Healthy Leaders


Is Evangelical Worship Headed for a Huge Crash?

Jamie BrownJamie Brown

Recently, I spent a couple of days attending a worship leader conference featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went.

I met some new people, heard some thought-provoking teaching, enjoyed some good meals and conversations with worship leader friends, and experienced in person some of the modern worship trends that are becoming the norm in evangelicalism.

It was eye-opening in many ways.

Over the last few days, I’ve been processing some of what I saw and heard.

The hosts did a fantastic job of putting on a worship conference that exposed the attendees to a wide variety of resources, techniques, workshops, songs, new artists, approaches, teachings, and perspectives.

I thought of Mark Twain’s famous quote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes.” The same could be said of this conference. It’s an intentionally eclectic mix of different speakers, teachers, worship leaders and performers from different traditions, theological convictions and worship leading philosophies. You’ll hear and see some stuff you like and agree with, and then five minutes later you’ll hear and see some stuff you don’t agree with at all.

It’s good for worship leaders to experience this kind of wide exposure from time to time, and this national conference certainly provided it.

Yet throughout the conference, at different sessions with different worship leaders from different circles, using different approaches and leading with different bands, I picked up on a common theme.

It’s been growing over the last few decades. And to be honest, it’s a troubling theme.

And if this current generation of worship leaders doesn’t change this theme, then corporate worship in evangelicalism really is headed for a major crash.

It’s the theme of performance-ism.

It really is a problem. It really is a thing that is happening more and more. And we really can’t allow it to become the norm.

Worship leaders, we must identify and kill performance-ism while we can.

It’s not rocket science.

I am a worship music nerd. I listen to a lot of it. I follow the recent developments. I know who’s out there (sort of). I try to keep up (it’s not easy).

Even I didn’t know most of the songs that we were supposed to be singing along to at the conference. I tuned out. I sat down. I tweeted. I texted my wife. I gave up.

You’re not reading the ramblings of a curmudgeony guy complaining about all the new-fangled things the kids are doing these days, with their drums and tom-toms and electric geetars. You’re reading the heart-cry of a normal guy who’s worried about what worship leaders are doing to themselves and their congregations.

People are tuning out and giving up and just watching.

This is not a criticism of any particular individual, group, or even the conference. I do think they could make some changes to more intentionally model an approach to worship leading that isn’t so weighted on the performance side. As I said, this conference exposed us to what’s out there in the (primarily) evangelical worship world. The trend was glaringly evident to me.

It’s what’s out there that’s increasingly a problem.

Worship leaders: Step back. Take a deep breath. Think about it.

Do we really want to go down this road? It will result in a crash.

Back up. Recalibrate. Serve your congregations, point them to Jesus, help them sing along and sing with confidence.

Get out of the way, for God’s sake.

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Jamie Brown