A Tainted Congregational Mindset Towards Musical Worship

Last night, we had our ceremony for new inductees into various honor societies here at FACS. I was asked to play for the ceremony, and I happily agreed. It’s also a time for students to see teachers as something a little more than a teacher. The event went by without a hitch, but that’s not what sticks out in my mind about the evening. It was a snippet of a conversation I heard on my way out.

As I was passing through the foyer towards the exit doors, I happened to catch just enough of a conversation to almost make me to a double-take. It was a group of parents introducing someone to friends. The description for Someone went like this: “He’s the one that sings on stage on Sunday morning.” It was all I could do to keep a poker face and keep on walking.

“The one that sings on stage on Sunday morning.”

That’s what it has come to. It’s no longer a worship leader, music director, or musician…platform, pulpit, or sanctuary. It’s a stage with singers.

Maybe I’m being a music snob. I’ve had that label before. I can’t disagree with it. I do have a music degree, after all. And maybe I’m splitting infinitives. But I don’t think so. How, in the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (the event that totally transformed church music and congregational singing), have we turned our sanctuaries into stages and our music leaders into simply “singers?” How has Martin Luther’s laying his life on the line for the sake of the Church been reduced to only singers on a stage pumping out the latest Jesus Culture or #1 CCLI song?

Do these tunes even utter the name of Jesus? Does the text of the song convict me so much that it brings me to my knees in overwhelming unworthiness before the King of Kings? Furthermore, is the song written so to be sung by an individual or a large group of people? Is the text of the song grounded in Scripture, or just a nice collection of warm-fuzzy words that rhyme? Can the melody be learned quickly?  Or are we simply selecting songs for corporate worship based on these reasons:

  • “It’s our style.”
  • “It’s fun to sing.”
  • “The people really like this song.”
  • “It’s soooooooooo good.”
    • Follow up: Why is it “sooooooooo good?”

So what have we learned here? Style is important, but not to the degree to which we raise it. Generation X (mid-sixties to early eighties) believers have convinced themselves and others that style brings people to a church. On the contrary: style brings people to a building. And when that style becomes more and more like a mainstream concert, that “style” we fretted over creates an atmosphere in which there is a chasm between the platform (now the stage) and the congregation (now an audience). And Martin Luther’s near-martyrdom is reduced to our own selfish preferences.

The image at the top of this post doesn’t speak, but SCREAMS volumes. The more we obsess ourselves with style over depth, the quicker the worship evolution happens.

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