Clear the Stage
A good friend shared this video with me over the weekend. It was Saturday mid-morning, and Jack and I were getting ready to go to a birthday party. The text came through while I was brushing my teeth. I clicked the link, began watching and was immediately captivated. I found my way to the closet floor, holding my phone, watching, and the tears began to flow. (yes, toothbrush was still frozen in place in my mouth). When the song ended the first time, I ran to the sink to complete my toothbrushing routine, then raced back to the closet floor and watched it again. This time, sobbing.
This song WRECKED me:
I live, lead, work and spend much of my time in “worship leader world” – have for a few years now – and there have most definitely been times I have wanted to “clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze” in much the same manner that Jesus did when he cleared the temple. Don’t worry, I’m not a raving lunatic (at least on most days), and I very much love the Church and have a deep passion for leading God’s people to worship Him. I am not burned out with ministry – grateful I haven’t reached that point yet, and I pray to God I never do – but what I am completely fed up with is this “epidemic” in our present-day church culture that worship must look and feel a certain way to be considered “good”.
And what’s even more sickening to me is how predictable the stereo type of “worship music world” has become: Dude wearing a collared, flannel button-down shirt and jeans (skinny jeans if he’s real artistic) (or a deep V-neck tee to accentuate his cool factor) holding an acoustic guitar, belting his brains out and fist-pumping to the latest Passion or Hillsong hit, backed up of course by a full-fledged band, who are also wearing a similar wardrobe. And if the church is really “with-it”, there will be blazing, colorful lights swirling around the room, smoke & haze, and of course, don’t forget the trendy coffee shop worshippers will pass on the way into the worship center with some clever Biblically-referenced name like “Holy Grounds” or “He Brews” or … well, I’ll stop there.
I am not trying to be mean, and I am certainly not saying there is anything wrong with coffee, fist-pumping, stage lighting, Passion songs or skinny jeans; I actually own a pair myself and wear them often, and yes, I do fist-pump quite a bit while leading worship, and yes, I am a huge fan of the amazing songs being birthed out of the Passion camp these days and lead them regularly.
None of this is the point.
The point is, in my humble opinion, all these things are a bigger deal than they should be.
Church staff want “better worship” in their services. So they bring in a worship leader that fits the above description, build the coffee shop, install the lighting, and think that by doing so, the thousands of hurting people outside the walls will start pouring in in droves. Then months later, when the numbers have plateaued and it doesn’t seem to be working, they are all scratching their heads, and scheduling more staff meetings trying to figure out what’s wrong.
This video wrecked me because I don’t ever want to think that way. I believe that more than anything what people really need and really want is Jesus. And my desire as a worship leader is to find ways to lift Jesus high and create an environment for people to encounter Him. For when they encounter Him, they are moved to worship Him. And when they truly worship Him, they are forever changed.
A producer friend told me once, “Art inspires, but worship transforms”.
The Church is not confined to a place or a building – it is the global body of Christ-followers – but oh, how I hope and pray that in our places and our buildings, we as worship leaders and church staff would strive to not “put on” moments of artistic inspiration to wow and draw people, but more than anything, we would humbly and vulnerably lead the hurting people God has entrusted to us by creating real, honest, safe environments for people to truly encounter Almighty God. For only then will they be utterly and completely transformed, and only then will they start pouring in in droves.
That is the job of a church staff – to continually be finding ways to create such an environment.
It sounds extreme, but it may not be a bad idea one Sunday to actually clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze … hmmm.