State of the Worship Music Union

I’ve been shopping for worship music because I’m really tired of the same stuff. A lot of things have come out and I’ve been scouring websites and magazines to find some new stuff. I don’t want to find new stuff, though – I want good stuff. Believe me – there’s not a lot of that out there. Case in point: One of the CDs I bought was from the C3 Worship Project in Atlanta. It has some good things on it, but there is one absolutely abominable song on there that is called Like a River and it sounds like a Jesus bootycall. It’s awful. You can listen to it here. I realize it’s tacky to call them out like that, but this must be heard to be believed.

I read a blog post the other day on The Search about what’s wrong with modern worship music. I agreed with most of what the writer said regarding the contemporary music’s lack of theological depth or musical creativity. He also dealt with the whole sacred/secular divide and how we should get rid of it. All great things. It was well-written, theologically eloquent and there were a number of comments supporting and expanding his ideas.

That’s all well and good, but there was absolutely no addressing of practical issues. As a person who leads worship nearly every Sunday, I have many other things to consider alongside the theological and creative issues. First is singability. I’m dealing with a generation that has little or no music education. As music and arts education is the first to go in tough times, many folks didn’t have any musical training, and they’re used to singing along with the radio, which results in a very limited vocal range. Compare this to Martin Luther’s time when he commanded the entire congregation to attend singing practices mid-week so they would sound good on Sunday. Popular music is simple and repetitive. That doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting, but let’s face it: if I want people to participate in the singing in church I have to come to them to a great extent.

Second is the instrumentalists. I’m glad to be in a church that has a good number of very competent musicians, but that’s not always the case. The musicians who volunteer in church are just that – volunteers. They’re not professional, they don’t have a lot of time to devote to rehearsal and study. They are good people who are offering the best they have as gift in the worship service and I would do them a disservice by presenting them with music that is beyond their capacity just for the sake of showing my artistic superiority.

In my opinion, the writer of the Search post, while making valid points, failed a bit in the logic department. He began with assailing the popular worship music styles and services and ended with the idea that valid worship experiences can be had anywhere, regardless of the “Christian” nature of the music or musician. If worship experiences can be anywhere at anytime with any kind of impetus, then who cares if the music at the central gathering is necessarily the most challenging, artistic, flawlessly performed, etc.? I would rather have my people present the best that they have (which they do) and also encourage the people in our community to seek to experience God everywhere in their lives. It seems to be the best way to teach people to live lives of worship.

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