Read the germane points below or the whole article here...
1. If we, the congregation, can't hear ourselves, it's not worship. Christian worship is not a concert. In a concert (a particular "form of performance"), we often expect to be overwhelmed by sound, particularly in certain styles of music. In a concert, we come to expect that weird sort of sensory deprivation that happens from sensory overload, when the pounding of the bass on our chest and the wash of music over the crowd leaves us with the rush of a certain aural vertigo. And there's nothing wrong with concerts! It's just that Christian worship is not a concert. Christian worship is a collective, communal, congregational practice--and the gathered sound and harmony of a congregation singing as one is integral to the practice of worship. It is a way of "performing" the reality that, in Christ, we are one body. But that requires that we actually be able to hear ourselves, and hear our sisters and brothers singing alongside us. When the amped sound of the praise band overwhelms congregational voices, we can't hear ourselves sing--so we lose that communal aspect of the congregation and are encouraged to effectively become "private," passive worshipers.
2. If we, the congregation, can't sing along, it's not worship. In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and "be creative," offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can't sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it's not worship. I know it's generally not your fault that we've put you at the front of the church. And I know you want to model worship for us to imitate. But because we've encouraged you to basically import forms of performance from the concert venue into the sanctuary, we might not realize that we've also unwittingly encouraged a sense that you are the center of attention. And when your performance becomes a display of your virtuosity--even with the best of intentions--it's difficult to counter the temptation to make the praise band the focus of our attention. When the praise band goes into long riffs that you might intend as "offerings to God," we the congregation become utterly passive, and because we've adopted habits of relating to music from the Grammys and the concert venue, we unwittingly make you the center of attention. I wonder if there might be some intentional reflection on placement (to the side? leading from behind?) and performance that might help us counter these habits we bring with us to worship.
It reminds me of St. Paul's admonition about the need to say "amen" to the prayers. Clearly the entertainment ambiance is more pervasive among Evangelicals than Lutherans but the direction Lutherans are heading means we need to pay attention to this heart-felt cry to those sure that CCM and CCW is the best thing since sliced bread...
Evangelical CCW=what we offer to God.
Liturgy=what God gives us.
The pericope from last week included Elijah's encounter with God as he hid in the cave. God wasn't in the raging, pounding, emotion evoking events. His voice was heard as a whisper.
Today, God's voice is heard in His Word. Not subjective screaming, yelling, and
'giving it up for Jesus." Nor is it heard singly by super spiritual vision-casting pastors.
I love concerts. I love to hear a jazz musician play a riff. I love to hear beautiful old music, and I love Rock N Roll. It's just that I want to hear God's voice in his Word during Divine Service. I don't want performances in the Church; it focuses me on them or myself, not God.
I absolutely cannot stand it when my LCMS congregation bursts into applause after the adult or children's choir sings, or after someone plays a modest musical offering. Gotta love those contemporary services in the LCMS!
Either it is, or it isn't:
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