One of the charges leveled in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill was that in preaching the now famous/infamous “Who the Hell do You Think You Are!?” sermon out of 2 Peter everything was planned before hand and replicated at each service. A more honest commentator would have readily conceded that this kind of thing is standard practice at any church with more than one service. At the very least the first service is the template and anything after that is merely refining the delivery, something akin to how a good comedian will work out jokes down to the syllable.** Usually then the last service is what gets put online, the one that has been most polished. If Cosper has issues with Driscoll’s use of this common method then I join with him in condemnation. I personally think that this is the kind of rotten fruit from a tree that has not been adequately pruned. Multiple services or campuses are not what I think makes for a healthy church. It leads to multiple smaller churches sharing a staff, elders, facilities, and budget*** as well as this sermonic polishing.
That said, if Driscoll, and others should be condemned for preforming and passing it off as spirit lead preaching, then there should be equal condemnation for the plague of music ministers that treat the singing of praise as their weekly concert.
I have worked in the media teams of several churches in my years and can say with near certainty that if you are looking for a narcissist in a churches leadership, looking to the worship “pastor” is a good place to start. The gaff is blown by simple observation of rehearsals. Praise teams will run through their hand raising, the emotional “improvised” bits are worked out, and there is more cattiness than a brides maid hen night on who is singing what solos. It is all about the stage, and the focus of attention. There is very little to wonder about why a congregation is not really singing and at best mumbling along, everything about what is presented to them is in the model of a concert which means, shut up and listen to us. This is something akin to what Papist would say, “don’t you worry about the supper, the professionals will handle it.” Forgive my ignorance but I was pretty sure part of being protestant means rejecting the sacred/secular divide in all its forms.
Obviously it is more difficult to showboat under the guise of ministry with many of the musical apparatuses stripped away leaving a hymnal, a piano, a player, and someone who can guide the congregation to make a joyful noise. It is not impossible that one of those people can still be a pompous ass.**** But it does make it easier to fire the guy without worrying about loosing the band or what to do with them wandering around on stage leaderless.*****
The point of congregationally singing praises to God is, running the risk of sounding repetitive here, singing congregationally praises to God. The root of the problem is pride. The body is filled with it, which is why they want worship music that is more about them and their vaguely worded worries than about the excellence of Christ. The music guy is all about himself with his cultivated look, center stage presence, and justifications for all of it. And pastors can be all about themselves creating a culture among the staff as servant leaders.******
Mike Cosper is fond of reminding us that the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll should cause us to look in the mirror and evaluate. I agree, a reflection of the worst performance elements of Driscoll are found not only in pastors, but in excess in modern approaches to worship music. War should be declared on pride in all its forms. If a music man is terrified by the hymns of old perhaps he should be forced into them for they will remove his center stage and place Christ at the center of the worship. Or as one of their endless choruses would say, “Jesus at the Center of it all.”
*With excessive footnotes!
**Jerry Seinfeld talks about this in his joke writing.
***I do concede that at that point in the history of the reformed movement churches were blowing up numerically on guys and the, usually, calmer ecclesiology guys were not listened to. So some grace can be given to a young guy with several hundred people showing up beyond fire codes and just not having the theology to know what to do with them. At this point… I don’t think there is much of an excuse.
****Couldn’t tell you the name of the pastor in the church but Tommy the music minister looms large in my memory.
*****Honestly they probably won’t show up, half the music guys job is guilting them into at least being on time for church much less rehearsals. You want to know how a church winds up on the little treadmill of the worship guys fifteen favorite songs? Those are the only ones the band knows and they aren’t showing up to learn any new ones. Again this problem can be solved by a decent piano player who can work out more than four chords.
******And hilariously these guys will fly into hand wringing the moment Doug Wilson suggests a more Biblical term would be servant lordship. He is not wrong to say one sounds nicer but is un-Biblical and often a cover up for spinelessness or soft totalitarianism. If the church staff is prideful, it is at minimum the responsibility of the pastor if not down stream from him.