Bruce Springsteen is on tour again. I’ve never been a Springsteen fan, but his music has affected millions. Recently, Scott Pelley interviewed Springsteen for the TV show 60 Minutes. His concert was described as “part circus, dance party, political rally, and big tent revival.” Here’s a portion of the interview, street language unedited.
“You have got to be, wild guess, worth somewhere north of 100 million dollars. Why are you still touring? You don’t have to do this,” Pelley remarks.
“What else would I do? You got any clues?” Springsteen asks. “Got any suggestions? I mean, am I going to garden? Why would you stop? I mean, you play the music and you know, grown men cry. And women dance. That’s why you do it.”
“It’s good to be a rock star,” Pelley says.
“I would say that yes it is,” Springsteen says. “But the star thing I can live with. The music I can’t live without. And that’s how it lays out for me, you know. I got as big an ego and enjoy the attention. My son has a word, he calls it ‘Attention Whore.’ But you have to be one of those or else why would you be up in front of thousands of people, you know, shaking your butt. But at the same time, when it comes down to it, it’s the way it makes you feel. I do it because of the way it makes me feel when I do it. It gives me meaning, it gives me purpose,” Springsteen explains.
Hearing Springsteen talk about why he does what he does made me freshly aware of how different leading corporate worship is from being a rock star, even though at times the line can be blurred, both in our culture and in our hearts. Here are a few of the distinctions.
“The music I can’t live without.” I love music. I’ve been playing music for the last 46 years, and professionally for thirty five. Right now I have close to 40 days of music on my iTunes and iPod. But if I had to make a choice, I could live without music. It’s Jesus I can’t live without, in every sense of the word. Music is just one more of God’s blessings, meant to direct our attention to the Giver and create fresh affection for the God who gives all good gifts (James 1:17).`
“I…enjoy the attention…or else why would you be up in front of thousands of people?” Whether we’re up in front of ten people or ten thousand, we can all crave the same thing – attention. We want to be the center of the world, even if for a few moments, thinking we deserve at least a portion of the glory that rightly belongs to God alone. But there are other reasons we can want to be in front of people, and they have nothing to do with us. We can want to direct people’s eyes to the matchless Savior, whose glory knows no bounds. Paul said it like this: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). All our musical skill, all our creative arrangements, all our technical prowess might impress people, but it certainly doesn’t impress God. He’s the one who gave us everything we have as well as the ability to develop it. Our goal in leading people is to communicate through our gestures, voices, bodies, and faces that Jesus Christ is a great Savior, and that God is worthy to be loved, trusted, and obeyed with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
“When it comes down to it, it’s the way it makes you feel.” Leading people to praise and encounter God can be a very fulfilling experience. I’ve cried, laughed for joy, shouted, stood in awe, and been overwhelmed with the sense of God’s presence. But we don’t lead worship because of the way it makes us feel. Our goal isn’t to reach a musical high. We lead worship because Jesus has been given the name above all names and is worthy of worship. Ideally, we’re already experiencing the peace, joy, and strength of the Holy Spirit as we step up to lead others, and want them to drink from the same fountain of Gospel grace that we’ve been enjoying.
“I do it because of the way it makes me feel when I do it. It gives me meaning, it gives me purpose.” If the good feeling I have when I’m the center of attention is where I find my ultimate meaning and purpose, I have a very small world. God created us to find our meaning in Jesus Christ – his purposes, his plans, and his exaltation. The day will come when everything in heaven and earth will be subject to Jesus Christ for the ultimate glory of the Father (1 Cor. 15:28). Paul looked on all his gains and achievements as loss, compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord. He tells us that “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4). Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). What gives us meaning and purpose is not what we do for God or for others, but what God has done for us in sending his Son to atone for our sins and deliver us from our sinful selves. He has freed us from being fixated on our own lives to be overwhelmed and undone by his goodness, greatness, and beauty.
We’ve benefited greatly from musical and technological advances of recent decades. And leading a band doesn’t mean we have the same attitude as Bruce Springsteen. But we need to be clear on what role music plays in our worship and the place it holds in our hearts. We can’t think and act like rock stars and exalt the crucified Messiah at the same time.
I’d be interested in hearing where the “rock star” mentality may have invaded your ideas of leading God’s people to worship him, and what you’ve done to fight it.