Spirit breaks out
In the autumn of 2011, worship album Spirit Break Out achieved the unthinkable. It broke into the top 10 of the iTunes chart, bringing worship music to the masses. Chine Mbubaegbu spoke to Tim Hughes, co-founder of Worship Central - the collaborative behind the album - about worship for today's generation and the trials of being a local church worship leader...
Worship Central's feat has been celebrated by many, but what does it really mean for a Christian album to break into a space dominated by secular music? Is it something to be celebrated? Should worship leaders want to be likened to pop stars? For Tim Hughes, the man behind some of the Church's best-known songs, including Here I Am to Worship, the album's success is not about celebrity, but all about seeing God glorified.
"For a long time, I've been passionate to see the worship of Jesus Christ venture beyond the four walls of the Church and to see the possibility that people who have never been to church may perhaps get to listen to this worship," says Tim.
He admits that it is most likely Christians who are downloading it, but says chart success can be a tool for witness. "We've been hearing anecdotally that Christians have been giving the album to their friends. When you can say to your friends that the album is on the front page of iTunes, they're more likely to listen to it."
Many of the album's tracks are fast becoming classics within churches nationwide. The likes of Counting on Your Name, At Your Name and the title track Spirit Break Out are anthemic worship songs that capture the heart behind Worship Central. Based at Alliance member church Holy Trinity Brompton, Worship Central is all about getting people back to the heart of worship. Its core team is made up of Tim, Al Gordon, Ben Cantelon, Nikki Fletcher and Luke Hellenbroth.
"We want people to be able to connect with God. We want to equip the worshipper and empower the local church," says Tim. "We're about training and equipping worship leaders to be able to fall more in love with God…We genuinely believe that if a church gets worship right, then life will flow."
Worship leaders in churches all over the country can often feel under pressure to ensure the worship is 'right' and Tim knows all too well the anxieties of those who lead the congregation in worship.
"I've been a worship leader for quite a few years now and I know it's a pretty lonely experience. A lot of them lead week in and week out, most of the time voluntarily and sometimes it can be pretty exhausting. On top of that, music and worship have always caused misunderstanding in the Church because music is so subjective."
It seems there are some songs that are guaranteed crowd pleasers - is this right? Tim responds: "If we physically enjoy something, is that something to be concerned about? We can love something and that in itself can be part of our worship.
"There is a definite danger that we risk falling into manipulation. But as worship leaders we must constantly be encouraging and making sure we keep the focus on Jesus. We need to ask whether we are just encouraging people to be consumers. We're not just trying to hype up a response. We must be prepared to take the congregation beyond singing the songs - even if that means being in silence.
"We must be taking people on a journey and proclaiming the things of God."