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Apr 27 2007

Worship & Music: 4 Questions To Ponder

iMonk interviews Steve Sensenig about worship and music, collecting Steve’s thoughts on the following four questions or statements made by iMonk:

  1. Here’s what I think: Contemporary evangelical churches have entirely too much music going on in the average worship service. It’s exhausting to prepare, distracting from other needed elements of worship and is now dominating many churches in ways that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.  What do you think? Am I right, wrong, partly one or the other, or just grumpy?
  2. Second statement: The current music scene has allowed entities and forces outside of the local church to have far too much influence in worship. In many churches, there is an almost complete abdication of pastoral leadership in the music program.
  3. The tendency of the current worship scene is to use music aimed at a younger and younger audience, and this is causing the loss of a priceless heritage of church music.
  4. The church culture I grew up in used a lot of choirs. Today, those are fading, and the type of worship leader churches are looking for as a result is typically less trained, younger and more of a performer. What do you think of the shift from Minister of Music (trained musician who can work with choirs, etc.) to the younger, guitar-playing worship leader? What gifts are needed to serve the church with music?

A few snippets from Steve’s responses are listed below, though snippets don’t really do justice and the complete answers are well worth reading.  You really should click thru and read the entire article on this one.

  1. …I think the way in which music is handled in most contemporary churches misses the point. It definitely is exhausting to prepare, and results in much less emphasis on the “heart of worship” while emphasizing the “excellence” idol that is so prevalent these days.
  2. With regard to the first part of that — AMEN! Well, actually “amen” means “so be it”, so I should rather say, “May it never be!” Unfortunately, however, it is. The rise of Maranatha! Music in the 70’s/80’s and Integrity’s Hosanna shortly after started this trend of “if you’re at all ‘with it’, you’ll be singing these songs.” Some (but by no means all) of the songs were really rich and edifying theologically, but at the same time, the process of “tape of the month” contributions to church music caused a major shift of focus away from the local gathering’s unique personality and cultural makeup.

    The biggest problem I see with this is that the “worship music” industry is, by nature and definition, a business. Therefore, it automatically seems to run into a conflict of interest. Ultimately, they need to put out what is going to make them money. For example, take Michael Card’s perspective on lament. (I’m not necessarily endorsing his viewpoint, but using it as an example to make my point.) If the “worship music” giants were to put out a release with all lament songs, how well would that go over in most churches? I don’t think it would sell very well. And so, even if that was a needed element, you wouldn’t see it happening on a large scale.

    Your point about pastoral leadership in the music program is well to observe as well. In most of my music leadership positions in churches, I was left on my own. In my case, I had a pastoral heart to reach beyond the “fluff” and to seriously look at the theological content, etc. of the music. Most of the time. But I’ve worked in support roles under other music ministers who did not have the same desire. They were all about what sound was hot, or what song was charting, or…you know the story.

    More importantly than increased pastoral leadership, however, is the responsibility of the body itself to be bringing forth music that serves to edify, teach, and exhort.

  3. I think this is the direct result of the way we did youth ministry for so many years. In my first music position, I remember asking “When do the younger people learn to worship in ‘big church’?” The focus of youth ministry for so long (and this still happens in a lot of churches) was to give them a church service that appealed to their tastes and preferences. Now, guess what? Those young people have grown older and become the leaders of our churches. And so what did they do? Changed the style to match what they had always had. I think we, in so many ways, created a monster!
  4. Overall, from a philosophical standpoint, I would say that the shift has some positive elements in it. But this is wrapped up in my ecclesiological shift from “professional” to “participant”. The idea that we are opening up opportunities for ministry to someone who is not formally trained is, in many respects, a good one. But I think the issue goes deeper. And that pretty much leads me to the final part of your question, which, to me, gets to the root of the matter

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