In the original post, “Five BAD Ideas to Make Your Worship Services FAKE,” I discussed some ways of thinking that seem to reinforce inauthentic worship. Hundreds of shares and thousands of readers later, the new year has brought us a new and even worse list! I know, it’s not the best moment to be negative with our discourse in the public arena these days. However, a new year brings with it an opportunity to evaluate and refocus our worship leadership. And, it is important to find a clear way to articulate what we may actually be feeling—for better or worse. If we can form a lingo to describe something very subjective like our worship services, then it helps us to clarify where our closely held values come into play.
1. You use EDM-pop dance worship music written and recorded for a youth-oriented market for your intergenerational congregation.
If we don’t have inspiration from our younger sounds, we end up isolating ourselves. However, if your church’s average attendee is 45-plus and you target 17 in your worship music, you are probably creating a group of worshippers who try very hard to connect to what they are asked to sing, but most likely don’t. That can feel rather fake! In some settings, anything with a beat is called for! But, I have seen many services where the stretch to be musically “relevant” makes too many feel left behind. Where do you draw the line? If it is a copied method, style or system from a successful church, it may not be who you are. What makes it fake is pretending that it is you when in fact you are simply cutting and pasting what someone else did.
2. Your all-paid worship team looks nothing like the people they lead!
I have seen in multiple settings a church hire a worship team with the average age of 24 and put them in front of a congregation as old as their parents. Paying musicians is not fake. It is fake to hire a group of worship leaders who have not one member like the members in your church—including women. While it is fantastic to make the team lead to the future, might a larger church with a lot of resources build volunteers or attempt to hire people who sit in the pews? This setup, probably done with good intentions, likely smells fake to actual younger people you hope to reach. While we cannot make every team match 100 percent, it surely sends a message—just not the right one. And, you cannot make your church younger by buying younger people to be props. Even a super cool skateboard ramp for the teens says that church is more about us marketing than offering something deeper.
3. The worship leader is more concerned about his pedal board and how it looks on Instagram than on what moves the hearts of his or her people.
While we as worship leaders must be as excellent as possible, the joy of our gear needs to come under the leadership of people. It is fake to make our keyboard setup, our lighting system or any other tool be our focus. Tools are amazing, and we should use as many as are effective in our goal to inspire people to engage in meaningful and transformational worship. But, it is fake to have shiny things without addressing what is on the inside of both ourselves and the people we serve. The fake factor grows with our pride in stuff. To be authentic is to check our gear-lust at the door of the sanctuary and focus on leading people. Worship services that cannot work in the brutal green lights of a gym likely are not more Spirit-filled when you move into a new building with all the lights and sound of the Oscars.
4. When major news or world events weigh on people, some pastors choose to read their script rather than use a bit of empathy.
If you are preaching that well-crafted sermon each week, it is likely that your plans will be un-thwarted most of the time. However, that day will come when tragedy strikes your city or even the planet. If there is little empathy to acknowledge where people are at emotionally, then you are fake in worship. This may not mean throwing the sermon out, but it surely can be addressed in prayer or words of consolation and comfort. Our program is not to program people to worship. We plan a worship service, so we serve people’s need and call to express worship. We can assume good intentions, but again the message we send by ignoring where people are at can erase authenticity from the best-programmed service or sermon.
5. Hype and more hype does not make something exciting. It makes it fake and hyped!
That song from The LEGO Movie “Everything Is Awesome” reminds me of some who in worship try to hype every announcement, song or point in the sermon as the best that has ever been said, sung or preached. We can try to preempt people in the back by clapping big or saying “Amen” loudly to spur on the Spirit, but our manipulation is simply a choice to be fake. It seems like a better leadership strategy to humbly invite people to be excited rather than to pump things up at every opportunity. Bragging and exaggeration are not a spiritual gift! The message that hype sends is damaging to an authentic worship experience. We must be careful to not use our communication and marketing skills as a substitute for God’s move. The truth is that everything is not awesome. That sermon might be OK, and the events going on in your church worthy of attention. An invitation is always better than hype. Hype is always fake!
I hope these five ideas spur a good conversation. We all need to evaluate what we do and the message those actions send. Leadership is about seeing things not simply through our eyes, but the eyes of those we serve. A worship service that is FAKE can be avoided. Lose the hype, focus on people, cast a believable team, and yes EDM is not evil—just maybe if played in some of your church services!