What’s the greatest threat that might slow
down the advancement of
the Kingdom of God?
Is it the ‘shallow’ worship songs that are populating many church setlists on a Sunday?
Is the celebrity worship leader culture that’s been established by large corporations turning congregations into customers and Jesus’ followers into fans?
Could it be Kanye West stealing the spotlight from Jesus?
If you’re like me, you may find yourself drawn into debates with strangers on facebook groups discussing the trending topics around worship songs and worship ministry. It is easy to become annoyed by people getting on their high horse about certain topics and I’ve recently seen a few posts of worship leaders forums where people have retracted comments due to the upset and offense caused to others. And whilst I’ve witnessed some heart-felt apologies, something doesn’t seem quite right here…
Tours, Concerts, Events
Movements, Gatherings and
the language we use
I recently read a post from my friend Neil which got me contemplating my thoughts around whether advertising ‘tours’ and ‘concerts’ in the church is helpful.
I totally understand the downsides of worship leaders being held up a superhuman celebrities. It’s not fair on those individuals as I’m sure none of them set out to become the center of worship and if we dilute our focus and attention, we miss out on the width and depth of blessing that God has for us in our community gatherings. However, I became a Christian at what many people would describe as a worship concert. In 1996, a huge PA, lighting rig and band called Delirious? rocked up to school hall in Sheffield for a ticketed event.
Perhaps a concert will draw in someone from the outside…someone like my 12-year-old self who wouldn’t be interested in attending a worship gathering or vaguely titled community connection night. Our worship is for God and we can express our thanks to Him. He loves to speak to us and is singing over us too. When we declare his greatness however, it’s a shame if the only people hearing the truth are the same faithful few that show up every week. Therefore, bring on the worship concerts is the aim is to bless God, enable people to meet him and draw in those who need to hear about his goodness. I remember countless debates where people would question whether it was ‘worship’ or ‘a performance’ when Delirious? led worship at Soul Survivor in the later 90’s. I’ve heard similar discussions around some of the mega-churches and been surprised by how quick Christian can slate one another just because something isn’t their personal preference.
I’m unsure how useful the rhetoric we create actually is. For example, I personally don’t think it makes much difference if you’re a worship leader or a lead worshipper. Asserting that you are most definitively not ‘one of those’ but you’re a new and redefined model is neither here nor there in my book. I doubt it will be a question we’re asked to account for before the throne of judgment. If you have a strong conviction to where a specific label…go for it but don’t tear off the labels from your brother’s t-shirt.
I decided to call myself the ‘Chief Enthusiast’ when I start my journey with Homegrown Worship based on a personal revelation I had that I didn’t want to see myself as a CEO. However, you won’t ever find me bashing people for their chosen job titles or picketing outside the headquarters of Christian Charities to insist their CEO should adopt a less corporate name badge.
I’m wrong, your wrong;
but He is right!
If singing songs accompanied by music is an essential part of our community gatherings, can we really eradicate performance entirely?
Should we throw away all pre-existing songs, refuse to prepare anything and attempt to be lead purely by divine leading in that present moment?
Does the Holy Spirit refuse to show us in churches using click and backing tracks due to a lack of spontaneity?
If you’re performing songs that declare God’s truth, surely it’s good to be singing these in church, theatres, and concert halls. If you feel that being free and spontaneous is essential for you to connect with God, the good news is that you can do that easily in your own home, your own car and when you go for a walk in the countryside. Your church might be a place that embraces a particular style of music or participation but I don’t think that your style or my style is superior or the only way. When we seek to homogenize worship and the experience and call out those who do things that don’t fit in with our preferences or perspective, we run the risk of escalating division and we will miss out on the blessing that God has promised in a short and sweet Psalm 133.
My friend Baz (who organised the worship concert where I met Jesus) often says ‘I’m wrong, your wrong; but He is right’. Variety is a beautiful thing.
The pendulum often swings between different tastes and preferences. We can easily become cynical or what is popular because we get bored or long for a return to simpler times when worship songs were just how we liked them. As a family, we must respect the old and embrace the new. The past few weeks have seen a mix of reactions to Kanye West’s Sunday Service and his commercially successful album Jesus Is King. It’s not my place to judge his heart or motives and I’m really pleased for all the attention Jesus is getting from this.
It was also fascinating to read people’s impassioned responses to Keith Getty’s article on how the modern worship movement is ‘causing the de-Christianisation of God’s people’.
Whilst I agree with many of the points raised and long to see a wider expression of worship than just how we feel, the premise of the article seemed to be geared towards grabbing headlines to help promote his new record. I can hardly judge whilst writing an article for the Homegrown Worship and I personally am a bigger fan of Keith’s writing than Kanye’s.
Diving deeper, growing wider
and lifting Jesus higher
Our hearth with Homegrown Worship is to see writers, artists and worship leaders dive deeper in their own personal devotion and to grow in their personal relationship with God. We want to see an army of creative people and collectives advancing the Kingdom of God in their mission field whether that’s a town in England, the reggae music scene, a US state or the entire globe. We long to see wider expressions of worship released so that nobody feels the pressure to compromise the authenticity of their art to try and fit in with what’s perceived to be popular. We have been created by a God who made the giraffe and the hedgehog and we all have a part to play in the great commission using the individual gifts and talents we’ve been endowed with.
I say, bring on the worship concerts… may they lift Jesus higher and point more people to him.
God bless the people I know who are hosting worship encounter events in their homes.
Bring on the worship training conferences… may the army be equipped for their work and make straight the path for ‘well know’ worship leaders and thank you for their service to the body.
Lord bless all those people who are trying to find a space in their own home to connect with you… help me to continue in my own daily devotions.
Build up the megachurches and awaken sleepy rural parishes. Thank you that you love our varied expressions of music and worship.
Let our conversations and engagement with other brothers and sisters be filled with love and encouragement. Help us to sharpen each other in love as the Proverbs instruct us. Lord help grow in love for one another so that the world would know that we are Your disciples!