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Sep 07

Where (Christian) Rock Stars Go to Die

Ted Kluck:

…[this] experience [observing a student worship band at a huge, arena-level conference for teens] leads to another interesting dilemma/observation: the strange sensation afforded these kids when they play in front of 8,000 fans in an arena. Some rock bands work tirelessly their entire lives trying to get an arena tour, or even the sensation of playing in front of a crowd that large. And from where I stand—backstage, on the floor of the Breslin, behind the giant projection screens, looking up into the darkness, and the floor ringed by level after level of full seats—the view is truly magnificent. It’s true Rock Star Fantasy stuff. Though I can’t help but wonder what this experience is doing to the student band onstage. Will they ever be satisfied fading back into obscurity, leading worship at their little Christian colleges or churches?

Ronnie Martin:

There’s an unspoken stigma in the Christian music industry where it’s understood that leading worship is where guys like us “go to die.” Although the root of that statement is fueled by nothing more than an arrogant and unclean heart, there is a strange tension between doing music for the church “industry” versus doing music for the church body. The former has the almost inevitable tendency of leading one down a path of artistic self-indulgence, whereas the latter can send the same artist spiraling downward toward self-affirmation as he continues to treat the church body as his performing audience. It is this type of identity crisis that can horribly cripple the worship leader, whose chief aim should be to point his congregation toward the immeasurable glory of the gospel of Christ!

The sticky, tricky question is this: What happens when the worship leader is the one being worshiped? It’s a valid question when you consider the influential position that many celebrity worship stars are in when their job consists of providing hit songs to churches around the world for mass consumption. When you add in the fact that many church buildings are designed to rival concert hall settings, complete with a dizzying array of sound, screens, lights, fog, and conceptual stage props, it’s easy to understand why a modern worship leader may start relishing his time in the spotlight.

Not surprisingly, the Bible warns us against things like arrogance Rom. 12:3 and selfish ambition James 3:16, both of which can result from the many embellishments available to promote worship services in the 21st century. Instead, we are admonished to encourage and build one another up 1 Thess. 5:11 through the message of Christ “dwelling richly among us” Col. 3:16. Worship is always going to be as good or bad as the person or object it’s worshiping, but the direction of true worship should always start and end with the gospel. While churches continue to battle incessantly over the direction of the sound, style, instruments, clothing, hymns, and volume, the REAL conversation that needs to happen is whether the message of God’s Word is being communicated to the people of God to sing praises to God in spirit and in truth. When we get that right, the details will follow more naturally, because nobody’s going to be that concerned with whether Johnny’s wearing skinny jeans, has a faux hawk, or plays a Telecaster. We’ll always be directionally challenged when we’re not looking directly at Christ.

More thoughts (and witty commentary) from Ronnie Martin and Ted Kluck  on the worship arena phenomenon via Where Rock Stars Go to Die.

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