Worship economy

The value of worship.

Has worship become something that is consumed?  Worship consumption, perhaps?  Someone (a church worship team, a traveling worship team, someone that records albums) offers this good/service called worship, and others (churchgoers, album-buyers) consume it.  Worship is assessed, appraised, criticized, examined, by the consumers.  “I like it when THAT person leads worship.  She’s ok but he’s my favorite.”  “Worship was so blah today.”  “OMGoodness, worship was so Spirit-filled today!”  “Which night is she leading worship?  I want to go on that night.”  Doesn’t that sounds familiar?  It does to me. I’ve been there.  Totally guilty of that myself.  I completely understand that people are people. We observe things.  We prefer things.  I think that’s perfectly normal.  I guess it becomes an issue when these observations and preferences supersede the call to worship God.  Do we let our observations and preferences dictate IF we worship and how engaged we are in worship?  That sounds totally sinister.  Of course, nobody does that!  Wellllllll…

Has worship consumption been perpetuated by how certain ministry systems are set up in our churches?  “He’s the best worship leader.  Put him on for more services.”  “She’s not ready to lead.  Her voice just isn’t up to par with the others.”  “She should lead.  She has an amazing voice!”  Believe me, I totally understand that giving someone the platform when they’re not musically ready can have not-so-great outcomes.   And I do understand the pull to put your most talented people on the stage to draw more people in.  I also understand the need for excellence.  In my experience, however, I’ve seen more of the super-talented musicians, more so than the less talented ones, completely fall apart internally and wreak havoc on the wider team, when they were given the stage when they shouldn’t have been given one.  I’m not talking about talent = heart.  I’m talking about talent > heart.  I’ve seen people get so enamored by the talent that they overlook issues of the heart.  (I’m fully aware that someone could make the argument that our hearts are always points of vulnerability to sin that we can never be “ready” to serve and bring full integrity to the position we are filling.  That’s not what I’m talking about here.)

I guess the question becomes about goals.  In a capitalistic economy, the ultimate goal is to make money.  What is the goal of the church, or a ministry, or a Christian album?  What role does the church play in the lives of people?  Is the goal of the church to draw in more people?  If so, then what kind of role should the church play in these people’s lives?  Should the church work to attract people into the walls of the church?  Should the church be trying to get more fans so that they can become disciples?  To what degree should the church try to attract people?  What kinds of strategies should they use?  I heard of a church that recently did a Star Wars-themed nativity during the height of the recent Star Wars craze.  Too far or no?  I’ve heard of churches actively looking for worship leaders who are young, attractive, relevant (read: hip), and white.  Too far?  If that is actually what brings the people in, is it still too far?  Do the ends justify the means?  So what standards and values do we use to decide how to attract people to church, if that, indeed, is the goal of a church?  How do we sell Christian albums?  How do we choose who gets to lead worship on Sundays/ worship nights/ conferences?  Maybe the church’s goal is also to shepherd people who are already attending.  What then do you say to Bob who’s faithfully been serving as your worship leader who suddenly doesn’t sounds as good now that Sheila is here?  Do you give Sheila more stage time?  I mean, we want to get the people into church, right?  You say, “Of course not!”  But it happens all the time.

I don’t know what the right answers are.  I have my opinions but I have found these days that my opinions are not always…for lack of a better word…accepted.  Maybe they’re too anti-mainstream?  I know that I have often been accused of being too idealistic, so maybe I’m thinking about this in a much too rigid way.  In any case, this is a topic worth lingering on for a bit.  Lots of central issues here that, I think, should be addressed.  All things are a process.  I’m just trying to work through the big stuff that has been at the forefront of my mind and in my life these days.


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