Creativity Vs. Follow The Leader/Worship Leader Fan Syndrome.

If you have been raised in the church or are a part of any local church community and have access to a web browser and facebook, you're probably a part or at least have access to one of the many branches of "Christian Sub-Culture". This "Sub-Culture" exists where individuals of a common faith gather around a particular set of ideas, beliefs, theology and for our purposes, film and music. 

We are all fans of something. It's usually a particular sports team, athlete, actor/actress, band or musician. We follow these groups, ideas and individuals religiously, spending significant amounts of money on their concerts, movies and albums all in the name of leisure, hobby and pursuing our "God given" passions. Nothing wrong with hobbies at all. Nothing wrong with being a fan either(just watch out for idolatry).

As a musician I have a number of bands, artists and musicians that I admire and respect within the industry. I follow these groups and individuals because I respect their art, talent and skill and believe that much can be learned from what they have created and experienced during their careers and ongoing ministries as artists.

That very same art that we respect, listen to and consume on a daily basis can be the thing that limits us as songwriters, worship leaders and artists. One of my criticisms with the "Worship Music Industry" is that it has created a culture of follow the leader. Artists, producers and record labels see the success of a Chart-topping Worship album and begin to craft their songs and production to emmulate the success(often well deserved and earned) of other artists.

As worship leaders, we see the most recent album/live concert of our favorite worship artist on youtube. We study that video and arrangement over and over again, so that we will have missed absolutely nothing and so that we'll be able to take our knowledge of the arrangment to the church and replecate exactly what we experienced on youtube and what the patrons/worshipers experienced at their live event down to the dotted eighth delay settings.

While well meaning worship leaders are trying to genuinely serve their local churches, they can forget that they are serving "their" local church not some other local church, who's band happens to be signed to a large record/publishing deal. Our focus should be on chosing songs and learning music that helps people to know, see and experience Jesus through the songs that we sing and the presentation of those songs on Sunday morning. When we play follow the leader, we can tend to chose songs and create a worship order/liturgy that is more focused on replacating what our favorite worship leader just did at their home church.

I'm not saying that lights, production and genuine attempts at engaging the culture through the tried and true practices of another is a bad thing but it can tend to become the main thing and be a temptation for the artists and musicians to focus on the performance and production rather than pointing people to Jesus.

Playing follow the leader will rarely foster creativity anywhere, especially in church music. Now, not every church is called to put out and produce music for their community and the church at large but it's important as a worship leader/music director to foster an environment of creativity because we want our local churches and communities to thrive and develop art, music and traditions that our special and unique to them, not a carbon copy of what another church is doing.

If you are a worship leader who feels called to write songs, start writing. Listen to cutting edge music, listen to writers who are gifted in different areas, melody, lyric and so on. Listen to the best and develop your writing style around the best. The only way that we can grow as writers, artists and worship leaders is to constantly challenge ourselves with what is next musically and writing with and spending time with other writers. Being a fan is dangerous for an artist, it can stifle creativity and hold us back. Let's be creators and not fans.