John Mayer is the second-best worship leader I’ve ever seen. Here are six things his current tour, “The Search for Everything,” can teach creative leaders in our church:
1. Age. Seems like every church is trying to do a weekend service that connects with Millennials as well as sixty-year-olds. Here’s an artist that actually achieves it. All ages are at “The Search for Everything,” and they all have their hands in the air swayin’ to the music.
2. Programming. It’s an old-fashioned term that’s rarely used on a church staff anymore, but it’s also a lost art in many churches. Mayer’s show is hung on themes (quite literally projected in white on black so all of us could keep up). The pacing of the concert drew us in and took us on a journey. There were moments of anticipation, acceleration, and then descent. There was just enough talking to build rapport. A great worship leader knows that not everyone is with you at the downbeat. This will take some work.
3. Craft. It’s about the guitar and an all-star band. As guru Stan Endicott would say, these are the types of people who’ve spent four hours a day for decades working on what they love, and it shows. It’s excellence first, and it is excellence that anyone can appreciate. You don’t have to be a musician to understand what’s going on, and that’s a key learning for us all.
4. Production. You’ll see some very creative uses of IMAG and imagery in story-telling. It took me a moment to get my brain around what they were doing creatively, but the video still served the purpose of video in a large venue (we could see & we were drawn in). It was loud, it was exciting, the lighting reflected the very character of the One who made it. It was tasteful, artistic, and it could have been way more, but there was no need. It served each moment.
5. Engagement. When John says, “sing it with me” there’s no doubt from the front row to the top of the third balcony everyone is all in with lines from familiar songs. Great artists know how to build the type of rapport that it’s about “us” and then it becomes about something different altogether.
6. Authenticity. Who doesn’t love an artist that is so in the moment that tears come down his face as he plays his guitar? Where does that passion come from and how is that sustained night after night? I’m not sure, but that’s the place where sideman Isaac Sharkey lived in the moment. He stayed humbly in the shadows until it was time. These artists loved what they did, they did it well, and it showed.
We will never have the built-in motivation that an A-list artist gets in an arena. There’s nothing like $200.00 tickets, planning for weeks, baby sitters scheduled days in advance, and getting to your seat early tend to motivate humans to lean in. But we have something that “The Search for Everything” tour will never have. We have the King of the Universe to make famous, and the highest of motivations from which to draw.