Coldplay is the most popular and most acclaimed band in the world. Hands down. I don’t even think it is a close competition. I guess you could say U2 is right there, but they’re on the down side of their best while Coldplay is still in the prime years. Coldplay also happens to be my favorite band.
People often argue about what it is that makes Coldplay successful; they aren’t the most phenomenal musicians, Chris doesn’t write incredible lyrics, and they certainly don’t look like rock stars.
I was listening to LeftRightLeftRightLeft (their free live album given away on their website) yesterday and I was thinking about what makes them the best. And then I began to think about how so many of those same principles can be applied to the local church. I think churches could learn a lot from this band.
- Stick with what you do best. Coldplay makes music. They don’t make a lot of celebrity appearances, they don’t do movies, they don’t write books…they just make great music. And they do that one thing very well. Everything they do focuses around that one thing. Many churches do about 100 things and none of them particularly well. I do think churches should be able to reach all ages, but this doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice doing a few things in order to do a plethora of things poorly.
- Make it about them and not you. How many bands do you know that have given away a high quality live album? Well Coldplay did only a few weeks ago. They could have made millions by selling it for even a small price but they didn’t. Listen to the live album and hear Chris interacting with the crowd. I don’t know the band personally but they do a great job of showing they care about their fans. I’m not necessarily saying churches care more about the institution than the community within, but we can certainly do a better job of making the community the focus.
- Provide vision for something beyond yourself. Coldplay is well known for pushing the Make Trade Fair campaign (good video on it here). If your church’s vision is paying pastor salaries and raising money for a bigger building it is only a self-contained vision and few will grab a hold of it.
- Raw emotion. Listen to “Fix You” and tell me what you hear. I hear raw emotion. The kind of emotion few churches ever allow to be spoken and the kind of emotion that often gets clouded with doctrine.
- Versatility. Each of Coldplay’s songs could be made even more simple by having Chris lead it from just piano or guitar. This speaks to their versatility. Churches need more leaders who are versatile. One problem I have with the current church model is that pastors often become specialists in a specific area of the church and then become segmented away from the church as a whole. For one I don’t think this kind of pastorate will be around in 25 years, for another it turns being a pastor into being a professional with specific skills.