Saturday, August 17, 2013

When worship becomes its own object

I imagine there are some well-known worship leaders who achieved the influence they have today unintentionally.  I picture them developing a recognition of the influence they had at some point in their life and deciding to respond to it faithfully, with no other aim than to be good stewards of the opportunities for influence that God had given them.  I imagine God responding with "well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things.  I will put you in charge of many things." (Matthew 25:21)

But I presently observe a landscape in which young people are making it their aim to become well-known worship leaders.  Their goal from the start is to gain influence and renown - ostensibly in order to use those things as tools to build a platform from which they will lead others in worship of God.  An entire industry has sprouted to support this popular aim.  Schools, materials, marketing aids, conferences and the like have all been established to help aspiring worship leaders establish themselves as notable forces in the business of proclaiming God's supremacy and fame.
Is the pursuit of influence a worthy goal?  What about the influence we have where we are right now?  Are we stewarding that well?  
I laugh nervously every time I see a worship recording which features a picture of the performing artist on the cover.  It is a nervous laugh because I note how normative it has become to idolize those who encourage us to cast down our idols, and I consider my own complacency (at least) and complicity (at worst) in such a movement.

How can all this be an acceptable byproduct of the worship of God?  I wonder if the truth for some of us is that the worship of God has actually become a byproduct of our personal desire for notoriety, or a cause in pursuit of which we might, seemingly justifiably, make a name for ourselves.  Could there be anything more terrifying?

At times it seems that we have made an object out of worship.  But worship is not an object; worship is a response to an object.  When it becomes the object, it becomes idolatrous.

Prelude to a resurgence

Precidentially, I've been driven to spates of reflective blogging by some kind of external backpressure - often but not always related to a new season of planning, teaching and training for CTI Music Ministries, the organization I direct. We are on the verge of such a season, and I, therefore, appear to be on the verge of such a spate.

There are four specific areas to which I believe God is drawing my attention as we conclude the summer season of ministry and shift into our longer-range "fulltime" ministry year. These are concepts that I am encouraged to begin exploring more fully in our teaching, training, and methodology. Accordingly, I expect to be blogging about them in order to expand the conversation beyond my immediate sphere of influence.  So I encourage your comments and messages related to the posts that will follow.

The four areas are:

  1. Gospel centrality 
  2. Message delivery
  3. Worship leadership
  4. Sabbath rest 

May God be glorified in the outworking of our consideration of and reflection on these concepts!