Stop Attending Worship Conferences!


don't jumpMy childhood home was located next door to a small strip mall consisting of a radio and television shop, various business offices and a pharmacy at the far end of the mall. The view from my upstairs bedroom window was the roofline of those small shops and stores.

My parents were awakened one night by the pharmacy burglar alarm. After contacting the police, my dad also woke me up to let me know what was occurring. We watched in the darkness of my bedroom as a thief attempted to access the pharmacy through its roof with a pickaxe.

When the police arrived the burglar tried to elude them by running across the rooftops toward our house. It was obvious that he intended to jump between the stores and our home to escape capture. My always-prepared dad temporarily blinded the intruder by pointing the beam of a huge flashlight in his eyes the moment he jumped.

From the street it appeared that our house and the strip mall were only one-story structures. Because of the slope of the side yard, however, where the thief intended to jump was actually three-stories high. The hapless criminal landed in a heap on our metal garbage cans and was easily apprehended and arrested. He jumped blindly before considering all of the circumstances or potential consequences. 

If your post-worship-conference-pattern is to imitate and implement everything you see without considering how or if it might fit in the culture or context of your own congregation…stop attending worship conferences. If your congregants dread your return from the conference since this pattern occurs after every event…stop attending worship conferences. And if you are disappointed in and critical of your people when they can’t imitate what you observed and experienced…stop attending worship conferences.

If, however, you can attend worship conferences and filter the valuable insights through the worship language of your uniquely positioned and distinctly designed congregation, then by all means attend as many of those conferences as your budget and calendar will allow.

Suggested Filters

  • Listen and observe while giving consideration to where and whom God has called you to serve, not where or whom you wish He had called you to serve.
  • Determine if what you observe out there complements the gifts of those you already have in here.
  • If imitation is the highest form of flattery, ask yourself whom it is you are trying to flatter.
  • Attend conference sessions based on how you might improve the worship language of your congregation, not based on how you might appear to your friends.
  • Consider that future ministry success may reside primarily in the revitalization of your attitude as the leader.
  • Take into consideration the past and present circumstances that frame your existing worship language.
  • Determine if it is possible that the only new necessary is for your group to do what they are already doing…better.
  • Don’t tune out the learning that is also available in the conversations during breaks and meals.
  • Remember the old idiom look before you leap before blindly implementing what you observe and learn.

6 Responses to “Stop Attending Worship Conferences!”

  • Mike Hatter Says:

    I have been to more ‘worship’ conferences than I would like to admit. I usually leave with less money and more show than worship. We need to remember that God is holy but instead we have made God into our bar-b-q buddy. All of the posted comments are so true. I’m for turning off the projectors, sound systems, lights, and other distractions and get back to real worship. And you don’t have to be the frozen chosen to have true worship.

  • Tim Says:

    Amen and Amen! I’ve been both a Bi-vocational and Full-Time Worship Pastor for over 20 years now and have seen so many worship fads come and go. I know it’s been an evolutionary process to a degree, but so much of it has been projected with an “imitate me” mentality, and it just doesn’t work. Some of the small churches I served in (rural Oklahoma, urban Texas, etc.) would never have related to the styles of today, but boy, did they know how to worship! I think Mark is right about the way the worship conferences of today emphasize the new talent, but tend to ignore the ones who have been doing it effectively and faithfully for decades. I’ll never forget the first Dallas Holm concert I went to in 1983. It was truly a worship service….and so many people came to Christ that night…drawn by what they witnessed as God’s people being led by Dallas just worshiped! In 2009 I hosted Dallas at my church, and although he had some new music, and some great old songs, it was his teaching that I couldn’t get enough of. His wisdom, and compassion, caused people to consider their relationship with God. To him, he is not an entertainer, but a minister, and that’s what we’re called to do. He hasn’t added any lights or fog to his events, just years of learning and sharing. I pray that some day I’ll be able to share all that God has taught me through the years….the most important of all being compassion for His people.

  • Mark Says:

    The latest trend will fade eventually, but it is sad that every church is trying to emulate Hillsong or some other widely promoted ministry thinking that all they need to do is imitate them and they will have the same results. Worship Conferences also seem to only invite the most current artists instead of those who have been on a faith walk for decades and have seen what really works and that is true worship.

  • Dave Says:

    I too am searching for an FT position, Mark.
    I am astounded by the number of churches who post very LITTLE of their music (or anything else) agenda, but want everything under the sun from you the applicant in the very first contact. Especially the demo video. I see quite a bit of, “Applications without an accompanying link to a video WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.” I’ve determined a whole lot of churches are on a “National Search for Eliab.” I wonder how many of them miss “David” in the process because his video isn’t as slick as “Eliab’s.”
    Well, I guess I know the answer to my own question: If they really wanted “David” they wouldn’t be methodologically competing against each other for “Eliab,” would they?!
    I didn’t reference the metaphor on purpose–but “it’s in the Bible.” Leaders at this level ought to know its scripture source. So I wonder, are slick worship conferences in general also influencing the search process? Where does the worship pastor, who is uninterested in competition and just wants to “BE” with a like-minded congregation, find that congregation?

  • Vernon Charter D.W.S. Says:

    Yes, worship conferences can wear out worship leaders and their churches trying to reproduce what is impossible in their churches. In our part of Canada, we have a huge worship conference every January, one of the largest in North America,with more than 10,000 in attendance. Besides having many high profile speakers, there are workshops on the latest technology and the most popular songs, and performances by the hottest Christian bands. It’s designed for mega-churches, even though many of the people who attend come from churches with less than 200 people in attendance. There’s a real danger that these churches may feel that their worship is inferior, because they don’t have the physical or financial resources to reproduce what they saw at the conference.

  • Mark Says:

    Worship conferences can be like getting a Vitamin B shot for some and I guess new ideas are always welcome, but keeping up with the Joneses is not what true worship is about. We already see many of the same fads in churches already that include a big screen in the front of the sanctuary to display the lyrics to the songs sung, or the “Praise/Worship Team” comprised of singers that love to sing but maybe should not have a microphone to amplify their voice if you know what I mean, to name just two.

    Churches are more interested in competing than just being. While searching for a full time position as a worship leader I am astounded by some churches that make their musical agenda known from the get go and if that is not you then DO NOT APPLY. It is a shame that we have come to a point where we think there is some magic formula that others can copy to produce the same results when it comes to church growth and worship. Some of the largest mega churches in the country started as a small bible study like Calvary Chapel in So. Cal. whose beginnings were a mere 25 people. No worship team or praise band. Just WORSHIP!

    Maybe instead of attending all these worship conferences we could just LISTEN to both God and our congregation and HEAR what is desired.

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