Diversity, Choirs, Guitars and Excellence

You may be surprised to hear that I wasn’t necessarily intending on opening multiple cans of worms in posting about worship.  I didn’t necessarily feel that what I said was controversial, but I certainly do not mind it.  Discussion is healthy.  Disagreement is healthy.  The pursuit of God often is found in such ways.  To catch up, read the original post here

We are going to do something a little different.  Rather than respond to my thoughts, I want to hear you respond to something someone else said.  In one of the comments, a friend of mine from St. Louis brings up one of the trends in worship music:

The musical shift in the last 10 years has been frightening to watch. Churches now focus on having the cool, young, hip guitar player as the “music minister”, and if you play any instrument that would fall outside of a standard rock band, you are no longer welcome. Only the beautiful people need apply now – young, physically attractive, professional-level talent is all that is desired. The average person no longer has a place other than in the crowd. Most choirs are gone, and your average singers can’t pass audition in most churches. Read the music forums sometime for full-time worship leaders and see the types of things they discuss – it will give you chills. A lot of it is focused on how to keep everyone but hand-selected professionals off the stage, and how to keep the few people they do allow on the stage under absolute control. There is a reason why they want it that way……music in most churches has become all about performance.

What do you think?  Does a church have an obligation to use anyone who wants to be used in the music ministry?  Should a church provide a diverse range of styles so that a classical singer can be used as well as electric guitar player?  Has the striving for excellence in the worship music made the music more about performance than worship?  What do you think?


9 Responses to “Diversity, Choirs, Guitars and Excellence”
  1. Aaron Reddin says:

    I think that we should strive for excellence in anything that we do for God. No matter how fickle this may sound, when it’s something done is public it is almost critical.

    However, I don’t think that it’s much different from the days when robed chiors ruled the sound-waves. Someone decided to control everyone by throwing a robe on them. Someone directed their every sound with the use of a book, and that whole hand waving whatever-you-call-it.

    At it’s core, I think the same things happened then that are happening now. The difference now is that churches are finding ways to glorify God that aren’t boring/embarassing/silly.

    This is a discussion that could be taken down 437 rabbit trails and debated 9,263 ways.

    Either way, I’m not ashamed to admit that I will never chiors and hymnals. I don’t care how heretical that may make me sound. It’s just the truth.

    I think God’s a rocker, through and through!! (Joe Dirt) ;)

  2. Aaron Reddin says:

    I think I meant to say “I will never MISS chiors and hymnals.”

    (it’s kinda hard to focus on typing with the overwhelming power of Pearl Jam blasting through my apartment) ;)

  3. Brandy Vines says:

    It seems (at least to me) that there is much ado about nothing…Saying “I love the worship at that church” or claiming the opposite is ubsurd…True worship comes from the heart of person and is as individualized as our fingerprints. If a person claims they cannot “worship” while hearing an electric guitar, how are they going to “worship” and give all glory, honor and praise to God in DIFFICULT times? Letting the type of music influence a person’s ability to worship the Lord doesn’t seem like true heartfelt spirit-led adoration to our Savior. Right now, I’m hearing Lazy Town on Noggin blasting from the den, but I’m singing and praising God while I’m humming “Revelation Song” to myself. BTW, I think God is a rocker, too!

  4. Brandy Vines says:

    In response to the comment from your friend in St. Louis, if the description given is the pre-requisite for music/worship leaders in ANY given church, I would turn and run. God sees the heart of a man while the world sees the outward appearance. If it’s come to being a pretty face or cool guitarist to “qualify” someone to be on-stage in a church, then the “church” has lost it’s focus entirely…He inhabits the praise of His people, I don’t think any particular style of praise matters to God as long as it is genuine.

  5. Dave, Le Grand says:

    I don’t think this quotation captures the entire worship music movement over the past decade, but I have heard of the described culture occuring in some churches, especially amongst the emergent church (this is not an emergent church thrashing). Anytime a congregation, be it here or in a different country, decides to make music culturally relevant to the population it serves, there will always come the struggle of keeping the motives pure and not letting performance, awesome looking Jedi robes, or crunching guitars become an idol in front of the glorious King.

  6. Scott Fitzgerald says:

    God obviously moves inside cultural context. God is, in fact, contextual. He is also cultural. He moves inside the context of the Triune Godhead. The Godhead has a culture all of its own that we desire to reflect in the way we love. He moves inside the context of Biblical community. The Godhead opperates in the culture of perfect community and He calls us to opperate in loving community. He moves inside the context of God exhalted teaching. God is greatly concerned that the culture that is built within liturgical settings has a high view of Christ, a high view of God, a high view of Scripture. He moves within the context of a captivated heart by Holy Spirit. Captivated, authentic Christianity impacts culture.

    He obviously moves within a people’s culture for He created all and calls all to worship Him (and before someone kicks in with the Tower of Babel and how cultures were spread because of a great deal of pagan ideologies working their way into Biblical theism… remember, many of us are Americans so by that argument we worship in the wrong tongue, the wrong music, the wrong churches/temples/synogogues, etc, etc,etc) — within the cultural context of their language, their music, their very identities. Furthermore, what some may consider culturally and contextually “Biblical” in Western Christianity is the very thing they try to impose on other cultures and “refine” their music, their customs, their language through the missional process. Specifically within the realms of “western worship” (i,e.. hymns vs praise choruses vs modernal worship), we think we have it right so we try to impose our own ideologies of what “worship” should look like while destroying a culture’s ethnomusicology (the study of indegenous people’s music and the impact it has on that culture as a whole). Did God not create these musical types as well? If we are in a context technologically where we can use modern instruments to glorify Him that are apart of our culture, why not? Are many of us not aware that the great Hymns of old such as Amazing Grace and the like were in fact written to the tune of the modern day equivalent pub songs? Yet many would say that the hymns are far more Biblical than, say, ‘Sing To The King’ by Billy Foote. Do me a favor. Go look at the hymn “Ain’t It A Shame To Work On Sunday”, compare its theology to ‘Sing To the King’, and explain to me which bares more consideriable weight theologically and communicates the truths that Jesus is all we need.

    Allow me as a “good looking, highly talented worship guy” (this is a joke by the way) to further expound. Culturally, many consider the KJV 1611 to be the utmost authoritative piece of literature to exist and it, by proxy, should be the only text that should be taught from the pulpit. However, the KJV 1611 is not even remotely updated with the most accurate version of Isaiah and other texts located in the Dead Sea Scrolls, located between 1947 and 1956, some 300 odd years after the printing of the KJV 1611 (which, by the way, was printed by a tyrant and very pagan king). After much critique by Biblical Scholars the world over, it was found that the Dead Sea Scrolls are actually the oldest copies of Isaiah and other texts that we have. With the advent of historical, cultural, and textual criticism, we now carry with us those texts in more up to date translations, further validating the extreme care with which the Word of God was protected.

    As far as the culture of worship over the last 10-20 years is concerned and how it is ‘appauling’ to some, consider this: Why was it that during that time frame that the highest percent of converts to the Latter Day Saints was newly converted Christians from evangelical contexts? Why is it that the divorce rate among believers grew exponentially during this time frame as well? Why is it that church attendance the nation over experienced its sharpest decline? I submit to you that this is not so much a shift because of musical difference or philosophy but has everything to do with a complete failure of Biblically Saturated discipleship during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The movment of those decades had little to do with qualitative, individual investment and everything to do with mass shotgun evangelism… let’s save ‘em, leave ‘em to theirselves and let God sort ‘em out. Put ‘em in Sunday school. That’ll teach ‘em. But we obviously know that this isn’t true. It is obvious that the ideological shift in music over the last 10 years is solely to blame for all of this.

    What if Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts of men and women today to pen new songs of faith that supercede culture and bring glory to His name? If God is unchanging and, according to some, Holy Spirit inspired the hymn writers of old, does He not still inspire men and women to pen songs in today’s cultural contexts? We exist as believers in the year 2010, not 1882. Culture has changed, technology has changed, communication has changed, the world has changed. Yet God has NOT changed. I emplore you to compare ‘Amazing Grace’ with ‘Revelation Song’. I could make a great arugment that ‘Revelation Song’ is far more Biblical than ‘Amazing Grace’ because it is solely based off Scripture, and the earliest Biblical communities sang the Scriptures in song format (Philippians 2.5-11 is considered the “Christus Psalm” and is regarded as one of the earliest songs of the church). I could also lump Charlie Hall’s ‘King Eternal’ as a far surpassing hymn than that ‘Amazing Grace’. Yet that would be folly. Why? Because God, through Holy Spirit, is still inspiring men and women to pen songs of the faith that loudly proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that redemption exists squarely in these truths alone.

    By the way, what is an Ebenezer and why do you raise it? How about a bulwark? Do you know that the etemology of this word is from middle dutch to middle english, which, by the way, isn’t a Biblical language? It has its earliest foundations in the 15th century. So why are we using words in ‘worship’ that we do not even know the meaning of nor have any capacity to identify with concerning its culture or context?

  7. J.P. says:

    One of the things that has kept me from approaching singing at church is the idea of “an audition.” I disliked the “audition” process growing up in school band and young adult choir. To me, that is a big turnoff.

    There are times that I feel like the church music at church as become a carefully choreographed “show.” I know that they have every song planned down to the very minute. I have seen the time sheets.

    I feel like as an “average singer” that I would have no chance at all.

    I cannot stand the rock-a-billy, contemporary music that blares loudly at some of the church venues. I am nearing my 40s. I have been noticing that my hearing is fading. I cannot stand the extremely loud music.

    I grew up with the older hymns. I think some of that has been lost when the old hymns are not sung or they are not sung like they were originally written.

    The denomination that I left a few years ago had the audacity to replace words and phrases in hymns for “politically correct” reasons. For example “God of Our Fathers” was reworded as “God of The Ages” with the same music. After that and a few other issues, I finally said “Enough is enough.”

    When I hear the word “audition,” I have a very negative view of it especially when we are called to serve in various capacities. If our heart is drawn to sing, we are kept from it because our voice is not “good enough” for someone who wants a polished, choreographed program.

  8. Scott Fitzgerald says:

    So does the question become, then, does availability outweigh giftedness and aptitude? Does a pastor one day decide that he will be a pastor or has God uniquely crafted and gifted a pastor? Should a pastor be held to just an ok theological understanding and an ok gift of teaching? Should one be able to just look at a pastor and say, “Yeah, I hear his character is alright… I guess?” Should we as the community of faith not feel compelled to ensure that Godly, gifted men of faith are teaching the text? Should anyone be allowed to be a community pastor just because he feels that is where he is gifted or should he be tested in his interactions with people, his love for Biblical community, and his understanding that the way we do community is a direct reflection of how we believe the Godhead interacts? Is that not of critical importance?

    From a worship leaders perspective, it seems that our kind (or ‘ilk’ in some circles) should by no means ‘audition’, as some may say, those that we entrust to lead others in worship. Come one, come all, just because an individual has a heart to worship. Is it possible that where a person believes their giftings lie, perhaps, does not exist within that context at all? What if someone claims to have a heart for worshipping and leading people into the presence of God, yet in the very same breath deny the reality of the Godhead by saying there is more than one way to redemption that exists outside the person of Jesus? How does one find these things out about people unless they interact with them on a deep level, or ‘audition’ as some put it?

    Worship guys/gals bare a tremendous responsibility to balance a)those who are gifted musically, humble, and deep lovers Christ with b)good theology in song/hymn selection and c)conversations to redirect people to an area in which their giftedness actually exists. Let me reiterate: It is a terrible weight to bare. It is not fun. I would greatly encourage all those who are intested in worship, becoming involved in worship, and actually discovering where your giftedness lies to a book by Rory Noland called, “Heart of the Artist.” Rory served as the worship pastor for Willow Creek Community in Chicago for a number of years.

    We do far more than sing. We do far more than play the most modern worship songs. We communicate through music that worship is far more than a song, that every aspect of our lives is, in fact, worship. We have to constantly communicate those truths from a deep theological standpoint. We must guard against corrupt, man-centered inocculation into the very songs the church sings in adoration and honor of our Great King. I remember a very specific instance in which I was playing a Sunday morning with one of my mentors in worship. We had a recent attender come in to the church and immediately wanted to get plugged in. My worship pastor set up some time that he could meet with the guy individually to get to know him. He would then begin the process of slowly working him in to the rotation as he got to know his character. The very next week when we were practicing, the new individual shows up and basically demands a mic. My worship pastor calmly haulted practice, took of his guitar, and asked the man to go and talk with him in the office. The guy threw an absolute FIT in front of everyone exlaiming how he used to be a minister and should not be treated like this and he has experience, a great voice, a heart for worship, and can make everyone there better. He then stormed off, talked a lot of noise about my worship pastor, and begged me on numerous occassions to start a band with him. Should that individual be allowed to ever lead congregationally if he refuses the discipleship/mentor process?

    Stories such as these are not anomolies; rather, they are becoming more and more the norm. Granted, there are some guys out there who lead congregationally who are only interested in the most recent craze. I would so that those individuals, on average, are not the norm.

  9. Jason McCool says:

    Psalms says to make a joyful noise to the Lord, not a beautiful, choreographed Broadway production. That’s my rationale for even singing in the congregation. I may or may not be in tune, but that’s not part of God’s prerequisite for worship, so to Him, it’s all beautiful, as long as our heart is in the right place. All the different styles have their place in helping different people worship, but I would say that as it moves closer to controlled, choreographed “production”, it also moves closer to show, and further from genuine worship. God moves in mysterious ways, and those ways usually don’t schedule well. I would say people should just make sure they’re not hindering the Holy Spirit in their desire to have a smooth, well-laid-out, “worship” production. Many of the people God has used the most throughout history couldn’t speak well, couldn’t sing well, and had no stage presence, but God’s power was made more apparent through their weakness.

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