A Christian friend recently posted an article about how Christians need to 'Kill Your (Celebrity Culture) Worship'. It's a fascinating article that looks at the modern church and their obsession over worship rock concerts and pastor celebrities. The author states, "Celebrity culture turns pastors and worship leaders into icons. Celebrity culture turns worship gatherings into rock concerts. Celebrity culture confuses flash and hype for substance." This has certainly been my experience as an adult.
When I was a kid, our church really resisted putting any person on a pedestal. Our Pastor didn't even like Pastor Appreciation Day because he felt like it took away from God. I went to a church in Boston where the worship team sat on the side of the stage with the words in front because they wanted people to look at the words and worship, not at the band. This makes sense to me as the whole point of joining together in worship is to worship a god, not the puny humans playing guitar or lecturing the congregation. There are a lot of churches that don't seem to get it though.
I attended one church for about five months. Four months too many, since I was quickly aware of the problems in this church. Worship service was a flashy affair. There were multiple guitarists along with a brass section, drums, a lead singer or two, and some backup singers (all girls of course). Every week they had a themed clothing color coordination. Multiple cameras cut back and forth between the singers and musicians like some kind of rock concert. It was not unusual for the band to play a secular song if it was in keeping with whatever the "theme" of the sermon was. The music was all written in-house and once I started to pay attention to the actual words, I quit singing. Most of the songs were about me/I/my . I recall one being about how we were going to worship God and I kept thinking, "Why are we singing about how we are going to do it? Why don't we just do it?" Teenagers would gather near the front to jump up and down. I found out later that there were actual "plants" in the audience who were supposed to go to the front and drag their friends up with them. I never joined and started sitting further and further away from that area because I was tired of being asked to. The Pastor, although extremely personable, had obviously never been to seminary and would make statements that were factually incorrect in almost every sermon. And his favorite kinds of sermons were the ones "you never thought we would talk about this in church". I knew, and still know people, who are obsessed with him and his family. One ex-friend quit her well-paying job to work as his secretary. The whole thing felt like a giant show and it got old very fast.
At my last church, we had a worship pastor *Karl who was obsessed with making everything concert-like. We had hired musicians. We had light shows and fog machines. Fancy PowerPoint presentations. We sang the secular songs. And the congregation? They just stood there. Literally just stood there, silently watching, as Karl bounced around the stage. The only way you knew you were doing a good job was if Karl wasn't yelling at you. I know a few people who left the church over it, stating that the lights gave them headaches and the music was too loud. One older woman came to church with huge studio-worthy headphones. I thought about quitting a few times because it bothered me to stand on a stage and have such an unresponsive audience. You know what they did respond to? An acoustic guitar and hymns. It didn't matter to Karl though, because for him it was all about the show. Which is why he ended up getting fired when we hired a new pastor. The new pastor (who is fairly awesome by the way) thought that maybe we should do songs that spoke to the congregation more. He also thought that some of the songs we were singing were inappropriate for church or were untheological. Karl was very unhappy about this. Goodbye Karl. So we got rid of the fog machine and the lights. We got rid of the paid musicians. And the congregation engaged.
This obsession with putting on a good show and celebrity pastors is a problem. It's a problem because, however I feel about gods and religion now, it is supposed to be a place for worship. There is no need to make it "relevant" if that won't work for your demographics. And celebrity pastors fall from grace, just like many celebrities. Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, David Loveless, Paul Crouch. If you are viewing your pastor almost like a god, or at least an earthly vessel for a god, then it is time to take a step back.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.