”.
1. The Worship Band is not a cover band in the local bar or a jam session in a garage. The worship band’s job is to provide music that leads the church to worship.
2. Trying too hard to be cool never works. It comes across forced, which can easily be interpreted as fake. Honesty is important. Honesty connects us with others and is vital to building community.
3. Worship music does not have to be boring. We are giving back the glory to our Creator, the God who created everything. Jesus laughed. Jesus wept. Jesus was as authentic as they come; and He was God made flesh.
Worship leaders have a very difficult task each week. It is impossible to keep everyone happy, but please avoid playing icebreaker songs like “Iron Man”. We ALL make mistakes. Please continue to treat your position with the diligence and respect it deserves. Thank you for what you do.