Sunday, December 02, 2007

More on Music . . . In Church

Whenever I see the great Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike & The Mechanics) and his unique 12-string/bass doubleneck, I get envious. I try to resist. Really. And that brings me to my real subject -- music in church.

Now, I know this will probably get me in trouble (not to mention probably odd for someone as biblically conservative as I am), but I do like rock. Especially the Genesis/Pink Floyd variety. Prog to the core. I don't mind contemporary Christian music either. I don't think Christian music has to be old hymns or country gospel to be truly Christian. So this comment isn't aimed at the genre really, but is more aimed at wondering what is really appropriate for Sunday worship.

I comment on this reluctantly. I am not a legalist, especially in terms of music. I actually used to enjoy a more contemporary style of worship music at one point. That is, until I began to miss hearing hymns. There's some really great theology in the old hymns, and I must say, that's something a lot of modern "worship" choruses aren't known for -- great or deep theology. After a while, I found myself missing the calm and quiet. I began going to the traditional service at my church instead of the later, contemporary one. I found it more conducive to actually focusing on the Lord and getting in the right frame of mind.

Today, because of circumstances at home, I had to attend the contemporary service this morning. It has been a while. I expected a bit of a rocked up arrangement, but when I was trying to focus on the words of the song we were singing, as soon as the chorus kicked in, the guitarist turned on an effects pedal. After the chorus, he let a lead rip. All of my attention went there instead of where it was supposed to be. Could it be because I am a quasi-musician myself? Maybe. But it also was very distracting. The message was good and biblical. No problem there. But on the way home, the more it began to bug me.

Is worship supposed to have the feel of a rock concert? Sigh. Maybe it's generational, although I wonder why. I grew up with rock and still listen to it (along with classical, Celtic and other styles). Maybe today's generation can somehow focus on the Lord and enter into a worshipful attitude despite the fuzz, wah, and distortion. But I really, really wonder.

After all, is worship supposed to be about us and our tastes, or is it supposed to be about Him? In Spirit and in truth. I think the question really needs to be asked.


lee n. field said...

First we have to have a good idea what worship actually is. I've said it before -- I don't think most evangelicals really have any clear idea how to think about worship. Whatever happens to get done in the Sunday service, counts as worship. (Nadab and Abihu? I'm sure the ceremonies "on every high hill and under every spreading tree" were uplifting and "experiential" too.)

Can I point you to this weeks White Horse Inn? 2dec2007 -- "What is Worship?".

I do like rock myself. Back in my ignorant and tasteless youth it would have been pretentious art rock. Now, blues derived Clapton. But neither belongs in church.

I miss the hymns too. Badly miss them. Just once again, before I die, I'd like to sing all verses of "A Mighty Fortress" or "All People That On Earth Do Dwell" in joyful and solemn worship with God's people.

We have hymns that go back to almost the time of the apostles (I'm thinking of "Hail, Gladdening Light"). Much earlier, if you count the psalms. We have music that goes back at least to the middle ages. Much of this _is_ beautiful, theologically sound and suitable for congregational singing.

And I never hear this stuff anymore.

Sorry, I'll get into a rant here, if I'm not careful.

IndweltDaughter said...

I love hymns myself as well, as it is what I grew up with and will probably be what I am most comfortable with at church for the rest of my life, but when I'm at home, my iTunes is constantly playing music of the sort that my old church would never even consider having inside its walls. The Gaither Vocal Band, Signature Sound, David Phelps, Keith Green, Mercy Me, Chris Tomlin, Darrell Evans, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, they all have amazing songs that proclaim God's glory, even though most of their songs are more contemporary in style. I know what you mean though, about how sometimes it can be distracting. I don't enjoy all contempory Christian music, just that with really good messages. (But to be honest, I doubt we'll find anything in contemporary Christian lyrics to compare to Fanny Crosby, or It is well with my soul.)

That being said, I think the real issue behind it all is not the music, but where the hearts are at of the people in the church, both playing, listening, and singing. People can be just as distracted by a self-centered group of singers singing Amazing Grace as by a rip from an electric guitar with the praise band on Sunday morning. No matter what style of music one prefers, what matters is that in both the words and the attitudes of God's children, the glory is given to Christ, and to Him alone.

That's what I think worship is. Giving glory to God, declaring His worthiness to be praised. Or His "worthship" you might call it, as my youth leader said when I was in high school. That concept has always stuck with me for some reason.

Thanks for bringing this up, it's a good thing for all believers to be challanged on I think. It's so easy for us to get caught up in what we see on the surface, instead of concentrating on what it is God wants to teach us through it all.

Many blessings,


Randy said...


I've been hammering this home for as long as I can remember! I had been going to a particular church here that did nothing but the inane praise choruses that were nothing but 'vain repetitions' and all rhythm instruments.

I have so longed to hear a hymn again that actually had something to say and had quite a bit of theology in it.

Sadly, we are in an age of noise pollution in seems, even in the church.

Like you, I love Genesis, Mike and the Mechanics and even the acerbic Don Henley and company of the Eagles. But, there's still something about me that needs to learn to be 'still, quiet and reflective' at times.