Do you ever find it odd that we have worship celebrities? I’m not suggesting that guys like Chris Tomlin or David Crowder are odd (okay, Crowder is a bit odd, but in a cool way), I’m just saying that the concept of a celebrity worshiper is strange. In some ways, these musicians are more powerful than their secular counterparts. Everyone loves U2, but I don’t think anyone gathers weekly and sings their songs for 20 – 30 minutes. The songs these giants record find their way into virtually every church in America and shape our worship experiences.

There are many benefits to worship songs with this level of popularity. For one thing, I love that I can visit almost any church and feel right at home with the songs they’re singing. It gives us a more universal and united sense of what the broader church really is.

But I wonder if we’ve become too dependent on the “professional worship leaders” (quotation marks because it doesn’t feel right without them). We have essentially outsourced our worship music. Rather than each group of believers expressing their own praise to God, we pay a “firm” to create songs for us. A very select handful of talented musicians express their worship to God through creative and catchy songs, then every Christian across the country purchases, sings, and internalizes those songs. (Incidentally, I think this is yet another way—like franchising church plants, evangelizing as salesmen, and focusing on entertaining services—that the modern church reflects its tendency to view itself as a corporation).

I think we lose something very important through this arrangement. Where is the church’s creativity? Certainly God’s work in our lives is universal enough that we can all earnestly and passionately sing the same songs. But shouldn’t each cluster of Christians have something unique to praise God for? Aren’t we all learning about and experiencing God in different ways at different times?

Variations in content aside, let’s consider musical style. Should churches in the heart of Texas, inner-city Los Angeles, and small mountain towns across America all be incorporating the same musical styles? Surely these vastly different cultures could come up with some unique and exciting ways to praise God with a variety of musical instruments, tempos, styles, and tones. Would it not glorify God to hear His praise voiced in so many different ways?

To be clear, I’m not organizing a boycott against popular worship leaders. But I am very serious about calling each community of faith to assess its God-given talent and use every ounce of creative expression for God’s glory. Imagine singing Chris Tomlin songs alongside music that has come out of your own church—unique manifestations of praise that could not have found expression in any other setting? I love thinking about the possibilities this could bring.

So if you’re a musician who is also a Christian, find ways to glorify God through your music. And if the Spirit leads you to write something that could be used to edify your church body, take the bold step of sharing that music with the people around you. If you’re not a musician, encourage the musicians in your midst to dust off their instruments and begin creating to the glory of God.

Maybe the songs your church comes up with won’t end up topping any charts, but then again, that’s really not the point. It’s all about using every aspect of our lives and all of the gifts that God gives us to build up the church and reflect Him to the world around us.

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Mark Beuving
Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I love this! Our worship leaders write original songs and we sing at least one of them each week. In fact, there are three different people on our worship team who have written original songs. Our church family loves those songs, and we love Tomlin, Crowder, and Wickham, too!

  2. Alright, so I see the point you’re making here, and I’m pretty much in agreement. But this is nothing new – we’ve been singing songs out of hymnals long before Mr Tomlin and Mr Crowder came along. I concur that it would be wonderful if churches were writing their own music as well, but this “outsourcing” has been going on for quite some time.

    • Great point, Kat. Churches do have a long history of pulling songs from a hymnal. I definitely don’t want to suggest that singing modern worship songs or songs from a hymnal is bad. Like I said, there’s a lot that’s constructive about sharing songs with Christians around the world. I just hate the thought of restricting our praise to the songs from a hymnal or a CCM catalog.

  3. Bro, I completely agree and have been thinking about this quite a bit over the last couple of months. I hope to see local congregations celebrating and thanking God for what He is doing specifically in their own community of faith, and a great way of doing that is creating songs from within the local body — songs that are tailored to God’s working in that particular people. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’ve recently been struggling with how when I sing worship songs, I feel like I don’t mean it. Not like I’m not worshipping God in those moments but that the words I’m singing have nothing to do with how I’ve been worshipping God throughout my week, let alone in the duration of singing that song.

    A lot of the songs that I write are so personal, so specific, that while I’m singing the songs in church I feel like I’m throwing up praise-like phrases and hoping they land in the box that qualifies our acts as worship.

    I do know that so many people benefit from the songs we sing in church, so I, as well, don’t think we should cut them out of the worship set list but this is an awesome challenge.

    Hmmmm. Definitely some stuff to think about.

  5. Thank you for this post. I find it difficult because at our church when they say we are going to worship, they always mean that we are going to stand up and sing. While quite a few people seem to enjoy this, I don’t find it particularly engaging and it doesn’t seem to be a medium through which I can express my worship for God. Also, we sing primarily ‘Hillsong’ songs, and the words and music of these are often meaningless and unpleasant (for me).
    SO now, I just tend to opt out of the so-called worship, but becuase this is seen as the prime part of our church services, I tend to not see any point in attending anymore. I realise that this is not a good option, but can one worship without standing up and singing for 40 minutes?