Having traveled a bit and visited many churches this past year, I see a pattern in the modern worship world. In fact, for the past decade I have been in that category as a worship leader. There are twitter feeds sharing set lists of the songs worship leaders choose. People in the pews or theater seats across America experience more of the same on their Sunday morning worship music menu than ever before. This one-size-fits-all thinking might be the death of true creativity. And, as a result it may flatten our ability to connect deeply to our community.
There are guitar sites, Youtube channels, and businesses built on showing how to paint-by-numbers. This includes the tone, sound and look of the most famous worship bands out there. Even the hipster dress code, as I observe when speaking or attending at worship conferences, conforms to plaid shirts, Tom’s Shoes, and v-necks. The worst offender is the skinny jeans. Seriously, fashion sense is really not a problem and creative people lead in this. But, why so monolithic?
Today’s recipe for success is the “me-too” cover band. Churches echo sermon series and graphics from the popular houses of worship. Everything is downloadable with a click. A local artist recently said this: “Cover bands are where dreams go to die.” After dying in laughter for a few minutes, sadness overcame me when reflecting on our Sunday experiences. The idea of being an “artist” and the calling that God has given artists dies in a cut-and-paste mentality that pervades our Sunday programming. Creativity is really “copy-tivity” in this world. And, it goes beyond music, shaping the sermons preached in our pulpits, graphics on our website banners, and fog machines.
Some will balk at this perspective. They will ask, “if it works, why not use things that are efficient and popular?” “Why reinvent the wheel?” The faulty idea is to measure the ends, not the means. “If a pastor in another town preaches better, why not use his sermon instead of your own?” This is faulty thinking. We create not because creating is our goal, but to create indigenously means the people I serve, the people I am called to reach and the city I live in matter. If we know the people as we should, we should actually be able to connect far better to them than someone else who does not know them.
We should employ good tools. Yes! And, the innovation of some churches challenges us all. Being influenced and inspired is one thing. Copying as a habit is another. We can take the best practices and become better. If we ban innovation, creativity, and the skills and work this requires, we may lose our voice to the very people we want to reach.
Do we lose our connection with people or increase it by Cut-and-Paste Creativity?