1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another.
2. an instance of this.
3. Archaic . something stolen.
Our culture is celebrity mad.
I’m not making a value judgement on that, I’m merely making an observation that the times and the culture in which we live have a serious obsession with celebrity and status. Whether it be through TV shows with minor-celebrities desperately trying to get more attention by living in a jungle or talent competitions enticing unwitting members of the public with the promise of stardom, we’re fascinated by celebrities, their lives, their styles.
But what happens when that celebrity culture begins to seep into areas where it is neither helpful nor wanted? What do we do when our obsession with making much of people hinders the very job they are trying to do? How do we address the issue of ‘celebrity’ worship leaders?
Firstly, let me say that I recognise that there are certain worship leaders who are extremely good at their job and God has clearly entrusted them with new songs and abilities. And let me also say that very rarely is it the worship leader that creates their ‘celebrity’ status. It is the culture and industry that has been built around them that troubles me.
Alarm bells began to ring for me one summer when I looked to buy a CD by one of these high-profile worship leaders and there was an option to purchase ‘signed copies’ of the album. Why would I want the signature of a worship leader on a CD? Is not the whole point of a worship leader is to point to Jesus and become virtually invisible. I can appreciate that an artist is proud of his or her work and pleased with how the album has turned out. But signed copies of a ‘worship album’ somewhat misses the point surely? There is a difference in between ‘selling art’ and ‘selling worship’ – a topic to unpack in a later post perhaps.
The point is this – There is no room in worship for any celebrities other than God. Even within the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – no one member of the Godhead ever puts themself above the others. There is no self-promotion. The Father does not exalt himself but instead he glorifies, and is glorified by, the Son (John 8:54). The Son does not exalt himself but seeks to glorify, and is glorified by, the Father (John 17:1). The Spirit likewise does not seek to draw attention to himself but is glorified in his works with the Father and the Son.
I’m involved in leading worship; I have been for some time. I’ve had the privilege of working and worshipping with some high-profile worship leaders. I now have a certain level of responsibility to lead a worship team at the church I’m part of. The responsibility is to lead the others in the church in worship; to take them to a place where they can engage with God. There is absolutely no room for me to ever turn it into the Jimmy Orr show.
Worship is to God, for God and about God. And all the time we let this celebrity culture invade our worship world I can’t help but fear that we’re robbing God of that which he alone is due.