I could not be more appreciative of this post by Justin Taylor on the difference between congregational singing and a worship concert. I have long been troubled by the celebrity status of many of the most influential pastors in modern evangelicalism, and our treatment of their churches’ worship leaders as rock bands only exacerbates the problem. This came to a head for me 4 or 5 years ago when I attended a conference with many of the big names in conservative evangelicalism lined up as speakers. A few of these pastors brought their worship leaders from their churches to lead us in worship. One of these worship “bands”, right before they were about to play their first song, announced that their new CD “release party” was happening at such and such a time and such and such a place. They then proceeded to blast my eardrums and sear my soul for 30 minutes.
“Release party”? For a “worship” CD? And playing “worship songs” like you’re Metallica? Combine that with our zealous following of many of the biggest names in evangelicalism and I think what we have is a capitulation to the American celebrity culture. What we have is close to idolatry (if it’s not that already). Does this kind of thinking and performing in our churches lead to congregational worship? I don’t see how. Sometimes at conferences I want to look around and yell, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, “are you not entertained?!”
Celebrity pastors don’t help this situation either. I’ve heard of one of these men telling an audience that of course he wouldn’t ever let a campus pastor preach regularly at one of his sites because God had obviously blessed this celebrity pastor with gifts of preaching and leading 10 times more than that campus pastor. What is that saying other than, “my celebrity is what draws people, and I’m not going to trust the Spirit of the living God to raise up faithful men elsewhere, even among sites we’ve planted?”
I say all this having fallen trap to much of it. I still brag that I slipped behind security and spoke with (and hugged) one of these celebrity pastors at a major conference. I have complained about music because the “quality” wasn’t as good, instead of singing to and being sung to by my brothers and sisters around me.
May God turn our hearts away from celebrity and toward his Son through the power of the Spirit.