Wherever I go, I often see worship communities trying to create something that can have global impact in worship. This is noble in many cases, but it has also caused growing concern in me as I see people losing their focus by taking their attention off just loving Jesus.
For me, creating something at ‘home’ that allows congregations to experience the touch of Heaven should be primary. Of course, many of these communities would say that is the goal, but I am becoming more and more passionate about talented creatives living in the tension between being world changers and being part of a local church family.
The question of what it takes to foster a worship movement has caused me to take a good look at some of the bands and worship teams across the globe that are making a difference. I wanted to see what it was that caused sustainability and quite simply, the attention of the global church. What is it that causes them to have so much influence.
In doing so, I hope to encourage leaders and songwriters, but also bring some clarity, reflection and grounding on what it really takes to have that kind of momentum. I am hoping it will take the focus off the ‘fame’ around these movements, and bring us back to the ‘foundations’. I feel privileged to know many of the bands/people I am mentioning here, and so this is my personal reflection on seeing how they carry out their callings on and off the platform they have been given.
Although there are many more, here are five markers of a worship movement that I’ve come across in my travels.
1. The focus is not on the sound, but authenticity.
A few years back we had the privilege of having United Pursuit here in Melbourne, Australia. I remember asking them how they became who they were. It was refreshing to hear that it all started with a desire just to worship God in a lounge room (where the first album “Live at the Bank’s House” was born). They weren’t thinking about how it was going to change the world. They were just wanting to create a space where they could just be themselves and worship God in their own way. The focus was not on what kind of music would change the landscape of worship communities. They weren’t spending a lot of time thinking about what it sounded like back then.
It doesn’t mean that as artists we don’t grow and reflect on what we are trying to create, but sometimes magnifying the idea of ‘reinventing the wheel’ to produce something we think is cool and different is actually a distraction. I love that these guys were actually surprised that so many people liked their music, because they were just being themselves. They were thinking more about the process than the outcome.
Just be you, and enjoy worshipping your Saviour. Leave the rest up to God.
2. They grow as people.
As a movement grows, their skill, maturity and capacity increases with it. Have you noticed that bands like Jesus Culture, United Pursuit, Hillsong as examples still carry their flavour with each album, but they also grow musically and relationally. It’s almost like we get to be a part of watching them grow up. We get to be a part of their journey. They don’t get stuck in old ways of doing things, but are always looking for ways to improve both musically and spiritually.
This kind of growth fosters a movement of sustainability and longevity. They grow as their music grows. If there is no diversity a movement will wane. They had to grow along with it.
What area do you need to grow in? Focus on being more Christlike as you increase your skills as a worship leader and songwriter.
3. They have strong relationships across the globe.
I really love this and its also an oxymoron – instead of becoming so big it becomes autonomous, as a worship movement grows, they become connected to other world changers. They develop natural alliances based out of friendship and affinity that causes them to grow as people. They are stronger together than they are alone. They don’t isolate themselves. I think of bands like Jesus Culture and Planet Shakers or Hillsong who have friends all across the world where leaders can bounce ideas off each other, stand together, dream together. It’s so important.
Who are you aligning yourselves with that are not necessarily from your denomination or movement? Are you developing real friendships or focussing on what they can do for you? Learn the art of friendship with others doing what you do.
4. It’s not about one person.
This is really, really important. Sometimes one person may be the ‘face’ of a movement, but we all know that it takes more than one person to create something that has global impact. There are many people behind the scenes that give their whole lives to be world changers. It’s not just about the people on a platform.
I have seen movements wane when one person believes they are the focus or the reason why something works the way it does. This is even more true now than it was 20-30 years ago. It seems we have entered a season where there are many faces, many sounds, many expressions heralding from one movement. I love this and it also takes the pressure off thinking you have to be the one that has it all together.
I have a friend who often says ‘We were not built for glory, we were built for the King of Glory’. I love this comment because it implies that only God can really handle all the accolades. We were not built to cope with being put on a pedestal and worshipped by worshippers. Don’t think it’s all about you. Unfortunately this is a down side to a growing movement, but…..that’s another blog 🙂
Let me also say it takes more than a worship band to create a movement. It takes people good at social media, a resource sales team, people planning itineraries, budgets, times lines plus much more. Some would cringe at this, but let me say it’s just part of growth. The bigger something is, the more hands it takes. Whether you like this idea or not, to have global influence requires many hands.
Who in your team has a gift that needs to be fostered or raised up? Can you see potential for them to lead? Invest into them as you grow. Lead with the hope and mindset that they will overtake you with their gifts. The marking of a great leader is one who is not afraid of others being greater than you are.
5. They are writing songs that cross denominational boundaries.
Songs that are relevant whether you are Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal or whatever. For a song to do this it has to have several elements – it has to capture the theology of the church at large (think things like Salvation, the cross etc – the foundations that all Christians agree upon). This unites the church. It also has melodies that are easy for congregations to sing. Break Every Chain (United Pursuit), How Great is Our God (Chris Tomlin), One Thing Remains (Bethel, Jesus Culture), are all great examples of songs I hear in many different styles of churches in many nations, in communities big and small.
Bob Dylan once said “A song has legs” meaning that songs can go far and wide and influence many. In the case of great worship songs of today this is also a true statement – these songs travel, and they travel well. A by product of that is it creates attention.
What types of songs are you writing? Are they songs that help people sing? Are they capturing the truths of the Gospel, or just how you are feeling? Are they teaching people who God is? Are the melodies memorable for a congregation, or for people that are not necessarily musical?
These are just some of my thoughts – what do you think creates a worship movement?