Disney’s chief technical officer Andy Hendrickson argued that the studios need to focus almost exclusively on the sort of “tentpole” films that can attract as broad an audience as possible—the sort of film, in other words, that succeeds almost exclusively thanks to brand recognition or CGI gimmickry. “People say ‘It’s all about the story,’” Hendrickson said. “When you’re making tentpole films, [nonsense].”
Although I am a big movie buff and am unhappy about this, my mind and heart started drawing ties from this post to the current worship leading condition in many churches. I feel like many worship leaders, especially those younger or ones trying to be more cool or relevant, are trying to enforce a worship formula based on results from “tentpole” churches. Here’s how the situation usually goes:
- A worship leader will encounter an amazing worship experience (usually from one of the 10-12 “tentpole” churches) either by conference, album or DVD. Usually this experience is from a large venue with thousands singing, shouting and going crazy for Jesus.
- The worship leader will see how people are responding, engaging and being ministered to by a certain song or moment in the service.
- The worship leader will then decide to copy the experience as close as possible to recreate that moment for his/her church. This could mean doing a certain song, adjusting sound and lighting, changing the stage design or changing the worship team’s attire.
- When the new song is sung at church, it falls flat leaving the worship leader trying to hype (or “encourage”) the congregation to worship and respond like the other church did.
I feel we are throwing away the uniqueness, diversity and the story/plot of our churches and replacing them with a formula based on exciting “tentpole” churches, thinking that it’s what the Lord desires. We end up “plotting” worship services but throw away the “plot” of our own churches, replacing it with another church’s plot. The Lord desires something real, something true. The story/plot in worship is the realness and trueness of worship. It’s teaching the congregation to worship and engage with God with deep emotions during the most simple and stripped down times.
If your congregation can’t worship without the “gimmicks” such as the new songs, the driving beat, the crazy lights or the energetic motions — then your congregation doesn’t know how to worship. You’re manipulating them into a frenzy, but even if they respond, it’s not true worship. It’s just hype. Likewise, if you’re congregation can’t worship with newer songs made in the last 5-10 years or worship when there are no words at all (spontaneous instrumental times), there are still things to teach your people regarding worshiping. Worship isn’t just about engaging with songs/styles that you’re comfortable with. It’s about worshiping God like He deserves, regardless of anything else.
Worship is taught and then it is caught. If you congregation isn’t worshiping like they ought, it’s not a programming issue. It’s a teaching issue. It’s a revelation issue.
I challenge younger worship leaders to sometimes take a break from the new, exciting concert worship songs and begin cultivating and teaching worship that is unique to your church, not just a copy of anothers. If every church only sung “I Love You Lord” truly and deeply, it would be a different and unique experience in each church. it’s the beauty of the body of Christ and its individual members. Churches don’t need manipulation or the right setting to worship, they just need Jesus. As leaders, let’s stop plotting how to make our worship experiences like another church’s and instead let’s teach them about Jesus and how to encounter Him.