Christian culture’s boycotts rarely do any good. They generally make us look arrogant, aloof, and disconnected, all the while increasing publicity for whoever we’re all riled up about.
Anyone remember the Southern Baptists and their bizarre Disney obsession about 20 years ago?
No, those kind of boycotts are generally not a good idea.
But I think it may be time for a different kind of boycott. Not against corporations and organizations that, like Disney, couldn’t care less what we think.
It’s time for us to boycott an industry that cares very much what the whole church thinks. We’re their only hope of staying afloat.
It’s time to boycott the worship industry.
1. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because money shouldn’t drive what churches sing. It’s an industry, for goodness sake. It must make money, and it must keep strategizing ways to bring in even more. So it doesn’t give us what we really need, as good church music does, it gives us the entertainment that we’ve come to crave. While congregational song was once crafted by pastors, theologians, and poets, the worship industry has made worship in its own green image, giving us only the most marketable “artists” and music. And like all good marketing does, it appeals to the least discerning parts of us. So instead of looking for beauty and artistry, we’ve let ourselves get hooked on the mundane.
2. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because it creates its own idols.
You know this idol:
Because of the worship industry, you also know idols like this:
Christian culture is obsessed with these celebrity “worship leaders.” They develop these huge followings, with devoted fans, best-selling books, t-shirts, recording contracts, you know, the whole deal. And like the headliners of a blockbuster movie, they are the draw. They’re the ones getting paid the big bucks. They’re the ones selling tickets and getting butts in the seats. The problem with this is that churches are modeling their gatherings on commercial entertainment, bringing rock concert ambiance into sanctuaries, and transforming congregants from worshipers into Chris Tomlin (et al.) groupies. The worship industry needs this to happen. They need us to fall into obsession with these superstars and their music. I’m sure most of them are great people with pure intentions, but they’re mere pawns in the industry’s game. And we’ve eagerly obliged for so long, the industry has taken over the church’s sacred time, once reserved for our Christian storytelling, and filled it with golden calves of entertainment.
3. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because the congregation’s voice should be primary. The worship industry mimics the style of the mainstream commercial genres, which are purely for performance. Their material isn’t rising organically from the people. It’s not crafted with good congregational singing in mind, but for a particular individual or group to perform for a passive audience. It’s not that commercial music is inherently bad, it’s that it’s just not right for us. We need music that we can heartily and healthily lead from the pew, not an experience that we simply let happen to us.
4. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because emotionalism is not worship. The sole purpose of commercial music is to hook us in, to make us feel something, to make us crave their product on a base sensory level. This is emotional manipulation at its finest. We ought to be angered by it, instead we’re entranced.
5. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because simply being a silently dissatisfied customer won’t fix anything. There are many of you: all ages, denominations, and cultural backgrounds. What we’ve done with worship makes you cringe. Your senses are dulled by the lack of artistry, the pervasive emotional manipulation. But you remain in churches controlled by the worship industry, maybe for your family’s sake, maybe because all your friends go there, maybe because you find a certain theological like-mindedness. But it’s time to speak up or move on. We must. Corporate worship is more important than programs for your family. It’s more important than your life group relationships. It’s theological at its very core, so the like-mindedness you sense may be shallower than you realize. We have to make ourselves heard. The industry’s chokehold is starving us of the vital nutrients we so desperately need, Word and Sacrament, and offering the empty carbs of commercial entertainment in its place. It’s killing us, and we’re consenting to the slow, agonizing death.
So I’m done with the worship industry. It’s not out of spite. It’s not out of false piety or sensationalism. It’s a matter of conscience. I can’t do it anymore.
I won’t buy their music. I won’t listen to their radio stations. I won’t go to their concerts. I won’t purchase their songbooks. I won’t attend or serve a church that does without speaking up.
So who’s with me?
It’s time to stop mimicking pop culture.
It’s time for us to learn how to sing and make music again, instead of allowing others to do it for us.
It’s time to rediscover the proper place of music in corporate worship.
It’s time to end the Hillsongization, dethrone our jesusy American Idols, and once again foster creative beauty and artistry, especially in our children.
It’s time to make worship about the work of the people once again, not just a good show and an hour of vegging out.
It’s time to take a radical step. It’s set up to fail us, and there’s no fixing it.
The whole thing is nonsensical, anyway. There’s not real worship industry, anyway, only a group of commercial entities that must call itself such because their very existence requires it.
Don’t let them fool you. Corporate worship doesn’t depend on the mass production of raw materials and goods.
The whole thing started from nothing when our good Creator spoke everything into existence.
Our Redeemer was begotten, not made.
You can keep your worship industry. With one big book, a loaf of bread, and a little wine, we have all the materials we need.
Flickr, Jlaren Lau, creative commons 2.0
Flickr, Steve Hardy, creative commons 2.0
Flickr, Steve Yoon, creative commons 2.0
Flickr, UT Connewitz Photo Crew, creative commons 2.0
Flickr, David Joyce, creative commons 2.0
Flickr, Jena Murphy, creative commons 2.0
Flickr, Jena Murphy, creative commons 2.0