Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Thoughts on Contemporary Worship

This comes by way of my friend Steve Jeffcoat's Facebook notes:
Thoughts on Contemporary Worship
Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 12:28am

A little rant on what annoys me about the contemporary worship movement...please don't take this personally or get offended. I like singing "praise songs" every now and then, but I like other stuff too.

1. "Praise and Worship" songs

First off, who came up with this term for contemporary church music? It seems to imply that traditional hymns and even Gregorian chants, et cetera, are not praise songs or worshipful. Worship consists of way more than just singing interspersed with prayer. Communion is part of worship. Discussion and thinking are part of worship. Reading scripture is part of worship. Fasting and baptism are part of worship. Of course, dancing and singing and prayer are also part of worship, but it seems that often when people now say let's praise God or worhship Jesus, they only mean sing (with guitar, of course), and pray. "Hymns" do not just encompass songs written prior to 1975. There are many active current composers of hymns; they are not dead. The words and meaning within the hymns are quite deep and sincere, and most definitly edifying to God. Also, there are more than just 10 words in the average hymn. I'm sure God doesn't get bored with hearing "this is the air I breathe" sung 500 times like a broken record, but I get bored and irritated singing it 500 times in the same song. I wish that these contemoprary church songwriters would add a couple more verses to their songs.
Contemporary church music shares some of the same bad characteristics as a fire-and-brimstone tent revival preacher. It gets you all worked up into an emotional frenzy singing the same words over and over and over again, without even halfway paying attention to the words. For instance:
in "Holy is the Lord" how many times are you actually lifting up your hands when you sing "we stand and lift up our hands"

in "I could sing of Your love" are you actually dancing when it says "They will dance with joy like we're dancing now?"

In "Your grace is enough" why are we telling God "remember your people, remember your promise?" Are we afraid He'll forget?

Also, why is it that the same 5-10 praise songs are sung every time, despite the supposed vast array of praise songs. Even 10 years ago, it was just the same 5-10 songs every time, just different ones than today. In my church, we can go over a year without repeating a hymn.

2. LCD Projectors

These devices (and their predecessor, the overhead projector) are the worst thing to happen in modern church singing. First off, they often have typos, are in the wrong order, and the operator forgets to change the slide in time. Also, they don't show the music, just the words. Granted, that's often because the song being sung has just 1 or maybe 2 lines of melody repeated ad infinitum, but that's beside the point. If I've never heard one of the 600+ songs in the hymnal before, or a new one that's copied and used as a bulliten insert, I can use some rudimentary music-reading skills to figure out the melody. With a new praise song, I have no idea what to sing. Also, I typically sing the bass line of the four-part harmony in the hymnal, and it's pretty difficult to get good multi-part harmony without having the notes.
Even worse than any of this, however, is the churches that put traditional hymns on the LCD screen, when the same song is in the perfectly good hymnal right in front of you.

Here are some of my comments from that note:

Well reasoned rant---but check out some weird hymns like: http://dominickadamo.blogspot.com/2007/09/god-of-earth-and-outer-space.html or http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=5278. It's sad how good CCM like Larry Norman or Bill Mallonee or even Rich Mullins' other songs get left out in favor of banal pop praise songs. Part of the reason for this is because of (apologists) like (the evangelical) Ravi Zacharias and (Calvinazi) John MacArthur telling Christians to reject post-modernism in favor of dogmatic modernism: fundamentalism/Evangelicalism or anti-intellectual Christianity Lite. Although it's true fundies hate newness, they are willing to accept Praise music in the name of God-ordained American Capitalism: modernism's triumph. See they need a banal commercial in order to sell their product ie. anti-intellectualism, moral legalism, pastor worship, bible literalism/inerrancy, bibliolatry and deification of bible translators. It all boils down to capitalist materialism/consumerism. Yeah, I agree with you, Steve: " Contemporary church music shares some of the same bad characteristics as a fire-and-brimstone tent revival preacher. It gets you all worked up into an emotional frenzy singing the same words over and over and over again, without even halfway paying attention to the words."---but that's because today's church is consumer and market driven. Most traditional churches are being replaced by large shopping mall like compounds in which preachers are the salesmen selling a product (their view of Christianity) to the consumers (congregation), in which critical thinking (especially in fundie/Christianity Lite churches but occaisionaly moderate/liberal churches) is bypassed, so that a theological worldview can be quickly consumed by the masses. Thanks alot, modernism. Harry Emerson Fosdick was right, when he said:
"As I plead thus for an intellectually hospitable, tolerant, liberty-loving church, I am, of course, thinking primarily about this new generation. We have boys and girls growing up in our homes and schools, and because we love them we may well wonder about the church which will be waiting to receive them. Now, the worst kind of church that can possibly be offered to the allegiance of the new generation is an intolerant church. Ministers often bewail the fact that young people turn from religion to science for the regulative ideas of their lives. But this is easily explicable. Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, “Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.” Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, “Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results.” My friends, nothing in all the world is so much worth thinking of as God, Christ, the Bible, sin and salvation, the divine purposes for humankind, life everlasting. But you cannot challenge the dedicated thinking of this generation to these sublime themes upon any such terms as are laid down by an intolerant church."
Sorry for the long post/rant---but nice note, Steve.

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