the baby and the bathwater

When is enough enough?
January 28, 2009, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just recently I was emailed about a new worship resource web site

Now regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t really get too excited about this sort of thing. I mean, I don’t mind people trying to resource the church and place songs etc into worship leaders hands, but it seems to me that there are many such web sites around, all circulating pretty much the same stuff.

But a couple of things caught my eye about this one.

Firstly it was coming from one of the organisations surrounding Chris Tomlin. Chris, in my mind, is one of the best worship song writers around at the moment. His songs have great melodies and tend to be really singable – with songs like ‘How great is our God’ and ‘Holy is the Lord’ two of his best and most widely used. So the fact that he was setting up a worship resource sight interested me. The second thing that caught my eye in the email was that there was going to be a cost involved – not a cost per song downloaded etc, but a monthly direct-debit type of cost. An in additional to that, you could choose your level of payment. Pay more, get more. That sort of thing.

So intrigued by what I read in the email I went onto the website and found out more.

It is a very well designed web site, with all the knobs and whistles you’d expect, and it certainly promised a lot of song downloads, streaming of new songs etc. But it was the price that leaped out of the page at me and started me thinking. OK, you can sign up to a ‘free’ level. Which I did. And this gives you access to…well not very much it seems. I was a little disappointed to find all the things that I wanted to get hold of were labelled ‘requires upgrade’.

For various levels of upgrade (and associated costs) you can start using the worship planner – uploading chord charts and then producing a song list for Sundays: if you get all your band signed up on there too, they can access your songlist and chord charts for the Sunday service too (of course I assume that they will have to pay as well). I tend to use the ‘jot down on an old envelope five minutes before you start’ method of producing a song list…but I’m sure this other way will work too.

You also get sent a ‘worship theme’ every month, although I’m not sure what a ‘worship theme’ is. It certainly sounds tempting. I wonder if it lets you type in a theme, and it picks the songs for you. That sure would save the bother of listening to God and being obedient. Anyway, I am just guessing on this one because for the moment I don’t believe I am eligible for one, or at least I haven’t received one if I am, so have not explored it further. Anything else requires a monthly cost, so I have declined an upgrade to my membership.

The top level cost is $20. For that I think I would get all the chord charts for lots of songs, I believe it will mean I can also hear some audio of new songs as and when they come out, as well as get an ample supply of worship themes.

But let’s think about this. $20 a month. That is $240 a year. If only 1000 of the massive number of Chris Tomlin fans sign up for this, that is $240,000 a year income.

Something just doesn’t feel right.

Firstly, if I am a worship leader in a church, then surely my church is already paying a big chunk of cash for the CCLI license, which was set up to ensure that songwriters received a fair wage for their efforts.  I imagine a fair wack of this already goes to this organisation. My understanding is that this new resource doesn’t replace or lessen those costs. It is just another layer of expense.

Secondly, if part of this is about getting new songs, then presumably I could buy the regular yearly CD from for around £10 giving me access to the audio. Most of the chord charts are then either available free somewhere on the net, or transcribable from the CD. So $240 a year really does seem harsh.

Recently in the news we heard about the proposed transfer of Kaka to Man City, for which he was apparently going to earn around £200,000 per week. Now that, too, I have concerns about. But Kaka is apparently a committed Christian and gives alot of his money away to the church. If that is true, then at least this means that new money is coming into the kingdom. I’m all for that.

But this recent web site isn’t even doing that. It is asking one section of the church to pay a whole lot more money out of the giving of it’s members to fund worship in their churches, and paying it to another church organisation that in my mind, is probably not short of a bob or two.

This may sound a little critical. But I feel that if someone is going to email me and ask for money to get hold of their worship songs, then at least I think that gives me the right to ask the questions.

I will still use Chris Tomlin songs. They are great, and they bless us.

But there is something about all of this that just doesn’t seem like church.

Or is it just me?


5 Comments so far
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Had a look at the site too and tend to agree. The costing doesn’t sit well. Seems a lot just for copyright. I think, noting that CT is currently involved in church plant over in the good ol’ US of A, it migh be targetted to that side of the pond, where dishing out dosh for “all things religious” is more of the norm. Makes me think of your/David’s (G) recent rant about commericalisation.

Comment by Chris

Agreed. It doesn’t feel right. I also use lots of Chris T’s songs in Church, but must admit that I have done so less and less recently. This however, is purely a reflection of the direction our Church is facing at the moment, nothing more sinister. But for me the questions are these:

– CT is “gifted”, therefore leading the people of God in worship is a “gift” received from God.
– If we receive a gift, it is little or nothing to do with a “payment” on our behalf (ok we could debate about our integrity in walking with God and everything else, but it is ultimately only through His grace that we can receive anything from Him).
– Does this therefore represent a gift from God, that has now been price-tagged so that the rest of the world can participate?

If the answer to the final question is “yes”, a gift has been turned into a commercial interest, and I can’t get along with that. Are we starting to ebay a gift from God where the highest bidder receives the best?

Comment by Kev B


Some very thoughtful comments, thank you.

The issue here is not that I don’t want anyone to receive a fair wage for a fair day’s work. And of course, I am not making a judgment on what happens to this money either. It could go straight to various causes or the poor or building a church.

The issue here is this: is what this costing structure represents a wise way of one part of the church serving another part of the church.

And in this case, I think it isn’t.

Comment by neilbennetts


Thanks for the comment.

You are right, there is undoubtedly some cultural thing here mixed in with everything else. But I don’t think that is an excuse. CT is a high profile, leading figure in the worshiping life of the church and so anything undertaken by him, or in his name, will inevitably come under worldwide scrutiny.

Comment by neilbennetts

i miss Keith Green cheesy Elton John piano styling and actual radicalism and all

Comment by matybigfro

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