Last week Leonard Sweet tweeted a link to an article by Phil Cooke entitled “WHAT KATY PERRY AND TAYLOR SWIFT CAN TEACH CHURCH WORSHIP LEADERS”. OK.. I bit and read the article. To summarize, Phil Cooke thinks that worship leaders need to encourage participation and engage the audience the way Taylor Swift and <insert random pop artist> do. He also contrasts the contemporary worship leader with with what goes on in the traditional worship service, where “everyone sings along”. Well, I can attest to the fact that not everyone sings along in all traditional worship services. I think Phil doesn’t understand the difference between the pop concert and a worship service. Here are some differences:
- At a pop concert the audience is there because they want to be there. Everyone at a Taylor Swift concert is into Taylor Swift. Not everyone at a church likes the style of music being played during the worship time. Big difference there. Here’s a thought experiment – how would Katy Perry do performing in front of the people who attend a traditional worship service?
- Pop stars are in complete control of the experience. Lighting, Set Design, Makeup, Wardrobe, Sound, etc… all are manipulated to create an experience tailored for the concert-goer. Not so at church… we just don’t have the budget.
- Pop stars have world class talent (Taylor Swift haters…. bear with me). They at least have some kind of magnetic charisma. Most of us worship leaders are not world class talents. We are simply doing our best with whatever gifts God has given us.
- Pop stars are the focus of the show. They pander to their audience. They give them what they want. Worship leaders are trying to put the focus on Jesus – which goes against our natural carnal desires. It’s easier to get people to engage if you give them what they want. Harder to give them what they need.
I agree that worship leaders must engage the audience like any good performer does, but I find it more dangerous that a worship leader might think that he or she is a pop star. That’s the real danger.
There are lots of articles written about what worship leaders can learn from Taylor Swift, or U2, or Mick Jagger. It’s kind of like writing an article on what spinach can learn from cotton candy.