The Church, just like society, has its eras. New communication devices often are the root of ushering us out of one era and into the next. The cassette tape was pivotal in moving us out of the era of the pipe organ and into the era of the guitar. Likewise, the computer and more recently its mobility and Web 2.0 has moved us out of the era of the guitar and into the era of multimedia worship. Services of worship are now filled with words, music, and visuals in order to communicate the gospel story.
Along with that, the idea of fandom in the era of Web 2.0 has lost its stigma. The principle reason for this is that fans are no longer passive viewers or distant admirers of people or organizations. Today’s fan is an active participator in and with the object of their affection/appreciation. New media companies that understand this reality actually design their business models around the participation factor. Fans of megasites such as YouTube, Instagram, and Wikipedia are not just observers; they are the content creators. The fans are not just admirers, they are active contributors and absolutely necessary for any type of success of the business.
Those who are most passionately engaged in a community define its values. This is relevant to understand because worship is also a participatory “enterprise.” The social media model is one that can inform what it means to engage our communities on a level that makes their participation, not simply something we encourage, but the actual essence of what it means to worship.
Worship leaders are the gatekeepers. Worship leaders are the artistic curators, local theologians, and historians of a worshiping community via the songs that they write, sing, and lead. You tell your congregation (both actively and passively through the songs you choose and write for your setlist) not only which albums to purchase for personal listening, but who God is and who they are. Additionally, worship leaders advocate support—or not—for the poets, composers, visual artists, and liturgists in our midst.
So what do we do when a movie like Hillsong: Let Hope Rise comes into view? Like you, Worship Leader magazine is all about prayer. Primarily sung prayer, but not limited to that. So when we got word that the filmmakers and the guys in Hillsong United wanted to encourage active prayer (active worship) in movie theaters around the world, we perked our ears. This is our business. Helping people pray when they are gathered together.
Up and Away
And yes, we are advocates for grassroots art. At one point Hillsong was a startup operation, yet no one would consider the megachurch in Sydney, Australia, a mom-and-pop organization now. However, their mission remains the same: tell the world about Jesus. The question is, how will local communities and churches, large and small, respond to the missional invitation that Hillsong is broadcasting via movie theaters, home entertainment, and mobile media to both the Church and those who have yet to believe.
It’s one thing for the gatekeepers (you) to rally around the mission, put together a movie night and hit the theater for a time of worship at a multiplex. But why stop there? We are in a new era of media production and distribution. How can you apply what you see? What is appropriate for you to access and incorporate of the technology, creativity, and worship theology represented on the screen? You most certainly have the means to jump in the game, to create your own film as a means of worship and also to take ownership of anything and everything that you view in Let Hope Arise or any other media that can inspire authentic worship in your church and community.
Your business is …?
The key for churches and worship leaders to ingest and understand going forward is the classic Peter Drucker quote: “What is the purpose of your business?” If you are in the business of communal sung prayer, then really there is no limit to what you can do in order to engage those in your community that are passionate to participate in that mission. There is nothing wrong with fandom in the era of Web 2.0, but we have the opportunity to help people become fans of the one who truly deserves it: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Chuck Fromm is the founder of Worship Leader Media which includes Worship Leader magazine, Song Discovery, and the National Worship Leader Conference.