Not too long ago, Mr. Old School and I attended a birthday dinner. There, a few friends were discussing a recent article covering a new trend that seems to be the pendulum swing away from the old trend: a bunch of megachurches are finding themselves firing their “rock star worship leaders” because they’ve hired these so called “rock star worship leaders” who don’t actually know anything about music or leadership or, as it seems, God.
Recently, it came up again in our own conversation regarding our personal situation. We have concerns about this trend, but they’re probably not what you think. Frankly, our concerns run so much deeper and come from long before this trend arose… to a trend that is far more damaging to the Body & the Kingdom, yet we don’t hear many talking about it.
“law of the trend”
Now, the law of “the trend” — in Stephanie-Speak — is that a trend is a reaction to the preceding trend. It tends to be an opposite version of the current favorite thought. You see this a lot in society. Music, fashion, politics, the economy … all churn reactionary. You see this a lot in church too.
Trends aren’t necessarily good or bad; they’re just camps of thought, however reactionary and (usually) lacking in wisdom they may be. In the meantime, though, these “performance-driven” “rock star worship leaders” are vilified while the pastor and churches’ other leadership somehow come out looking like victims; meanwhile, the underlying root of this problem seems to continue to get passed over…
…Like the difference between the way we “do church” and the biblical definition and purpose of “assembly” (it’s easy to find in the Epistles). I can’t help but wonder if that had been a measure in the formation of leadership roles and service structures in these communities, how many of these “rock star worship leaders” would never have been considered in the first place?
…Or like Paul’s parameters which clearly define the qualities of one who fills a leadership role (also easily found in the Epistles. And I’ll give you a hint; there’s very little in there about calling/destiny/anointing and a whole lot about character).
…And like the biblical discipleship and accountability that seems nonexistent in the American Church. Because if the members of a spiritual community are holding accountable those who teach, preach, prophesy, start churches, and win souls — in other words, everyone; not just the underlings or not not at all — we would not be seeing these folks living without God-breathed transformation. We would see and hear “a whole lot of different” in all aspects.
These are exclusively leadership issues that were in the house long before these rock star worship leaders were ever brought onto any staff. Let’s be abundantly clear about that.
The ultimate diagnoses are simple, even if we don’t actually want to admit these issues to ourselves or each other:
1) Our methods don’t match God’s intentions.
2) Our measuring stick isn’t God’s measuring stick.
3) Our programs are more important than our people.
All of this is summed up by saying:
Our hearts aren’t beating with God’s heartbeat.
It’s easy to focus on the programs. The programs are (mostly) good! They could even be God-breathed. And being task-oriented helps feel successful as you check things off the list. But if disciples aren’t being made and/or grown (as per the Great Commission), those programs are not advancing the Kingdom. Are they? Think about it. If the work that you’re spilling all of yourself out to do won’t last after you’ve moved on, then are you doing anything at all?
Your ministry philosophy, musical style, or worship leading style won’t matter at all if you don’t actually know Him and you don’t continue to know Him better; if you don’t remember that the PEOPLE ARE THE CHURCH, not the building; if you aren’t looking around finding ways to duplicate yourself and then actually doing it. You won’t be an effective leader if you lack relationships with the people around you; accountability requires trust and trust is earned … which requires relationship. With actual people. Beyond how to accomplish the tasks at hand.
These are things that can’t be measured. And that’s why we human beings have so much trouble adopting and maintaining this relational ministry model. And while we’re busy building our programs and trying to quickly fix mistakes, we forget that people will be or have been effected in all this hiring and firing.
Whether it is seen or unseen, the fallout from these situations is too often forgotten and/or underestimated. The fallout is always wide-spread and damaging. People are watching; listening. People are affected. People who are involved. People who are not even on the radar.
There are the folks who’ve been overlooked because, by our human standards, they don’t fit the “look” or have the “right” experience or a litany of other reasons, but they are God’s choices to fill these roles. They lose trust; trust in leadership and sometimes, far more importantly, trust in God.
There are the folks who surround this rock star; who see and hear all the lack of fruit while this person is allowed to continue holding this role. What do you think is their opinion of the Church now? Of God and His people?
There are folks who watch from a distance and try to emulate our rock stars. They oftentimes hang their relationships with God on these visible people and the songs they sing and the way they are reported to live their lives. And then when these rock stars have “fallen from grace”, what do these folks see and do? Of course it’s shallow! But it happens.
And we can never forget our rock star worship leaders. They’ve kinda been vilified in the article I’ve cited while these bodies’ leadership have been made into victims who have to clean up these rock star worship leaders’ messes. We cannot overlook that these worship leaders possess giftings/callings that are great and overshadow the depths of their characters. So they’re elevated to positions of influence or leadership where their underdeveloped characters cannot keep them. Because they’re not lovingly guided — or in some cases, held back or sat down — they aren’t forced to see themselves through the mirror of the Word, so they don’t grow in Grace. Almost every fired rock star worship leader … or anyone else who was elevated to a place of prominence too soon and then taken out because of lack of character … I’ve ever met ends up leaving the faith.
Almost. Every. One.
So they end up in oftentimes public positions to be able to tell the world how done they are with the Church and the Faith. Now, what does that do for the Kingdom??
The saddest thing is this mentality of having to “handle the talent” is EXACTLY why Mr. Old School and I feel called to be arts pastors. Because no one understands artists like artists. And the Church has shunned these amazingly talented people who could contribute so much to us and our faith — not to mention to the cause — because they’re not understood, therefore considered difficult to deal with.
Of course, it all goes back to discipleship/accountability … which requires relationships … which brings the follower of Christ to learn to love the “unloveable” and learn to relate to the “unrelateable” and learn to work with the “difficult”…
That makes it personal.
This goes so much further than “righting the wrong” by putting these so-called “rock star worship leaders” out of sight. This goes to the very heart of why we, as the Bride of Christ, think we can overlook relationships with each other and need to conjure any sort of spectacle to make other folks want to join us in marrying Jesus…
The fact is, “it’s the Spirit of God that draws men to repentance”. There’s literally nothing you can do. Nothing I can do. Nothing. And to take ownership of that onto myself is prideful. If God moves on someone’s heart through something I say or do, that’s great! But all the glory is still His; so of what do I possibly have to be proud?
The bright lights and big sounds are nice. Huge crowds and pompadours and thick plastic hipster glasses are trendy cool and I love it all. But in the end, we won’t have more of Jesus until we actually want more of Jesus more than we want the attention. Then the hearts of His people will be more important than the outcomes of our programs.
Our intentions have to be addressed. The hurt that’s been caused has to be addressed. And in the end, Jesus has to be the most important One of all.
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I’d rather have His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nailpierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
“I’d Rather Have Jesus”
by George Beverly Shea & Rhea F. Miller