Carlos Whitaker asked the question on his blog, Ragamuffin Soul,

1. What is the next sound that will dominate Sunday mornings across America?
2. If your church has a “sound”, will you be willing to change or become “that church” whose pipe organ and ties has simply been replaced with an electric guitars and v-necks.

After reading 4 pages of replies – some insightful, some a little misguided – I responded thus:

My hope? My hope is that the practice of church music will return to being congregation-focused rather than musician focused (on a human level – obviously we must be ultimately Trinity-focused). I long for a return to musicians choosing songs, keys, etc. for what serves the congregation best. The best church music is that which supports congregational singing.

Realistically, that’s not going to happen without some fundamental changes. 1) Humility on the part of the musicians. Worship leading tenors (especially) will have to stop “showing off” and die to the idea that them sounding “awesome” is what serves the congregation best. 2) Pastors who are willing to eschew the styles that they hear from the “successful” churches portrayed at conferences for one that is focused on corporate singing. 3) Congregations who come to corporate worship to actually worship corporately, rather than just happen to be individually worshipping while a bunch of other people are doing the same thing.

Is this pitting the modern church against the traditional church? No. The problem exists in all kinds of churches. A tenor worship leader on their own mission in the stratosphere is just as bad as an organist playing a 3-minute obscure introduction to a hymn. The “giant show” mentality exists with having the most kicking band or having the largest, most trained choir in town. The problem largely goes back to the Second Great Awakening (in the US), not to the mid-’80s.

As long as we see worship as a production and the congregation as an audience, we’ll stay sick.

So is my head completely in the clouds? Am I a cultural dinosaur? Probably.

Post filed under General Christian Worship, Music.

4 Comments

  1. Hardly, I for one am happy that my minister of worship and arts thinks this way. It will keep our congregation from choosing to have a giant choir loft behind the pulpit.

  2. No. I think people will become hungry again for true community… not twittering during “worship” while being sung at. My favorite parts of worship are when you can hear the congregation singing above the music and vocalists.

  3. Caleb says:

    Not at all! These are the very “concerns” I’ve had for the current worship music movement. I would even add 1 more of worship leaders learning to care and mentor their musicians instead of finding common bond through music only…

  4. Perhaps it is best to bring these points home to our own congregational gatherings, rather than assume they apply so well to those ‘other guys.What may be appropriate in my daughter’s church (very loud, amplified instrumentation) would fail in my djembe/acoustic-sounding church. So — in our context — does our corporate ‘worship’ (all parts of it) worship the triune God, or idols we have constructed out of musical talent? Do we really enable the congregation to lift their hearts in praise? Your best line: “As long as we see worship as a production and the congregation as an audience, we’ll stay sick.” Thanks so much.

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