I can’t tell you how often I hear worship leaders complain that the people don’t sing, don’t clap, aren’t engaged, or just don’t show up for worship. I feel their pain, trust me, I’ve been leading worship for 15 years. But how come Tom Petty can get a crowd of X-thousand people all singing, without him even being on the microphone…
They won’t let me embed the video so you’ll have to go here and watch it (sorry).
Here’s a thought. He plays the same songs over and over, and over, and over. I don’t think Tom Petty complains about doing “Breakdown” another night. I bet he doesn’t say to his band, “You know I think Breakdown is a very boring and dull song, it’s only got four chords, and it’s very repetitious, let’s not do it tonight, we’ll schedule it again in a month”.
Tom Petty knows that people love that song. They love it so much that they’ll sing on cue, even off cue. They’ll keep singing it over and over and over and over. And the band knows it so well they don’t even need to think to play it – they can take it anywhere they want to at the drop of a hat.
Tom Petty knows that if he plays that song, that one song, people will engage. So guess what, he plays that one song, all the time. Of course if he didn’t play “Breakdown”, he could always play, “Free Fallin'”, or “American Girl”, or “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (hmmm, this is beginning to sound like a familiar trend from guy by the name of Chris Tomlin – oh but we don’t like him because his songs are too popular…?).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all about new music. In fact I love it and want our church to get it and love it as much as me. But let’s face the facts. As worship leaders, music is our passion, for many of us, it’s our job – so we spend an abnormal amount of time listening to music, talking with other worship leaders who are listening to new music, and oh yeah, listening to new music. Guess what? There’s no shortage of new music. But in my estimation, there is a shortage of worship leaders who’s number one goal is to lead and engage people in worship – to have a weekly invitation to participation.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to judge motives because I believe that most worship leaders want to engage people, they want them to connect with God, but their desires and their execution don’t always line up. We often leave out the “people” part of the equation when we’re preparing. We think of keys, of players, of sounds, and instrumentation, (or we pull the God card “this song will really bless the Lord!”), and completely forget that people plain don’t care to much about all that – they need to be invited to participate in the worship of God. If you’re bringing music to the people each weekend and hoping that they like it and that it will engage them, then you’ve missed the point. As a worship leader you are leading them, you are using the gift of music as a tool to bring them closer to God.
I guess my point is, don’t be afraid of the “Breakdown” worship songs. You know, the ones that every church is doing, the one’s that everybody knows, the ones that have only four chords and a straight ahead drum beat, the one’s that seem overplayed (when in reality if you think about how many times a song is heard on the radio compared with how often you play it at church, it’s ridiculous for us to expect people to know it).
OK, that was almost a rant. All I’m saying is that if Tom Petty can do it without the power of God’s Spirit, then we’ve got a lot of work to do my fellow worship leaders…