Questioning the Hype Machine

Hey everybody! I've got a ton to report on the current state of the California tour, BUT I thought I'd take a break from tour news to bring up a business/promotional/faith/identity issue.

I just got an email from somebody whose church will be hosting me as a guest musician for a Sunday morning worship service sometime in the next few months. The person was concerned and wondering why their church and date is not listed on the TOUR DATES section of my webpage. I think they were maybe worried that I had forgotten that I had committed to be there.

Well, I know about the gig, but I actively chose not to list it on my TOUR DATES page. In fact, usually when I play for a worship service or evening Lent service, etc. I leave it off the calendar. So I replied back to the concerned emailer, and tried to explain my reasons. As I wrote the reply, I realized that it's very difficult for me to explain why I don't include these appearances on my calendar....and usually I have a good clear answer for most everything.

I can hear the wheels turning in some of your heads already, as you think:
"He just doesn't want to be thought of as a 'worship musician'!"
"He's ashamed of playing church service gigs 'cause they're so un-cool!"

Well, I play a ton of gigs that I don't list on my calendar. In fact, when I get home from this tour I'll be playing a series of shows for my local School District and the pre-school classes, but those aren't listed. And I've got some youth gatherings coming up, but those aren't listed either. And, I've got some club shows as a guest for other bands where I'm choosing not to list them as well. But it's also true that I don't want to be thought of as some traveling "worship leader"....that's the Pastor's job. I see myself as more like a traveling organist who just happens to play guitar most of the time.

I guess it all comes down to what I feel like is a true "concert." Those are the events where I feel comfortable inviting anybody and everybody to attend. And I see a concert as really about ME and what I'm interested in playing....and when I'm playing at a Sunday morning worship service, obviously the focus is (and should be) on something OTHER than me! Below is the reply I wrote to the concerned can determine if the logic makes sense:

I don't usually list Sunday morning worship services on the webpage because they're not really "concerts"'s not a usual "performance" where I'm just playing anything I want. I always feel like on Sunday morning I'm there to add to the worship service and serve the congregation, so it feels somehow weird to me to hype up my own "guest appearance!" Plus, sometimes I only do a couple songs at Sunday morning worship, so I don't want to mislead anybody into thinking they're coming to a concert, only to find me doing just a couple songs, and having the whole congregation there, the Pastor with a sermon, etc.
Of course I realize that worship services are open to the public and it would be great to have a lot of people attend, BUT it always feels a bit strange for me to push and sell my own appearance at a worship service.
BUT, I'm fine if the congregation itself wants to advertise my appearance as a guest musician! That way it's in the perfect context, and the congregation can direct the way that my presence is presented.
I've never had to put these thoughts into print before, so I hope it makes sense!


RevDrum said…
Hey Jonathan, I see where this can be a tough call. Whether or not to publicize worship events or youth events on your website is handled differently from artist to artist.

On the one hand I see it from the side of the church (or event promoter) that they might get some additional visitors coming to their church because fans that look at your webpage might say, Hey, that sounds like a good place to worship on Sunday.

On the other hand, and the one that I probably would lean toward, and the one that agrees with your policy, and as you basically stated ... the question is whether people should be coming to worship for the musician or if they should be coming to worship. A worship experience is about an encounter with God, not a chance to see my favorite Rock Star ... this is the problem I have with some worship bands (but that's another rant, maybe for my own blog).

I think your explanation is a good one and I think that most places that book an artist for worship will appreciate the fact that you provide a thoughtful response to that question.
Bridget Delaney said…

I agree with you and with revdrum here. I mean, to go to church just because a musician is there. Concerts are great and youth gatherings are great - though I know since most of the time that it's just for those registered for th event, listing the appearance isn't worth much. However, that one can go either way, but the worship service should be about God and not going because of a musician. Sure, guest musicians and special music can be nice. . . but should never be THE reason. . .I know I wouldn't head to one of the other area congregations in Lake Charles just because they had some musician - and it'd be really easy as St. Paul is the neighbor of what I think is the hugest Assembly of God church in Lake Charles! Yeah, they do the whole big music guests and such. I visited their youth more than once and usually it's pretty bad. . .I don't know who is there now, but at least for once, they had a pretty good youth minister who didn't push - but the name seems to have changed now from what I remember and it seems to have turned back into the entertainment complex that I knew from the beginning - and I know you don't want to make it seem like that when you're a guest!

Ha, this comment is much longer than I meant to make it at first!

Stein Auf!
Clint said…
Paul the Apostle was pretty famous in his day, though not too famous. Probably infamous to some. Let's say he was doing some preaching engagements in the Aeropagus, and then was later going to appear in a public religious forum, like some kind of gathering of people calling themselves "the way." Would he publicize both appearances in the same way? Or would he make a distinction between the Christian gathering and the public event?

I guess my bias would be, you should list worship appearances in your schedule, and call them what they are- worship services where you are appearing as a musician. All Christian worship is a free public venue, after all... Just my two cents worth.

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