Sunday, May 25, 2014

See, I'm not the only one. . .

This weekend, I (shockingly) was enjoying the second song at the Easter service. Sure, it was far too loud, but I was ignoring the band, singing along with the steady meter and focusing on God. All of a sudden I was singing by myself — the leader had veered into some spontaneous arrangement that showcased her unique vocal stylings. The song’s lyrics were still on the screen, but the congregation was lost. Since I could no longer follow along, I just quietly watched her performance, which was followed by extended applause.

This seems less like worship and more like an audition for American Idol. And I hate that show. (Besides, God’s not down with the whole idolatry thing.)

Read the rest of it here. . .

My Comments. . .

American Idol-atry indeed.  We live in a time in which equal rights in the church mean we all get our chance in the spotlight.  We live in a time in which music is what moves me and nothing moves me like me.  We live in a time in which we confuse entertainment with worship, worship with work, leisure with life.  This is bad enough but we have mirrored all of this in church and what we have ended up with is a Christianity in which the cross is not the focus, doctrine is the antithesis to freedom, truth which is subjective and relative, and morality which is defined by what feels right.  In short, we have nothing to offer the world but the world in slightly different terms.

Until we recognize this, Christianity will continue to be a muddled mess of human effort, false human dignity, and glorified human desire that is simply the natural conclusion to one bite of one fruit of one garden by one person so long ago.  The Gospel is not what we make it to be.  It is Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of our sins, for the redemption of our lost lives, and for the resurrection of the dead to life eternal.  Worship which reflects this Gospel will always be counter-cultural.

21 comments:

Cliff said...

One point that seems to be missed by those who critique contemporary music, is that many times the traditional old hymns sound more like a funeral dirge than worship. This is especially true in smaller congregations.

Yes, I agree we are not being entertained, and we should never clap or applaud a performer, or a pastor for that matter. This gives focus more to the performer than God, but let’s be fair in our criticisms and evaluate them both with the same yardstick.

Jonathan Mayer said...

Cliff,

The "funeral dirge" anecdote is the oldest argument in a book of non-sequiturs. We've all heard it. And the reason no one addresses it with any seriousness is that it's a critique of the organist's skill, not of the hymns themselves. You even acknowledged that the hymn can be played differently from one congregation to the next. And besides that, not all hymns are supposed to sound happy. Some are penitential, some prayerful, some joyful... and sometimes all of those things.

P.S. Funerals are also worship.

Cliff said...

Jonathan, I think you missed the point of my post, in that is both forms of music have their faults and both have their place in our traditional worship.

Let's not throw out the baby with the wash.

Unknown said...

Cliff,

You have thrown out the baby with the bathwater (you're mixing metaphors) already. I'm tired of hearing the excuse that since both have faults, both are acceptable. That's a blatant reductio ad absurdum line of argumentation. What are the faults of the old/ancient hymns besides that they sound too much like funeral dirges? Have you ever considered for a moment that that is the way they are supposed to sound? Should not the Christian in church be constantly reminded in hymns, in readings, in psalms, in the Scriptures that it is because of our sin that death surrounds us? Fortunately, that's not the end of the story, but Christian worship, true Christian worship, is to move every part of our soul and body to the heavens by first moving it to despair and hell.

I wish you would just admit you don't like the music, which is fine, but liking music is NOT a valid theological argument for favoring newer Amy Grantesque music which is not discernible from standard pop music on the radio. ALl you do is replace the word "Jesus" with "baby."

BTW, how is it that the older hymns are far more likely to be remembered and quoted than something that was whipped up in 5 minutes on a stage? The older hymns are didactic and more contemplative. Modern music only seeks an emotional high with words as vapid that it would make Spinal Tap look like poet laureates.

Fact is: Bach is hard, Amy Grant is easy. Bach is profound, Amy Grant ephemeral. Why do you prefer the easier way? Gregorian chant is hard but can be done with some practice. Anyone who has four seconds of playing on a guitar can do what these singers do in CoWo. I think that for many congregations, easier will always preferred. But it's not going to get more people through the doors. Once the high of one CoWo church's music wears off, people will leave for the next one.

Sorry for the rant, but I really truly hate CoWo. Glad I left and became an Orthodox Christian who worships according to the Byzantine RIte. We don't and won't put up with that same kind of crap.

Chris

Janis Williams said...

Focus. What is worship? It is not what we "do" for God. It is what God does for us (an then our response.) The best prayers are saying God's Word back to Him. The best music is singing His Words (and truth) back to Him. If you can find contemporary worship songs that do this in full sentences, and without the flagrant mysticism in many songs (and hymns - I Come to the Garden Alone....), then I believe we can truly do the old and contemporary.

When I see a contemporary worship service, or hear a contemporary song, it is a rare thing to be focused on something other than myself. When focused on "god" I need to know it is God, the Father Almighty, and on Jesus Christ His only Son...

Cliff said...


Chris, thank you for your honesty and admitting your "rant". It is quite evident that there is a great deal of passion for those who hate contemporary music and it is easy to see the plank in their eyes while looking at the speck in others.

But let’s be civilized and calm in discussing Christ's church; let’s unpack some of the issues in this heated debate.

Just one point, if Bach is so wonderful, explain to me in reasonable way how his music is relevant to the ancient church of all ages? He existed in one century, how is that appropriate to the universal, catholic church?

Cliff said...

Janis, one simple question for you: Does traditional worship transform you into a better person? Ep. 4:32

Paul said...

Cliff, I'm not sure I understand where you are trying to lead with your questions about Bach, but it seems clear to me that the Church considers the music of every age, text and tune, and retains those which are theologically, catechetically, and musically excellent. Those which are not as strong simply do not get passed on. From my point of view Bach is no more or less relevant to the catholic Church than Ambrose of Milan, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Luther, Gerhardt, et. al, or all the unknown writers of hymns that have come down to us through the ages, which is to say that all of them are not just relevant or somehow appropriate but in fact essential to the catholic Church.

So our age in the Church is no different than the others. We exist in one century but are part of the catholic Church. We are receiving God's promised gifts in faith and confessing back to Him what is most sure and true. Meanwhile we are adding our voices and expressions to the song of the Church but doing it carefully and deliberately. We continue to humbly use what has been handed over by our fore bearers as tried and true and carefully place our own contemporary attempts before the high bar of what has come before, while considering its purpose for the body of Christ.

It is not a question of contemporary or traditional but of fidelity and excellence. I've got nothing against Twila Paris per say, but to compare her work to that of Stephen Starke or Chad Bird, all of them being "contemporary" and found in LSB, is telling. Clearly a different class, and I would venture to predict much different staying power in the Church.

Cliff said...

Thanks Paul, you have made some good points which many posters fail to do. I think for the most part we are on the same page, and I agree 100% with the old hymns being tried and true and we must test "contemporary" music before the high bar as you state.

My point I have tried to make is that not all contemporary music is bad or evil. We need to give some modern songs a chance to be tested and see if they have a place in the ancient, catholic church. We might be surprised!

Many traditionalists see only the old hymns as acceptable, and give no chance for God to add or change our music. If it is of value and meets the "high bar", we need to accept that.

Peace!

Cliff said...

Janis, are you for real, or are you just a "drive by" commentator?
If we are to get anywhere in our Lutheran Church, we need to dialogue, not use the old Roman Pontiff method.

Jonathan Mayer said...

Cliff,

I don't believe you read carefully or understood what Janis said. It deserves some thought. Nothing that she said smacks of Roman Pontiffs. She said we can truly do the old and contemporary, providing they center on God's Word, and avoid mysticism and banal repetition, etc. Not one person here is equating "new" with "bad." So take your own advice and slow down, "unpack" the statements, so that you don't misunderstand what is being said.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Does traditional worship transform you into a better person? Ep. 4:32

To that question I would ask, Does contemporary worship transform you into a better person?

Neither does. God does. But at least traditional worship gives God the free reign to work since the majority of the liturgy is simply Scripture said or sung, in which the Gospel predominates. Which, sadly, cannot always be said of the other choice.

Dave Bestul said...

What is the benefit to contemporary style music in church?

Cliff said...

More young people Dave, and various other reasons that escape you!

Dave Bestul said...

As a young person, I truly believe that contemporary music in church is cheap and lame. What are we to do? Are we to pander to the changing trends of youth at any cost for the sake of numbers. That's called selling out.

By the way, what are the other various reasons that escape me? I'm curious.

Cliff said...

Well for starters, "the fruits of the Spirit", they seem to be conspicuously absent in some Traditional posters.

But, then again, if this is set in a Lutheran Liturgical setting you get all the other benefits of Lutheran Worship.

Dave Bestul said...

Please go further into the "fruits of the spirit" comment.

Cliff said...

Elementary, my friend, elementary!

Dave Bestul said...

Please explain more.

Cliff said...

Are you baiting me with work righteousness? See Galatians 5:22-23

Dave Bestul said...

no, I am asking you a question.