Over the past few years, many of you have probably heard of a young pastor in Birmingham, Alabama who has been shaking things up a little bit. His name is David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills. I first heard speak at a Student Life “Clarity” Youth Conference in Hendersonville, Tennessee. During that conference, I was once again reminded of the importance and primacy of scripture. David is a good speaker and writer, but more than that you see the Word of God on display, which should be the desire of any preacher, teacher, singer, worship leader, author, etc.
A couple of years ago, Platt wrote his first book entitled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream. The book quickly became a New York Times Bestseller. The book taught about the fallacies of the American Dream in light of scripture. The book is filled with scripture and stories that lead the reader to quickly become convinced that we have drifted away from biblical Christianity in the United States. We have exchanged a God-centered Gospel and replaced it with a man-centered imitation.
Recently, Platt came out with the follow-up book to Radical, entitled Radical Together: Unleashing The People of God for the Purpose of God. I finished the book last night and I highly recommend it to you. It highlights how the people of God can live for the glory of God in the nations rather than simply living for ourselves. Here are some quotes that I thought would be particularly of interest to worship leaders and those in church music leadership. Context: He has just described a church on the other side of the world where it is illegal for the church to even exist.
“Whenever I am in churches like the one just depicted, I am reminded of how much we have filled our contemporary worship environments with performance elements such as elaborate stage sets, state-of-the art sound systems, and high-definition video screens. I am also struck by our reliance upon having just the right speaker and just the right musician who can attract the most people to a worship service. But what if the church itself – the people of God gathered in one place – is intended to the attraction, regardless of who is teaching, or singing that day? This is enough for our brothers and sisters around the world. But is it enough for us?” (page 59-60)
Some of you may be saying, “we don’t have elaborate stage sets, state of the art sound systems, and HD screens? We don’t even have a music budget!” Yet, I am sure you’ve probably had some form of the following thoughts. If I just had a music budget, if we just do the right cantata, if we could somehow improve our sound system – then everything would be okay. Churches often think if they have the right facilities or leaders with charismatic personalities everything will be alright. The fact of the matter is that the people of God coming together to worship the LORD is the attraction! The Word of God is what should be on display, not the fancy and creative things we can come up with. There is nothing wrong with our creativity, charismatic preachers or worship leaders or having good sound systems, however, if those things are the attraction then we have a big problem. Platt goes on to say….(page 60)
“I mentioned earlier that we recently cut 83 percent of our worship budget. We did this not only to free up resources for urgent needs around the world but also to scale back our emphasis on nonessential elements of corporate worship. We want to focus on ways we can cultivate the best people: a people who love to pray together, fast together, confess sin together, sing together, and study together; a people who depend more on the Word that is spoken than on the one who speaks it; a people who are gripped in music more by the content of the song than by the appeal of the singer; and a people who define worship less by the quality of a slick performance and more by the commitment of a humble people who gather week after week simply to behold the glory of God as they surrender their lives to him.”
If you are like me, you are probably saying, I don’t have 83% of a budget in the first place! Let alone to cut! Many of you are in part-time and volunteer positions and it is important to make improvements and seek to do things well. Yet, we must never get to the place where we focus more on the worship stuff than about the mission of the church. How does your worship ministry make known the glory of God to the nations? How does mine? (I wish I had a good answer for that one.) Can I borrow music this year and use that money to send one of my band members on a mission trip to share the Gospel in a place it has never been heard? These are the hard questions we must ask ourselves if we want to be not only faithful worship leaders, but faithful Christians!