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September 13, 2008

Comments

JourneytoFamily

Yay Brett!

Splash

I get your point, but there's also something powerful in continuity -- singing the same words our forefathers and mothers in the faith once did.

I've worshiped with Vineyard types and with the dourest of Old Time Religionists, and I have to say I (reluctantly) find for the latter.

The people I know who grew up with uber-trendy, disposable worship music are by FAR the less grounded and more shallow in faith and life. Sure, they're dancing in the aisles, but that's all they've got.

"Hymns" range from late Medieval mysterium to soaring Bach baroque to the relatively sucktastic 19th Century stuff (this last definitely fits your argument best). But the vast majority is at least quality music.

Not to mention the flat-out error you find in spades in stuff written by your local, wannabe-Bono youth pastor on his bass.

Not to mention the amount of meaning they could pack into one verse of the old stuff compared to...

"Come, now is the time to worship.
Come, now is the time to give your heart.
Oh, come. Just as you are to worship.
Come just as you are before your God."

(REPEAT 17 TIMES)

And if I EVER have to endure the 10-freaking-minute long version of "I Could Sing of your Love Forever" again, I swear to Vishnu I'm turning Jehovah's Witness. (Hey, you in the leopard skin pants... Not supposed to take that "forever" part literally. Put down the Fender knockoff, step away from the mike slowly and keep your hands where I can see them.)

We actually sing an alleged song in our church that contains the line:

"You're awesome, because that's just the way you are."

And another new one recently with the true head-scratcher...

"Love our heaven now." (Really? Is that an order? Because this song is making it real hard to believe in angels right now.)

My wife and I have ended up in serious giggle fits on regular occasions in most churches we've attended. Particularly when people are gyrating in ecstasy to this embarrassing crap.

I mean, logically, you're right. It's all mortal stuff. Music needs to evolve, even worship music. But from where I'm standing, it's devolving in lockstep with our brain-dead culture.

Personally, I'd love to see more movement into the ambient realm, where we might at least be able to recapture that ancient (yes, medieval) experience of mystery, depth and spacial beyond-ness lacking in pop worship.

But whatever. As you've said, culture trumps vision every time.

In the meantime, I gots no problem keeping my nose in Ye Olde Hymnal.

Splash

...I should add that I have no problem with bands in church.

In fact, when you put classic hymns (the good ones) in the hands of gifted players -- particularly with updated music or arrangements, which seems to be a trend -- you get the best of both worlds.

When it's been done at our church, people clearly respond better than they do to both the straight hymn approach (deep meaning, occasionally weak music) or the dippy praise song (music with impact, generally stupid lyrics).

Boneman

Splash - I love singing the oldies to "refreshed" tunes. It really is the best of all worlds.

I can't stand the sappy / superficial stuff either. But honestly, when you go to a traditionalist church that executes poorly out of a hymnal it is just as bad - and maybe worse because it is only accessible to insiders.

RevK

I thought you made this case some time ago when reflecting on church planting. (even Power Point...)

I've always wondered how you would construct an entire order of worshiop with these values.

Eric

Brett,
I hear you. I think it really comes down to whoever is overseeing the musical component of worship. Our traditional Anglican church is blessed with an extremely talented and committed mother/musician who breathes life into traditional hymns with a slightly faster pace, more harmony, extra instruments, etc. She also has taken some modern/contemporary RC songs with a folk inspiration, increased the tempo slightly, added strings/drums/tambourines and it makes for some incredibly upbeat and inspiring worship. At times, I fell as if I'm worshiping before the throne of the Almighty with my brothers and sisters in Africa. It's not innovation or tradition that needs to lead, it's filling out the notes and lyrics with sincere hearts, voices and hands in a way that's beautiful.

Garrett

Good thoughts. I've posted my take on this subject on my blog.

Pax

Boneman

So am I supposed to comment on your blog on my blog or vice versa? Who is on first?

Garrett

How about some links so we can see and hear what you're talking about.

Boneman

Will try.

Joshua W.D. Smith

It is not just traditional worship that is accessible only to insiders. Some like to cast the debate as "outmoded," "unsingable," "inaccessible," and "irrelevant" music (traditional hymnody) verses "current," "accessible," "singable," "relevant" music (contemporary). This is a false and tendentious dichotomy. Contemporary music excludes just as much as traditional--only it excludes the older generation, who don't really matter in the modern world, and those who are uninterested in the modern pop idiom (like me--I'm only 32).

When I visit my parent's PCA church, I am usually lost, since there is no music printed in the bulletin and the worship leader usually abandons the melody for a high descant or harmony in the third verse. There is also a distinct pattern to any repetition, but it is not always clear what it is (last phrase? last sentence?). Then, when there is a familiar hymn, the new musical setting is totally unfamiliar, and so I cannot focus on the words because I'm trying to figure out where the next note is supposed to be...and maybe by the third or fourth verse I can figure it out--but then the "hymn" is done and I've missed it. I also don't have a very high voice or a very good range, so with traditional hymnals I can sing the lower part...but there is no lower part in contemporary music (and the male worship leaders usually have quite high voices, like pop singers), and so I can either try to figure out how to harmonize on my own so that I'm not straining my voice (and miss much of the actual song), or I have to just skip the singing entirely and remain silent. (I'm only focusing on the musical idiom, to say nothing of, for example, the over-amplification or over-instrumentation that loses any sense of the actual congregation singing when all you can hear is the band, yourself, and maybe one or two neighbors)

Furthermore, why is church music dictated by what is accessible to "visitors and neophytes"? That direction is totally backwards: the New Jerusalem should have her own identity in music, and those who come to join her should have to learn that music, just like they have to learn the language of sin and justification or the ethic of forgiveness.

I should point out that I agree about the majority of traditional hymnody--the silliest thing I have ever sung is actually from the Trinity Hymnal of the OPC, a piece that sounds like a bad Broadway number. So, I agree with much of what Garrett said on his blog on that score.

To summarize: contemporary music has its own idioms which are accessible only to insiders, and often those whom contemporary music excludes are those with a history of faithful life in the church (i.e., elder believers, not me); what is accessible to those believers is rejected in favor of what is accessible to kids and unbelievers.

Splash

"...Contemporary music excludes just as much as traditional--only it excludes the older generation, who don't really matter in the modern world ... Furthermore, why is church music dictated by what is accessible to "visitors and neophytes"? That direction is totally backwards: the New Jerusalem should have her own identity in music, and those who come to join her should have to learn that music, just like they have to learn the language of sin and justification or the ethic of forgiveness."

Brilliant points in a brilliant reply, Joshua. An emphasis on youth has invaded every corner of society since the 60s. Inexplicably, it's almost worse in church.

Your second point spills over into the message from the pulpit, too. I find it incredibly hard to concentrate in church anymore, because every sermon is an inch deep, on the outside chance a seeker has wandered in that morning. Zero meat. And I have no idea how we can reverse this trend in our lifetime.

Boneman

Joshua & Splash - I didn't say the music should be dictated by visitors and neophytes. I merely said, "accessible." Those two words are worlds apart in meaning. Worship is for God, for Christians, and for outsiders - yes, for outsiders. It is upward, inward, and outward, if you will. Music is major piece of this geometry. The church has to struggle with holding this 3-way tension, and I maintain that most Reformed churches fail miserably... and that is why they struggle to grow.

Theisens

Well said. And rarely seen in many Christian traditions. We can only hope the tide is turning.

Kevin D. Johnson

And my comments...

http://www.prophezei.com/?p=124

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