Friday, September 28, 2012

#230 Worship leader conferences

Christian culture absolutely loves a conference. It's such a popular enterprise that there is now a conference for every facet of evangelical life, and the bigger the conference, the more likely that it will be sponsored by a corporation or nine.  Fortunately for the economy, the realm of interacting with the divine and unsayable (which the Christian tradition often calls “worship”) is no exception.

The entity of worship has so many types of conferences that now there are even conferences specifically for worship leaders. The websites and brochures for worship leader conferences state and restate that worship leaders and church creatives have been commissioned to lead remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. They want you to believe that they believe this. These conferences charge on average $330 for 3 days of gathering with worship specialists to “keep you engaging with God” and “offer the prayers of your congregation with more authority and humility.” They call it a bargain, the best you ever had. Sizable evangelical churches and all Acts 29 church plants have a conference budget for occasions such as these so that the worship leader, select members of the worship team, and even a lucky intern or two may attend.

At these conferences you are often invited to present your own original worship song to a panel of experts that includes major publishers (the brochure's words) who will give you their professional feedback on just how worshipful and relevant your song is exactly. I don’t think any of us even want to think about what would happen if there were no industry professionals to critique the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, do we?

Along with relevant education in songwriting and pastoral worship, you'll find workshops on the art and maintenance of backline. These workshops have names such as“Worship Lighting,” “Wireless Mics in Worship” and (wait for it) “Who Moved My Console?” For the visual ministry teams that modern evangelicalism requires, there are workshops on “Multi-Screen and Environmental Projection on a Budget” and “How to Effectively Organize and VJ Your Visual Media Library.” If nothing else, worship conferences highlight the fact that there are positions on church payrolls to fill the aching spiritual void that is met by Visual Ministry. We often take these for granted.

But even a worship conference wouldn’t be a conference without Sponsor Resources.  The sponsors hold their own workshops with titles like “Be A Part of Something Beautiful. Is An [Insert Brand Here] Website For You?”, “Engaging Mobile Phones With Your Presentation” which is sponsored by church presentation software, and “Yamaha Keyboards In Worship: Equipping Instruments Of Praise” — sponsored of course by our friends at Yamaha.

Best of all, record labels buy slots for their artists to lead worship. They want their artists to worship during various sessions and workshops in hopes that other conferees will take those songs back to their churches to perform on Sundays so the artists and labels get to collect CCLI publishing money. Once the labels help cover costs and provide materials, their artists get the coveted evening slots. It really is quite a strategy. Upon leaving the conference you will be strenuously encouraged to give feedback, and the most glowing reports will appear on the conference website to inform next year's applicants. The worship conference website insists that attending their event is “one of the most important ministry decisions you’ll make all year.” And who are we to argue with that?


Michael Lonergan said...

This just furthers my belief that Evangelical Christianity has absolutely no connection whatsoever to Biblical Christianity and the things Jesus taught. I mean, what would Jesus do at one of these corporate sponsored conferences where companies like Yamaha have no vested interest in the actual teachings of Jesus? They are there to make big bucks, and, believe me, there are big bucks to be made from the modern Evangelical movement. I am convinced that these people are not so much interested in serving the people Jesus actualy told them to serve. They are more interested in reaching themselves - those that live in the same social and economic strata as they do.

Unknown said...

While everything you say is "true" you paint these events in a considerably more sinister light than is appropriate. I have been to two National Worship Leader Conferences, and I got a lot of great ideas and got to network with a ton of great people who were just trying to find ways to be better at leading worship. Perhaps you could make an argument that hiring someone to "lead worship" is a bad thing, but if you don't feel that way, what is wrong with a little professional development?

stephy said...

Hi Ed, I'm not sure what you're asking. You say what I say here is true but that I paint these events in a considerably more sinster light than is appropriate. So which is it? Am I casting truth on them and the reality is that they are actually very sinister? And why do people try to be "better" at leading worship? It's a sacred thing that needs NO improvement, but if they're trying to become "better" at leading worship, they must not believe that it's a sacred exchange. What's wrong with a little professional development? The fact that WORSHIP IS NOT A PROFESSION, that is what.

Kevin said...

I don't know Stephanie, the more we make church mirror the techniques of corporations, then the more they...praise...god?

Jeremiah said...

I'd have to agree with a lot of what you said, Stephy. Most of western Christianity is geared toward entertainment (with the exception of the Quakers). The more a worship leader "sparkles," the better chances a pastor has of growing his church and making more money.

As a former worship leader, I got tired of the unspoken need to entertain people. "Worship leading" has really just become a well-intentioned performance. I don't doubt that people really do worship and connect with God, I just found it was no longer for me.

And that is one of the many reasons why I have gone down the road of Eastern Orthodoxy. They don't give a damn about entertaining anyone or being culturally relevant. They just perform the same liturgy that they've been doing for over a thousand years. If you don't engage in the worship, they don't worry about how to cater to you. I'm love how they are just themselves and let other people decide whether or not it is for them.

Anonymous said...

The reality of professional worship is made evident by the fact that any church with a budget is paying a person or ten to be professional about worship. In my years as both a Calvary Chapel pastor and overlapping worship leader for 12+ years, if there is one thing I have learned, Christian Culture loves "professional worship". The world outside the church is hurting, but the pros are inside making perfect. This is their "act of worship". Steph, there was a time in my life when I was more concerned with the quality of guitar I played, the tone, the technique, than I was concerned for the people who showed up to "experience". Jesus is a marketable product to evangelical christianity. Whatever means necessary to keep the dollars rolling. So the driving force behind "worship conferences" is simply greed. Greed from those who put on such events, and greed from those who "invest" in going. If it aids in producing butts in the seats because the guitar player wears girl pants, so be it. Jesus left the building long ago.


Anonymous said...

Jeremy M, you and I had very similar experiences. I left evangelical christianity for something much more orthodox, but a little west in the Anglican church.

I remember a day when I sat with the "worship pastor" and his henchmen, and explained that there was little value in me performing if I was not worshiping. I explained that there had to be something fundamentally wrong with being a worship leader, and being so focused on the performance that I never actually worshiped. I was told, "It is your job. So you will do it."

This was quite a few years ago. It proved, however, to be a pivotal point in my journey.


Anonymous said...

If you consider worship a spectator sport, rather than corporate worship, then professionals, professional development, and paid staff is not only a good idea, but a necessity.

Αναστασία said...

I know a guy who's a Worship Leader (I'm sure he'd insist upon capitalization), who is obsessed with these conferences.
He even has a "dream" of launching an online social network specifically for Worship Leaders, and treating conferences as "meet and greet" events.
What makes me even sadder is, someone has probably already launched one. And it's probably raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Anonymous said...

I started to get very jaded toward worship when it started to feel like the poor man's road to feeling like a rock star. Heaven forbid someone who was unattractive, didn't have cool hair or didn't wear trendy clothes-- but had their heart in the right place--would lead worship.

Rachelle said...

Wow. I wasn't familiar with this version of worship leader conferences. Overly commercialized, absolutely.

I will say, though, that communal music-making is an important worship experience for many Christians, and music really does help people come closer to God in a different way. It also takes a unique skill set to play music well and to facilitate communal music-making. People do need education and continuing education for this (maybe without the "industry experts," though.)

I have known some very genuine, heartfelt worship leaders whose goal really was to help the congregation join together in worshiping God. I hope they don't get lost to industry hype.

(Personally, I prefer the theologically-dense 200-year-old hymns sung in four-part harmony and led by a skilled organist.)

Unknown said...

So really these conferences are over-engineered ways of teaching people how to bring God a dead animal instead of a fruit basket?

Unknown said...

I was clear. I am saying technically you have accurately documented the things that happen at these conferences but your descriptions are intentionally slanted to ramp up the cynicism. I am saying that you are making things that are relatively harmless sound sinister.

You said, "why do people try to be "better" at leading worship? It's a sacred thing that needs NO improvement, but if they're trying to become "better" at leading worship, they must not believe that it's a sacred exchange." What? Trying to do your best for God is somehow negative? Really? Are you suggesting that if I got up in front of a congregation and just banged away on my guitar, no preparation or prior consideration, that would be just as worshipful as if I had prayerfully prepared and spent hours rehearsing to try and create something beautiful with which to praise God?

Also, you said, "So What's wrong with a little professional development? The fact that WORSHIP IS NOT A PROFESSION, that is what." Perhaps, but I am paid to LEAD worship. Again, perhaps paying people to lead worship might be a bad thing, but if it is NOT, then trying to do your best, to develop professionally, is just good stewardship.

Maybe I am totally missing your point, but I don't think so. I thing you paint this with too broad a brush.

Danica Newton said...

Ed, you said, "Are you suggesting that if I got up in front of a congregation and just banged away on my guitar, no preparation or prior consideration, that would be just as worshipful as if I had prayerfully prepared and spent hours rehearsing to try and create something beautiful with which to praise God?"

In response to that, I really don't think God cares about how many hours we spend preparing or not preparing for 'worship' (something about Him not desiring burnt offerings and sacrifices, but rather a broken and contrite spirit ... ) In other words, man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

The fact that you think that you have to work hard in order to please God makes me sad.

Unknown said...

No. Danica. You are putting words in my mouth. I did not say anything about feeling like I had to do anything to please God, however, we are not strictly talking about me pleasing God. We are talking about leading corporate worship, which requires a leader in order to be orderly, as Paul describes it. If I just throw something together, I am NOT doing what I am being tasked to do in service to God. If I do a GOOD job leading people in worship, I contribute to orderly and hopefully effective corporate worship. If I slop something together, I am contributing to disorder and creating a distraction from the corporate worship experience. AGAIN, perhaps an argument could be made that what I am leading is not the most biblical worship, but that is another discussion altogether.

Unknown said...

Also the hating of burnt offerings and sacrifices is only when they are offered by people who are outside of God's will. The other one speaks of a temporary situation, when David says God does not delight in our sacrifices, but then says, "God please rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so you WILL delight in our sacrifices again." These are the only passages that talk about God not appreciating our offerings. So I think he appreciates what we do for him but he no longer requires them as a matter of law. So I try to do the broken and contrite heart thing as well :)

Danica Newton said...
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Danica Newton said...

And - on the Psalms passage - I have never before heard the historical context in which it was written. I'm wondering now where to put the Hosea passage where God says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice".

Unknown said...

Oops. Forgot that one. I will read your whole post later. Have to prepare a lesson for tomorrow. Which means I should quit commenting on stuff.

Chris said...

*Repost from the FB page*
Eh, there's a lot I could say about this. First, I find the worship leaders' getting paid for not doing anything line of thinking troubling. Good music takes work, and it's unfortunate that in our culture--and particularly in Evangelical culture--making music isn't regarded as a professional skill to be honed and rewarded but as an "neat" or "cute" talent to be exploited. Evangelicals by and large don't pay musicians (unless the church is quite large) and often treat them like dirt. Mainline denominations differ in that they at least bother to hire people (though their pay is usually not terribly great), and because of this practice, they often reap the benefits of having excellent singers and pianists and organists, though the overall genre of music tends to be far more conservative/classical than is what is offered in Evangelical circles. As an example, if you attend an Episcopalian church in NYC, you will generally see people singing who either graduated from or are attending one of the nearby conservatories, including Juilliard, MSM, Mannes, and NEC.
14 minutes ago · Like

Chris Harrelson Second, religious music in the US (and in general) has always tended to be less virtuosic than absolute music (music for music's sake). It's *always* been accessible stylistically, as any close look of the structure of hymns will demonstrate. The difference now lies in its commercial aspects. Worship was never really sold as an experience until about 20-30 years ago, at least not in the quantity it is now. Music and the attitudes of the culture are mutually influential. Religious music has simply been traveling furthering down the rabbit hole of style that aims for ambiance or feeling via digital manipulation rather than musical proficiency in an attempt to keep pace with the capitalist desires of its culture. It's a hybridization of conformity and Christian/American distinctiveness. And these conferences are just a part of that.

PS Hope this doesn't come off as too pompous and long-winded. Just my 2 cents.

stephy said...

Ed says: "Are you suggesting that if I got up in front of a congregation and just banged away on my guitar, no preparation or prior consideration, that would be just as worshipful as if I had prayerfully prepared and spent hours rehearsing to try and create something beautiful with which to praise God?"

That's exactly what I'm saying. What you describe in the tone you describe it sounds self-aggrandizing, about performance, and absolutely disgusting.

Danica Newton said...

I agree with you, Ed, that it's very good to have orderly worship.

So you know where I'm coming from, I was raised in a bible church where we'd sing songs like, "Shine Jesus Shine", then attended an Anglican church overseas, went to a Baptist church in college, moved to an ultra charismatic church where people danced and waved flags, and now attend a pretty generic megachurch that does small groups, worship band, the whole bit. I say this so you have an understanding of my perspective (sometimes it's easier to hear people when you know where they've been).

In regards to your comment on facebook that, "I probably do more in a week to serve the poor and help broken people than most of you did in the last year", I am going to choose not to get into a spiritual pedigree contest. And anyway, the most spiritual person I know is a 56 year old housewife with a reading disability and health problems. Jesus shines through her like a window pane.

The reason I linked to the sermon series your church is doing on tithing, is because many people on the SCCL page have been hurt / are being hurt by churches. They see churches as malevolent entities that are out to rob them of time, money and even their very identities. The idea of a church paying hundreds of dollars to send staff to a worship conference, then preaching a sermon series that (to the cynical eye) basically says, "Give us your money", seems to be the very thing you pointed out in your post (money changers and all that). But perhaps the conference you went to didn't charge that much?

I think that the most important thing, when it all comes down, is love. Not fake love that is nice on the outside, but leaves hurts festering on the inside (which happens very often in CC). But real love that acknowledges hurts, acknowledges the ugly, is HONEST.

And sometimes, I guess, as I ramble to my point, that is the problem - big worship productions can feel disingenuous, designed to drive up people's emotions. They often don't feel, in a word, honest.

Peter Rollins put it really well, better than I can, so I'll leave you with his words -

JC said...

It's just so unnecessary. I don't even think "worship leaders" should get paid. To worship and lead others in worship? That's a privilege. IMHO, of course.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Danica, didn't check the Rollins link because I have already posted that one to my wall previously. Love Pete. Saw him speak at a conference, incidentally.

Thank you for your remarks. I have already apologized elsewhere about my service comment. I was wounded and biting back. My bad. Not trying to assign spiritual pedigree, but just saying that people are judging me (and worship leaders in general) with no real knowledge of who they are judging. Was being accused of greed just because I lead worship, which is, in my opinion, a little weird. Again, sorry for the tone and even the words. Spoken in haste. Not very "pastoral" of me.

The sermon series is not about tithing BTW. It is about generosity and how generosity is NOT about tithing but about going all in for the gospel - time talent treasure. It's about dying to self and living for Christ.

Our conference budget at WCC is a tiny portion of the total operating budget for the church, but our community service and overseas aid budget is about 30% of it. Again, not bragging, just saying that not all churches are malevolent entities, seeking to abuse and manipulate and rob everyone. The plight of the folks in this group breaks my heart, and our church is trying really hard to be a refuge from that sort of abuse.

Steph, Disgusting? Self-aggrandizing? Really? You stab me in the heart. Why would I not want to give my very best as an offering rather than my leftovers? Why not my first fruits?

Chris said...

Not a Christian, but these look kind of awesome. Lighting is important!

stephy said...

Ed, thank you for sticking around. Most people would have taken off by now and it means a lot that you are staying to talk. Thank you. I feel that there’s so much disparity between what Jesus said to do and what Christian culture does, and the worship leader phenomenon is one of the most conspicuous ways I see the church deviating from seeking the person of Christ and moving towards what the culture is doing. Jesus said nothing about having paid staff to lead worship but he did speak a lot on how to use money (put it towards the poor, sick and those who are ostracized and unwanted) and he also talked about those who sought attention for their spirituality (praying on street corners – which to me seems in step with appearing spiritual while onstage leading worship). Jesus didn’t say that worship is singing beautifully produced songs, he said it is quietly looking after those he said to take care of and seeking his presence in private. I think worship is beautiful and otherworldly when done in groups but when worship looks specifically like singing certain songs with lights and production it is perhaps more difficult because of the tendency to see what everyone else is doing and ways that attention is being drawn to things other than who they’re supposedly worshiping. Slickness, production, expensive equipment, lighting and fog machines in worship teams make it seem to me the wrong things are being focused on. Christian culture says this stuff is great and worshipful, but what did Jesus say? This doesn’t seem to be a question that is being asked by the evangelical church when it comes to worship.

This issue is a big one for me. Almost two years ago we left our church of 13 years because the church leadership wanted to prioritize worship aesthetic over relationships within the church. Now we’re at a church that is like an AA meeting and has no designated worship leader and we sit at small tables and talk about the teaching for 25 minutes each time we meet and discuss where what was said resonates with us and where we have dissonance with the text and how it strikes us in context with our journey. I couldn’t have known a church like this existed but I feel it’s the most deeply worshipful church I’ve been a part of.

Danica Newton said...

Ed - thank you for taking the time to respond, and to engage. One of the things I LOVE about SCCL is that it is a place where we can all practice getting our feelings stepped on, then coming back together and working things out. Practice hearing each other over the dissonance of our own pain.

I totally get that you were offended / hurt by some of the comments, and that somehow the post Steph wrote struck a sour note with you. I know how it is to pour everything you have into service, then get bit by the people you are serving. No hard feelings on my part.

(Oh, and I was thinking about you and praying for you yesterday, you said you had to teach ... must have been a little more difficult to get into the proper mindset after all that conflict)

Unknown said...

Stephy, That sounds awesome. I am hoping to do something similar in a new church work. It is impractical in my current setting, but it would be ideal, I think. I would suppose you could still have a worship leader and accomplish something similar, but it needs to be focused in the right direction.

We actually tried something weird for awhile and had everyone on the music team turn away from the congregation and toward the words, in hopes to take the attention off of the team, but it was just a distraction as everyone found themselves looking at the band's backsides, This was not what we intended :)

Unknown said...

Danica, thank you so much. It was tough. I led the music and taught on Acts 2. But both went great, so answered prayer.

notapastor said...

Hey, I'm new here, don't know any of you. But I just read through this comment thread and had to just give you all my respect for your honesty and dialogue.

As for the post itself, my 2cents, I recently visited a church where the music part was: a) someone played a johnny cash CD, b) random people played "precussion" which was mostly plastic children's toys, c) we all just just sang along. That was probably the most moving worship-in-song experience I've had in 20 years.

the holly said...

why does this just sound like indulgences to me? paying someone to get me closer to god? why, thankyouverymuch.

Daniel A. Kaufman said...

I am hardly a fan of most forms of evangelical Christianity, but the hit on "professionalism" and for lack of a better word, "polish," in performance at services strikes me as a bit unfair.

For six years, I gave papers at a conference in Oxford, and I always attended Evensong at Christchurch cathedral, largely because of the sublime performances of their choirs and organists. I would have found it odd if someone had suggested that it would have been better, somehow, if they were all unpracticed and sang and played rubbish.

When I was 13 I practiced my Bar-Mitzvah Torah and Haftorah portions for about six months. I even went so far as to receive some tutoring for several weeks. The Torah and Haftorah are chanted and there is a complex notation of musical inflections written into the text, which one has to learn. I thought it important that I should chant well, so I put a lot of effort into my preparation. Was I wrong?

So, I'm not getting this line of the critique. If you went after this stuff for being crass, commercial, pop-light, etc., I'd be right with you. If you said that this sort of a-historical, liturgy-free worship is pretty light stuff, I would agree. But complaining about it being well-executed strikes me as strange.

Tony D said...

First: I agree with Mr. Kaufman that liturgical worship ought, to the best of the congregation's ability, to be beautiful. Key word: Liturgical. A lot of modern Protestant worship, both mainline and evangelical, is manmade entertainment, not worship in any sense Christians before about 1800 or so - and certainly not before the chaos which followed in the wake of Luther et. al. - would have recognized as such. Come to think of it, even some Catholic Masses have succumbed to the keep-em-entertained temptation. Christian worship, as practiced from earliest times, was and is liturgical, following the practices of the Judaism from which it sprang.

Second, not unrelated to the previous remarks: does anyone remember when Christains had "clergy," not "worship leaders?"

Evelyn said...
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Philothea said...

In the Ancient Christian Church (Orthodoxy) the choir is not paid at all, is either at the back of the church or at the far right side facing FORWARD (to worship WITH the congregation, not perform to them) and often behind a divider so that they don't distract the faithful from worship. As a convert to Orthodoxy from Evangelicalism I look back on how these churches look more like a corporation that markets "Jesus" in an effort to stay relevant. Well unfortunately it seems the Protestant Church has lost its faith that God can bring people to him and so they have invented new ways to attract crowds, which are now more akin to rock concerts. Saying these events are to "network" is an appropriate word choice since it is all about business, better worship=bigger congregations=bigger donations so they can buy even MORE fog machines. Can never have enough fog.

By the way Stephy, here's another post idea for you, how about the 5 minute personal worship session at the end of a song where "leaders" take a 2 min song and draw it out by strumming their guitars and talk sing whatever they feel like i.e. "WE COME TO WORSHIP YOU LORD JEEEEEEESUS!"

Anonymous said...

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."
--Romans 12:1

Anonymous said...

Stephy, thank you so much for making me appreciate my Catholicism. I am a cradle Catholic so I never really appreciated what I took for granted. Also, the Church has taken some pretty bad hits in the last few years with the child abuse scandals. I've been bored and somewhat disillusioned with religion, but your blog made me see my ancient faith with new eyes.

I've become re-interested, especially from a historical and intellectual aspect. I owe it to you. Thanks.

Tony D. said...

Actually, Philothea and others, in my Orthodox parish there isn't much of a distinction between "choir" and "congregation." We have music stands scattered throughout the nave (no pews, of course - is outrage!) and people join in the singing, or not, as they like. All the while little kids are weaving in and out among us, occasionally stopping to kiss the nearest icon. I'm afraid none of us got this from a conference...

Philothea said...

Tony - I'm sure not all parishes are the same, we don't have pews as well but in the many different churches I've attended we have had a separate location for the choir, either at the right or the back. As with your church, the congregation is welcome to participate (for those that know slavonic that is!) Either way, there is no room for "performing", just simple, ancient chants and by purifying our individual hearts we are better apt at offering praise to God

Unknown said...

Ooooooooo Gawd!!!!
Thought you'd dig Steph...worship leaders learning from Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Not much more needs to be said about it ;)

nakedpastor said...

i've been.

Aaran said...

I don’t know why worship leaders and bands are such a popular way of doing corporate worship. They tend to take the focus off the congregation singing together and become a bit of a performance in themselves. Further to that, it is a significant use of a churches volunteer resource to get a music team together every week, are there better ways to serve in a church? Then there is the problem of every song sounding like a soft rock love song, is theological depth and the ability to write soft rock music maturity mutually exclusive? Probably.

With all the music making software and sound systems available, wouldn’t we be better using computers to create backing tracks for the congregation to sing along to? The ease of using the software would put song writing back in reach of those with theological depth. This will allow us to write music to evoke the right emotional response to deep theological truths.

Then we can sing together without having to look at some hipster in skinny jeans trying to appear relevant. Music could be of a high quality no matter the size of the church. The focus could be on the congregating singing, so not lose its authenticity. And maybe with the right tools in the right people’s hands, Church music won’t sound like cheap secular rip offs.

Unknown said...

I know the guy in picture #3 who is behind these "events." are more right than you know. Many people that know him have some serious doubts about the way this guy lives his life.

A sad little man that has fooled many.


Anonymous said...

To the "worship leaders" on this blog - exactly how do you know when you've "led" the people in "worship?"

Pauline said...

Once I attended this campus church, similar to a lot of megachurches, they had the "professional" worship thing going on -- lights, stunning visuals, fog machines, the works. Then the power went out. We all sang in the dark a cappella, and all you could hear was the united voice of the congregation singing praises. One of my most beautiful worship experiences. Sometimes in the church's effort to sell the worship experience and make it bigger and more beautiful, true worship is forgotten. So I was refreshed by that experience when everything that was deemed "essential" to worshipping was taken away.

Tony D said...

Pauline, I'd like to remind you (and anyone else still checking the comments on this thread) that "a cappella" literally means "as in church."
Blessed Theophany, y'all!

Andi said...

This blog confuses me... Is it supposed to be showing "Christ" through making fun of Christians? Kinda the pot calling the kettle... well, you know. Anyway, not looking for a fight just kinda baffled. But hey, God bless America. You can post and say whatever you like!

Tony D said...

Andi, none of the people pictured in this post are Christians in any meaningful sense of the word. Entertainers, possibly; businesspeople, definitely.

Tony D said...

What I should have said is that what is depicted isn't Christian worship, but entertainment and commerce. I do not know what is in the hearts of the individuals in the photos. Mea culpa.

Buzzsaw said...

A few thoughts. If you are going to play music in public I think you owe it to yourself to play to the best of your ability. In the times in my life where I cared about the Bible I looked at the craftsmanship in the temple as inspiration. God chose the very best, because they were masters. That said I've been involved in many musical disasters which I found quite worshipful (and hilarious). Of course I also believe that nobody should be paid for ministry. I think professional ministry chokes the life out of worship and faith.

JimmyYO said...

I'm still having trouble seeing the point of this??

I agree with pretty much all that was said but no points were really made other then many Christians pretending like it's satanic to have democratic views(very true point).

Other then that this read was a complete waste of time imo. Going on and on about worship leaders.....Most Christians are in no way involved with leading Sunday worship, how is this in any way relevant?

Anonymous said...

I think the "church" we has always been messy. But to me it is a beautiful mess. People have always argued over the best way to worship, one group has always thought their way was better than the other. Someone always thinks the other is missing the point. People always stray from the path God intended, amazing how he brings us back. As far as conferences go..... Eh... Stop charging so much. I also understand that our human nature want to attend things that are cool. Well, cool costs money. The thought of getting together to learn from others sounds great.

As far as lights, and smoke, etc... Hasn't the church always been the meca of design and art. I could be wrong because I am no expert. It seems to me that every ancient religious temple, church, building has been the best of its time. When I look at some churches with their stained glass windows and beautiful architecture I think wow this must have been the best of the culture and period. Hasn't the church buildingalways been an incredible sight to see. If that's true then we are no different today with state of the art lighting and sound. The isn't the church building still one of the best buildings in town. I can hear you all thinking but the church is not the building yes yes yes I agree but I am simply stating that Christ followers have always wanted to build the best for worship. I have been to corporate worship in all kinds of buildings and have loved worshipping the same great God in each.

To sum it up I love the beautiful mess..... The "church" and I kind of think it is great to see people uptight about the best way to worship. It's like kids fighting over how to give the best gift to their loved one. Each is right because the thought is what counts. Thanks for reading, phil

Anonymous said...

"It takes a great song worship leader to move people and make them sing with joy and gladness in their hearts. Such is the gift of music, song, and praise from talented singer – songwriter Chris Tomlin. "

Oh, is that what it takes? Ugh!

Stephy, thanks for everything you do to shine a bright light on the things that impede true worship and relationship.

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Jason said...

You guys are right. We should all give up on improving ourselves. Love requires no effort. The Levites who spent their entire lives devoted to worship and skilled musicianship were completely wasting their time. God doesn't really want us to work. He just wants us to be lazy. You guys nailed it.

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Kairozart said...

I recently found this blog and enjoy reading each entry and especially the comments. I've only in the past few years been a born again Christian, and have been immersed in the Christian culture. I find this blog very interesting because it points out a lot of accurate aspects of the culture that I've come to realize.

I personally take the teachings of Christ and the bible seriously, and have a much love for my Christian brothers and sisters, even though, like any family, we can be a bit kooky and out of touch, which I realize more and more.

Despite our foolishness at time, I believe that those who truly love Christ and truly care for the our fellow man and woman, for the most part, have their hearts in the right place, but can sometimes be so engulfed in the "culture" and our mission to save souls, that we don't always spend more time serving others in the ways that we should.

I am interested in what pastors and other Christians say, but I'm also interested to hear what the world has to say. Jesus says to love our neighbors, but we first must know the people we are commanded to love. For Christians, that means, you have to listen to others. When you listen to people, whether at work, neighbors or anyone you run into, you understand who they are, where they are coming from. You see them for who they are and not who you "think" they are.

Unfortunately, I feel as though many Christians forget to pay attention to the people they are proclaiming to love. How can you care about someone, if you don't even know them? For a Christian to live in a bubble is not being honest with themselves, I've realized. We should be cautious, of course, but simply be honest. Anyways, many thanks for your posts, Steph. God bless!

Anonymous said...

I personally know many of these people that are in the pictures you included and they are some of the most genuine people I have ever been around. I have seen them worship in some of the most humble venues and their heart didn't change from when they worshipped in front of thousands. I believe you are right in a lot of ways in this article. I have played guitar at churches that have great equipment, lights, the whole thing where the goal is simply to play music, entertain, and let the church clap after each song. Those are the places that will burn you out so fast because the reason you say you are there isn't present: Jesus. All I'm saying though is that just because the music is good and there are a lot of people that doesn't automatically mean Jesus isn't there. If music is a passion God has put inside of us, why can't we use it to worship like David did with joy, dancing, and celebration of what God has done? And we're asked by God to bring our best sacrifice so why can't we do it with excellence? I don't believe it is true worship to not grow the gifts God has given you and to be less than you could be as a musician, graphic designer, etc. When we don't practice and get better, that means our full attention will be on the chord chart and song mapping, not Christ. Let's do judge each part of the church for what it is and not tolerate godless fake but let's not make the assumption that excellence= no Jesus. Instead let's empower people to grow the gifts God has given them and use them for His glory and the advancement of his kingdom!


Anonymous said...

We as a culture, Christian and otherwise, are so good at finding fault - in everything and everyone. Sure Stephy, you and your thoughts are important as well as everyone's else, and I respect your opinion, particularly with the way you described your current worship experience. What, though, would you and the others so set against having current music and worship teams in church have the world do? Sit around a table in small groups and discuss our feelings and understanding of what we heard alone? Should we eliminate music altogether? What would God say about allowing the gifts He gives us to wither away? What are your real suggestions or alternatives? Just do it like you do it because anything else is disingenuous? Of course that doesn't make for as a good a read on your blog, maybe.

Should anyone associated with the church, such as staff, only work extremely hard at making church something special for everyone else for free? I suppose no one should work for the church, or should for free? Yet, would you do your job for free because it's just "the right thing to do?" Have you and all the others here with like comments given up all of your possessions to the poor? Given every worldly good to the poor in order to follow Jesus? Like, say, your personal computer, tablet, phone? And what about medical professionals? Because their work is such an important social "art" they should do that for free as well. And how about all of the people on here saying or suggesting church workers should be all volunteers? Are you all serving others in your church? Doing a great and intentional job at helping the body of Christ reach just one person? Where is the room for people to be people in this discussion? Sure there are people doing the wrong things - even right here on these pages - but not everyone who has a computer is contributing to the inability to write in cursive or to children becoming socially awkward. That is absolutely ridiculous and so is this argument, which lumps everyone who participates in corporate worship together as heathens. In this there is no celebration of our differences and needs? All the condemnation and innuendo you and others are placing on people you don't even know - people you are clumping together with some of the people who are not genuine is not only morally wrong it is incorrect, hypocritical and down right mean. Your article is some of the most cynical, mean-spirited and flagrantly slanderous stuff I've read to date. Shame on that for sure.

stephy said...

I don't have any suggestions. I think we each should look at the reality and intuit what our next steps should be.

Kairozart said...

The next step is the kick over the tables where they sell the artist's c.d.'s, and scream "Matthew 21:13! Matthew 21:13!"

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