Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Must learn to lead people, not music

What I observe in the worship movement over the last 20 years is that worship has become a product and not an expression. Worship music is a viable economic genre in the music industry. If you have a good voice and can play an instrument, and are a decent person, you can probably make a name for yourself if you get the right breaks. Notice I said nothing about leading people. All one has to do is lead music. The problem enters when you want to do music that your congregation or audience doesn’t want to sing. This is when you find out what kind of leader you are. Will you simply be a dispenser of religious goods and services via the songs you choose, or will you have the savvy to recognize and go to task against a consumptive spirit that demands to be fed? I got started leading music in front of people around 1990. The praise band thing was very new. Not many in my circle were aware of the shift that was occurring. They just thought I was hip and innovative. I didn’t have the spine to say I was following someone else’s lead. We took lots of risks in those days. We took some heat for it at times, but for the most part people followed where we led them. We used lots of different styles of music and other expressions of awe and gratitude. It was a great experience. But as time went on, something odd started to happen. It was not new any longer. The rise of the worship rock star caused people to want to sing his songs. It became more difficult to lead locally with intimate expressions that flowed from our own congregational life. The public wanted what was on the CD, not what was on the leader’s heart. It was at this point nearly three years ago, when I witnessed people evaluating a so-called worship experience. You could have exchange the word “food” for “worship” and get the same result. I didn’t like this….Too much…Too long…. Not familiar…I want…I like…I prefer…etc, etc. etc. I knew if I were to keep doing what I was doing, I was in for a long, uphill climb. It became clear that the next leg of the journey would fall to the leader who can lead people out of this consumptive mode. I determined I was not up for the task within that world. I decided to step out and take a different path. It’s been that long since I picked up my guitar. Not out of self-pity, but rather out of deference. Is worship more than songs, more than my instrument, more than my position on stage in front of people? Is it more than CD’s and concerts and bands and cool personalities? I plan to find out.

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