Worship As An Industry, Or The Icky Feeling I Keep Getting, Or I Realize We Don’t Live In Utopia

I thought giving each post two titles was innovative when I first came up with it. But I never even considered giving a post THREE titles until today. Genius!

Imagine, say, Delirious? is coming to a mega-church near you to perform a worship set. You want to go, naturally, because you love the music they make and can nearly instantly connect you with God and put you in a state of worship where you nearly feel selfless. I have no problem with that. Goodness no.

But it just seems weird to me to pay to go worship. That makes me uncomfortable. Worship of God shouldn’t be an exclusive experience for those who can, well, afford it.

Fear not, this isn’t just another naive post longing for Christ-topia. In real life, people who lead worship have families and empty bellies and shouldn’t walk around naked and they maybe even want to go the beach every now and again. Therefore they can’t travel around leading worship – their van needs gas, and it’s seats not only don’t taste good but you can’t get a good night’s sleep in them.Those lights that set the atmosphere and that organ/keyboard combo that perfectly starts the song aren’t just scooped up on the roadside trash day. So it’s perfectly logical they need money in order to do what they do.

Nonetheless, paying for worship rubs me the wrong way. Does it give you an icky feeling as well?

So what’s a worship band to do? Ask for offering rather than charge a fee? Should the church not sell tickets but hope the congregation feels moved to give?

Maybe we’re just talking semantics here – instead of paying them to come play worship we are merely “covering their expenses” and “supporting their ministry” so they can do this without being carpet cleaners on the side. It’s likely, maybe even certain, there’s no easy or obvious solution to this. But there’s no getting around it – worship has become an industry. It’s no secret that some of the best selling records a band produces is the one where they get worshipful – quite frankly it’s at least part of the reason why so many bands churn them out.

But I just can’t get over this feeling that makes me want to cringe my nose and scratch the uncomfortable itches I get. Do you agree worship is an industry? Does it make you comfortable that we pay to worship? What’s a possible solution, or maybe more likely, a balance to strike? How freaking insane is a post with THREE titles?!

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14 Responses to Worship As An Industry, Or The Icky Feeling I Keep Getting, Or I Realize We Don’t Live In Utopia

  1. David says:

    We pay the trash man, we pay the gardener, the cable company; we pay for insane crap with taxes and you’ve got a problem with a talented band that has sacrificed many other things to bring you into the presence of God? That is the same notion that was on the free Internet for some many years – 10 more, and even WordPress will cost money – we’re hooked.

    There is no such thing as balance – it’s God or it’s not.

    I think that all Christian ministries should work on donations and lover offerings – then you’ll see who really knows Jesus. 🙂

    And yes, for my entire ministry, I have gone where I could afford to get to, and God has taken care of the rest. That is 4 International missions, and hundreds of ministry engagements and yes, even paid worship.

  2. Juan Cruz Jr says:

    Charlie I’ve always felt ambivalent about paying to see a worship band. Personally I’ve never paid to go see one. While I do believe – common sense – that worshipping God doesn’t cost a penny, or shouldn’t cost a penny, I do realize that worship bands make a living out of it. In the Bible says that every laborer is worthy of his or her wages, so I can conclude that also includes worship bands. God Bless!

    • I think there’s a deeper issue here – like you I think most believe worshipping God doesn’t cost a penny – yet many shell out hundreds or thousands a year to go worship – I think we’re hooked on high octane worship that bands provide and therefore neglect other ways.

  3. Bernard Shuford says:

    Worship is not an industry.

    Music that is referred to by many as “worship music” is an industry.

    There’s a difference.

    I am not paying to worship. I am paying to be allowed into a building or location where a band that performs music which is referred to as “worship music” is going to perform.

    There’s a difference.

    Worship is in my heart.

    Don’t let this eat you up. Worship is not a style of music. Nobody can make you pay to worship. What we’re actually dealing with is entertainment that is focused on self-help with Christian overtones, often accomplished through easily rehearsed chord progressions, musical mood settings, mob mentality manipulations, and crowd control that can easily be confused with “a move of the Holy Spirit”.

    I don’t see “worship concerts” as “bad”. What I see as “bad” is the misconception that they are “true worship” simply because of the powerful environment. Low lights, loud music, bright stage lights to center the listener’s focus, drum beats that capture the attention very powerfully, etc., have become “worship” in far too many people’s eyes.

    This is not “worship”. These should be understood for what they are – opportunities for us Christians to express our worship of Jesus Christ with little distraction and the embarrassment that sometimes comes from singing off-key in a small church.

    I have no problem with paying those guys. It takes an army of people to do what they do. Most of those people truly are Christians, but to expect them to work for nothing while we hold down $50K or $60K per year jobs is rather insulting and rude. Those concerts can’t happen with volunteer labor and part time jobs at McDonalds. Impossible.

    Just my thoughts 🙂 Great post.

    • man your critique of the worship music is so spot on. I tried to write about it a while ago but the best I could muster up was calling it emotional manipulation – but you so pinned it. They create a powerful environment that can easily be confused for something else. And man do we fall for it.

      • Bernard Shuford says:

        I thought that somewhere in my blogging history, I wrote something about manipulation and church and Christianity. That doesn’t appear to be true – maybe it was a comment on somebody else’s blog or something.

        Regardless. A HUGE part of what we “do” in church is a manipulation. That sounds like I’m being atheistic or agnostic or even blasphemous, and I feel a pang of fear just at saying it, but I believe it’s true. Is it wrong or bad just because it’s a manipulation? No, I don’t think so, but let’s face it – most altar call / invitations are very manipulative. We claim “end justifies the means”. Most worship sets are carefully constructed to cause the listener to experience a “high emotion” followed by a “settling down” that gets them in “the right spirit” to “listen to the preaching.” It’s not accidental. And if it’s intentional, then, by definition, it’s manipulation. We KNOW that people will react to fast songs in a certain way, and to slow songs in another. Just ask any prom DJ. Even a good chunk of the “preaching” can be manipulative, in that we create an atmosphere where a majority of people in the room are silent from respect to the Word of God, which effectively silences those who would possibly question the preacher in a different environment, thus causing a one sided conversation that furthers the assumption that everything the preacher says carries a special – almost papal – authority. Even times of offering can be manipulations, through the use of video of poor people that the church has reached, or the application of Scripture about robbing God, etc.

        Music, however, carries a big punch. Even hard rock concerts cause some of the same emotions that happen in worship concerts, based on the number of raised hands and fists, so to claim that it’s ALWAYS the Holy Spirit seems to me to be extremely presumptive.

        I don’t use the word “manipulative” as an insult, but I think it would be childish to deny that it’s there. Any time we “work to create a particular environment”, that’s manipulation.

  4. Su says:

    I’m so far out of the loop when it comes to this sort of thing that I rarely know ahead of time that a group is coming to be heard. But I have to admit, when I have gone I’ve thought of it as a concert, not as paying for worship. The idea just hasn’t ever crossed my mind before.

    I admit that I did have a bit of a mental breakdown a few years ago in a Mardel’s when I saw those goofy little “Testamints” for the first time, and after that noticed that slapping a Bible verse on pretty much anything gave it some markup in price. So I think I do see where you’re coming from, even if this particular thing isn’t an issue for me.

  5. theoldadam says:

    Where I worship, it is an act of faith. We don’t pay anything. We give as much or as little as we want for the ministry to continue.

    The Holy Spirit gathers us for the hearing of His Word and to receive His sacraments.

    And we have some fun in the process, and we also share each others joys and burdens.

    That’s about it.

    • I think what I was getting at in the post is that the ideal should be giving – who knows some bands maybe would make even more money if they were given gifts (and of course I’m not saying they should play in order to get big gifts).

  6. Amy says:

    Well….this is always a tricky topic for me as I work with a lot of Christian artists. So I have a few thoughts on the subject.

    1. You shouldn’t pay for most worship music because it’s crap. I mean, seriously, it’s really not that good.

    2. If it *IS* good worship music, then you are paying for the artist’s work, the costs of producing the album and all that…and that costs money. I mean, you buy your Bible, right? Shouldn’t you pay for that?

    3. Again, going to see a worship band (or any band of Christians) is a “worship experience” but it is also entertainment. You are paying to be entertained. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar. But it also costs money to bring the band in, pay for the crew, venue, advertising.

    4. Sometimes publicity and promotion makes me want to vomit. I mean, I love the artist and publicists and labels I work with–they’re great people and I wish them the best. However, millions goes into the process for what?!?!? There are people starving in our midst.

    • I definitely agree it costs money and we can’t just expect them to come play and lose money by doing so. And it is definitely entertainment, you can try to package it any way you want to, but it’s still apart of the entertainment business.

      Maybe the nervous feeling I get isn’t so much that it costs money, because duh of course it does, but maybe moreso because it costs so much money.

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