Boycott the Worship Industry?

This last webinar was a fascinating discussion. Read the article linked below and give Porch Songs a watch. If you missed the live webinar, the podcast will release on Monday with the full show.

You can join the live discussion here at 2pm Central.

Read the article we will be discussing.

Watch Porch Songs.

Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for

Boycott the Worship Industry?

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Boycotting the worship industry ... really?

So let me get this straight.

We're boycotting the worship industry -- on a paid website that teaches us how to play songs written and performed by artists in the worship industry.

Yes, this should be an interesting discussion.

Let me just say this.

If we're going into worship trying to be Chris Tomlin or Matthew West or Kari Jobe, then shame on us. We should be leading our congregations in worship, not mimicking superstars. We should be teaching THEM to sing the songs. Teaching THEM to worship authentically and extravagantly. Helping THEM to understand what the songs say about God or to God. We should be leading songs that are singable, memorable, and theologically sound. Doesn't matter who writes them or records them. If a great song is penned by a "celebrity worship leader," then fine. After all, Chris Tomlin has a pretty good track record for writing solid congregational worship songs.

Boycotting the industry accomplishes nothing. It doesn't change our hearts. It doesn't cure the improper need for being loved, admired and adored. Each worship leader must examine his or her own heart and pray for strength against the enemy's lies. Those lies will not die simply because we stop listening to Sidewalk Prophets.

We can long for admiration singing "Nearer My God To Thee" with organ accompaniment just the same as we can with "Oceans" accompanied by a band and backing tracks. Conversely, we can sing either of those songs with a heart that longs only to love the risen Lord.



Great thoughts, Bob.

I want to make it clear that the podcast is a discussion on an article that has been making the rounds on Facebook this last week. We don't at all advocate for boycotting the worship industry but we thought it was worth going through the article point by point and discussing it.

Give the podcast a listen. I think you'll enjoy it.

Wish I would have been able to be on the webinar!

Hey Jason, is there by chance a transcript of the webinar available?

I'd love to read everyone's comments and questions. So I did a response to his article. Is there somewhere I can post it? Or can I send it to you?

You can post it here

And the Podcast will be live on Monday. It was a really great discussion.

Okay here goes! My comments

Okay here goes! My comments separated and in parentheses.

Christian culture’s boycotts rarely do any good. They generally make us look arrogant, aloof, and disconnected, all the while increasing publicity for whoever we’re all riled up about.
Anyone remember the Southern Baptists and their bizarre Disney obsession about 20 years ago?
No, those kind of boycotts are generally not a good idea.
But I think it may be time for a different kind of boycott. Not against corporations and organizations that, like Disney, couldn’t care less what we think.
It’s time for us to boycott an industry that cares very much what the whole church thinks. We’re their only hope of staying afloat.

(This is certainly not necessarily true. There are plenty of artists in the so-called worship industry who do just fine through radio play and record sales. Their songs aren’t typically done by any church band or congregation on Sunday mornings. This is usually because they are “radio” songs and not necessarily congregational. Does the artist care about this? Not likely. They aren’t writing their songs for a congregation to sing. So why should we really assume they care what the church thinks? You have also failed to define what you mean by “church”. Do you mean the typical Sunday morning congregation of worshipers, or do you mean the entire body of Christ?)

It’s time to boycott the worship industry.
1. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because money shouldn’t drive what churches sing. It’s an industry, for goodness sake. It must make money, and it must keep strategizing ways to bring in even more. So it doesn’t give us what we really need, as good church music does, it gives us the entertainment that we’ve come to crave. While congregational song was once crafted by pastors, theologians, and poets

(who decides that this is the “correct” way to do worship? Why should we as musicians depend on non-musicians, such as pastors and theologians, to craft songs? Perhaps there is a good reason this is no longer the typical model for a worship service)

the worship industry has made worship in its own green image, giving us only the most marketable “artists” and music. And like all good marketing does, it appeals to the least discerning parts of us. So instead of looking for beauty and artistry, we’ve let ourselves get hooked on the mundane

(this is a very subjective statement in my opinion. Who decides what is mundane or not? Are you really claiming that a worship band like Bethel, Jesus Culture, or Hillsong is non-artistic? If so, then I’m not certain the rest of the article is really worth reading, since your opinion of artistry is arguably lacking).

2. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because it creates its own idols.

(You should really define what you mean by an idol. Again this is a very subjective thing. You are in a sense claiming that the church is worshiping the artist and not God. But again who are you (or me) to tell someone what or who they are worshiping? I’ve been to plenty of Bethel, Hillsong, and Kari Jobe concerts (yes they were concerts), and the sight of seeing thousands of people with their arms held high in adoration of God (not the band) is a completely refreshing sight. How is it a “bad” thing that these artists have led thousands of people into a worship experience and Godly encounter? Does the fact that we may still admire their talent or pay for a ticket make them an idol? I think not.)

Christian culture is obsessed with these celebrity “worship leaders.” They develop these huge followings, with devoted fans, best-selling books, t-shirts, recording contracts, you know, the whole deal. And like the headliners of a blockbuster movie, they are the draw. They’re the ones getting paid the big bucks. They’re the ones selling tickets and getting butts in the seats. The problem with this is that churches are modeling their gatherings on commercial entertainment, bringing rock concert ambiance into sanctuaries, and transforming congregants from worshipers into Chris Tomlin (et al.) groupies.

(This is simply a gross misrepresentation of how 90 percent of churches do worship services. It is simply a fact that the vast majority of churches do not have fancy lighting or sound systems. They have a small worship band who volunteers their time to serve their body of Christ. On another note, why is it wrong to model a top performing worship experience? If a church can mirror a Bethel concert performance and bring thousands of people into a worship experience, why wouldn’t they? When is the last time you witnessed that many people in complete Godly adoration from a choir performance? And again, it’s just subjective. Who makes the judgment that a band or performer is an idol but a choir director or pastor isn’t?)

The worship industry needs this to happen. They need us to fall into obsession with these superstars and their music. I’m sure most of them are great people with pure intentions, but they’re mere pawns in the industry’s game. And we’ve eagerly obliged for so long, the industry has taken over the church’s sacred time, once reserved for our Christian storytelling and filled it with golden calves of entertainment.

(again, who decided this was how service was meant to be? Where in the Bible is this “model”? Psalm 150 tells us how to worship God, and it doesn’t mention a thing about Christian storytelling),

3. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because the congregation’s voice should be primary.

(Who says? If the congregation’s voice should be primary, then why do we need a pastor?)

The worship industry mimics the style of the mainstream commercial genres, which are purely for performance. Their material isn’t rising organically from the people. It’s not crafted with good congregational singing in mind, but for a particular individual or group to perform for a passive audience.

(Just because one audience may be passive does not mean this is the norm. I can only speak to the church I attend, and our audience is certainly not passive during worship. Sure, passivity can certainly happen, but I would contend it is just as likely to take place during a choir performance or even a pastor’s message as it might be during a worship “performance”. You are also claiming in one place that the audience is worshiping performing “idols”, but then you claim they are passive. It seems difficult to passively worship an idol. You can’t have it both ways.)

It’s not that commercial music is inherently bad, it’s that it’s just not right for us. We need music that we can heartily and healthily lead from the pew not an experience that we simply let happen to us.

(Who says we need to lead from the pew? If we are leading from the pew, then what is the point of church leadership? If someone is not involved in the worship experience, then perhaps there are plenty of other reasons)

4. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because emotionalism is not worship.

(You have yet to define what worship actually is or where you are getting that definition from. Are you sincerely claiming that worship shouldn’t be an emotional experience? I certainly hope not, because the Psalmist certainly tells us differently).

The sole purpose of commercial music is to hook us in, to make us feel something, to make us crave their product on a base sensory level. This is emotional manipulation at its finest. We ought to be angered by it, instead we’re entranced.

5. It’s time to boycott the worship industry because simply being a silently dissatisfied customer won’t fix anything. There are many of you: all ages, denominations, and cultural backgrounds. What we’ve done with worship makes you cringe.

(It may make some people cringe, but again this is extremely subjective. Churches are being filled to capacity on a weekly basis, and the worship team has a big role in this – I don’t claim the only role – and somehow this is a bad thing?)

Your senses are dulled by the lack of artistry

(again highly subjective, what do you define as artistry?)

the pervasive emotional manipulation. But you remain in churches controlled by the worship industry, maybe for your family’s sake, maybe because all your friends go there, maybe because you find a certain theological like-mindedness. But it’s time to speak up or move on. We must. Corporate worship is more important than programs for your family. It’s more important than your life group relationships. It’s theological at its very core, so the like-mindedness you sense may be shallower than you realize. We have to make ourselves heard. The industry’s chokehold is starving us of the vital nutrients we so desperately need, Word and Sacrament

(since when? I don’t recall ever going to a service where there wasn’t word after worship, many churches can certainly say there wouldn’t be as many people there to hear the word if it wasn’t for the great worship),

and offering the empty carbs of commercial entertainment in its place. It’s killing us, and we’re consenting to the slow, agonizing death.
So I’m done with the worship industry. It’s not out of spite. It’s not out of false piety or sensationalism. It’s a matter of conscience. I can’t do it anymore.
I won’t buy their music. I won’t listen to their radio stations. I won’t go to their concerts. I won’t purchase their songbooks. I won’t attend or serve a church that does without speaking up.

(So what do you propose to replace it with? Rap? Heavy Metal? Hard Rock? Beyonce? Have you actually listened to the WORDS in worship songs? Regardless if you consider worship artists “idols”, the words are still always positive and directed away from the artists and towards Jesus. Secular industry lyrics are all about “me, me, me” whereas worship industry lyrics are all about “Him, Him, Him”. But by all means, boycott away.)

So who’s with me? (Obviously I'm not).

It’s time to stop mimicking pop culture.
It’s time for us to learn how to sing and make music again, instead of allowing others to do it for us.

(Certainly agree. Perhaps you should learn an instrument if you don’t already. If you do, then perhaps try serving on the worship team and seeing if your opinion changes.)

It’s time to rediscover the proper place of music in corporate worship.

(Again with the subjectivity. Who decides the proper place of music in corporate worship? Is this in the Bible somewhere? Oh wait, yes it is, Psalm 150 again tells us to praise Him in his sanctuary with loud clashing cymbals!)

It’s time to end the Hillsongization, dethrone our jesusy American Idols, and once again foster creative beauty and artistry, especially in our children.

(I really hope you aren’t seriously claiming that Hillsong shouldn’t be considered artistry. They have some of the best songwriters, vocalists, and musicians anywhere, and they have blessed thousands of people through their worship. Sure they make money doing it, but so what? Why shouldn’t they? Should pastors preach for free as well? Should the architect who designed the church do it for free? Someone can’t possibly listen to the lyrics of a song like Oceans or I Surrender and make the claim the words are empty and devoid of worship).

It’s time to make worship about the work of the people once again, not just a good show and an hour of vegging out.

(I still don’t know where you are seeing this “vegging out” occur during worship, and I certainly don’t think you can make the claim that all congregations are behaving this way during worship).

It’s time to take a radical step. It’s set up to fail us, and there’s no fixing it.
The whole thing is nonsensical, anyway. There’s not real worship industry, anyway, only a group of commercial entities that must call itself such because their very existence requires it.

(Huh? Not sure what this even means. Is it an industry or not?)

Don’t let them fool you. Corporate worship doesn’t depend on the mass production of raw materials and goods.
The whole thing started from nothing when our good Creator spoke everything into existence.
Our Redeemer was begotten, not made.
You can keep your worship industry. With one big book, a loaf of bread, and a little wine, we have all the materials we need.

(I’ll just point to Colossians 3:16, which states: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts”.)

Sure, let's boycott...

specifically, let's boycott inflammatory internet e-broadcasts. One click ("close window") and it's time to move on.

Social media, network media, and even on-line shopping is chock full o' negative rants. Disappointing to see that spirit slithering into a subject that should - in theory - be flowing with gratitude, welcome, compassion, tolerance, joy and praise.

Most modern/contemporary worship music is both approachable and enjoyable. It is especially effective in reaching ears and hearts in the under-40 generations. I can't understand why engaging + growing congregations and adding to the list of saved souls would be anything other than positive.

I suppose that if the artists, producers & recording companies who publish the music are prioritizing their PERSONAL profits and publicity, then they may be out of alignment with our Lord's calling. But ultimately, it is neither my place nor my privilege to judge them... it is solely and exclusively His.

In Christ,

Kristopher Hinz
Asheville, NC

I wish

I could "Amen" this post a thousand times

Never Happen..

There's too much money in it. Replace it? With what? I don't even know why the guy even brought it up.

Worship industry is an invaluable resource

I don't agree with most of the article's points in my experience, but I won't say they are invalid. Worship is like most things, and it's worth is largely based on the heart behind it. If done with the right heart towards the Lord, I don't have any problem with the modern style of worship in church, based on the contemporary worship industry. I am fortunate not to have been a member of one, but I am sure there are churches that have lost some perspective on authentic worship and are mostly about performance.

I do think that in a perfect world, every church would write it's own songs and have it's own unique style. I've been on a couple of teams where the leader dabbled in songwriting. The songs were good, but mostly not great. I realized that writing really good worship songs is not as easy as it looks. The same principle applies to the whole process. To have a service with a large repertoire of songs to choose from (so you are not playing the same songs every week or two), with themes that reflect the message of the service, usually using a rotating roster of players, played and sung to the highest quality that the skill of your members allows and do it week in and week out, is not a simple thing. The simplest and most direct way for most churches to have the best song service possible is to use the services of the worship industry. You can choose from hundreds, or even thousands, of great songs and buy the recordings and sheet music for every part (except drums, dangit! says this drummer). Musicians and singers can listen to the original recordings and read the music and be able to offer the congregation a decent version of the song (with slick powerpoint lyrics even) with less than an hour or two of personal and/or group rehearsal for each new song. It is tough to beat the bang for the buck, especially for the majority of churches that have limited resources and mostly depend on volunteers.

In the old days (and some still do, of course) a church could just use a denominational or common hymnal and a organist or pianist and pretty easily present a worship set, even with a choir. You could definitely argue the spiritual value of the change to a music style more like popular worldly music. However, assuming a church wants to do the contemporary worship style, it would be a real challenge to not utilize the worship industry.

Worship Industry

Oh yeah, as a bassist encountering something declared as the latest and fresh stuff and realizing it is doing a poor rip off of U2 so basically I phone it in by channeling Adam Clayton. The people then say I got it exactly like the CD which I have never heard before. My spirit weeps.

Most interesting stuff comes from people playing with everything that is within them. Case in point was finding myself between a redeemed hair metal guy with super Strat into a Marshall half stack and a guy who had won multiple bluegrass mandolin contests. That was to me worship, unique, and huge fun.

The Blimey Cow bloggers have a painfully spot on video on how to write a contemporary worship tune. It produces something better than average out there. Why are those who purport to be connected to THE CREATOR settle for being so formula and therefore not representing The One who makes all things new every morning?

We feel your pain

Check out the podcast with Zach Bolen of Citizens and Saints for a fresh take: