Chris Tomlin and Hillsong United were recently thrust into the spotlight after tickets went on sale for their Tomlin UNITED tour across the U.S. and Canada.
Many fans and fellow Christian artists were upset to know that Tomlin and Hillsong United were offering VIP packages.
Christian artist Tom Reed took to Twitter to voice his displeasure, saying "I'm not sure which is worse: that Hillsong and Chris Tomlin think that this is ok in the context of worship; or that there's actually a demand for it?"
Dr. Nicholas Greco is the provost at Province Universit College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba. His research interests revolve around popular music, popular culture and the nature of celebrity. He has written extensively on the enigmatic star image of the British singer Morrissey, on Joss Whedon’s televisual texts and David Bowie’s later career. His book, The Rosary and the Microphone: Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand, is forthcoming from Equinox.
He says there is a structural problem with Christian music these days.
"It's praise and worship music that serves the church, but then on the other side you've got dark auditoriums with massive light shows and stuff like that," Dr. Greco explains. "The structure I think, is what is causing us some pause and maybe some confusion."
Greco says hearing stuff about people wanting to meet bands is nothing new. Growing up, he also wanted to meet the bands he liked listening to such as, The Lost Dogs and Randy Stonehill, and he was lucky enough to do so. He says for him, that was huge.
"On the other side of things though, I think about Hillsong United or Chris Tomlin and much of the music that they produce now, which is different from [Randy] Stonehill. Stonehill would sing from a Christian perspective perhaps, but he didn't do what was explicitly considered worship music," says Greco.
"I think a lot of the newer stuff is praise and worship, and that's where the problem lies. Not so much the music, but in the way that it is packaged. I think there is actually a structural problem with Christian music these days."
After much uproar surrounding the tickets for the Tomlin UNITED show, the VIP tickets have now been rebranded as "Experience Packages" but for the most part include the same perks.
"I remember people saying to me when I was young that the music will not save people, the word of God will. And you know, I am not sure how theologically correct that is necessarily, but it's this idea that you know, Chris Tomlin is not the solution to the world's problems, Jesus is, and the Holy Spririt working is the solution to the world's problem," Dr. Greco explains. "I wouldn't necessarily even fault sone of these figures for charging to get into a concert."
Today on Connections, Dr. Greco gives us some insight on Christian music and whether or not Christian bands should be offering VIP tickets or special experiences.