October 20, 2017

Four Questions: Steve Sensenig on Worship and Music

steves.jpgSteve Sensenig is a blogger (theologicalmusingsblog.com) and contributor to many good blog discussions. He’s also a musician who has served in various capacities in several different ministries in a wide range of styles from very traditional to very contemporary. Steve is a recording artist, and has also spent some time in the Christian music industry playing keyboards for various artists. You can check Steve’s music out at http://www.worshipkeys.com.

When I thought about batting the question of music around the diamond a bit, Steve was one of the first names that came to mind. He has an appreciation for the kind of church I see coming out of post-evangelicalism’s rejection of the tyranny of church growth.

I’m going to make some statements, and Steve is going to comment, react or taunt me.

Question 1. Here’s what I think: Contemporary evangelical churches have entirely too much music going on in the average worship service. It’s exhausting to prepare, distracting from other needed elements of worship and is now dominating many churches in ways that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

What do you think? Am I right, wrong, partly one or the other, or just grumpy?

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to taunt you on this one! 😉 For the most part, I think you have this one right. That may sound surprising coming from a musician and former “worship pastor”, but I think the way in which music is handled in most contemporary churches misses the point. It definitely is exhausting to prepare, and results in much less emphasis on the “heart of worship” while emphasizing the “excellence” idol that is so prevalent these days.

There are many different opinions about what role music should play in a gathering of believers, and I don’t want to get off on that tangent. However, I think we would be very hard-pressed to defend today’s contemporary practices from Scripture. Music is mentioned so little in the New Testament anyway, but when it is, it is in the context of our relationship to one another. For example, the two references to “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16), mention (in the NASB) “speaking to one another” and “teaching and admonishing one another”. Both references also mention singing “in your heart” or “with your heart” to the Lord.

So, I say all that to agree with your main point here. The music in contemporary worship services has little to do with relationship to one another, and instead causes everyone to have to sing what the worship leader decides to sing. I find that increasingly dissatisfying and unsettling. It is on that basis, primarily, that I would say that it “distract[s] from other needed elements of worship”. Having said that, though, is this problem (the lack of relational focus in singing) limited to contemporary evangelical churches? I’m not sure it is.

2. Second statement: The current music scene has allowed entities and forces outside of the local church to have far too much influence in worship. In many churches, there is an almost complete abdication of pastoral leadership in the music program.

With regard to the first part of that — AMEN! Well, actually “amen” means “so be it”, so I should rather say, “May it never be!” Unfortunately, however, it is. The rise of Maranatha! Music in the 70’s/80’s and Integrity’s Hosanna shortly after started this trend of “if you’re at all ‘with it’, you’ll be singing these songs.” Some (but by no means all) of the songs were really rich and edifying theologically, but at the same time, the process of “tape of the month” contributions to church music caused a major shift of focus away from the local gathering’s unique personality and cultural makeup.

The biggest problem I see with this is that the “worship music” industry is, by nature and definition, a business. Therefore, it automatically seems to run into a conflict of interest. Ultimately, they need to put out what is going to make them money. For example, take Michael Card’s perspective on lament. (I’m not necessarily endorsing his viewpoint, but using it as an example to make my point.) If the “worship music” giants were to put out a release with all lament songs, how well would that go over in most churches? I don’t think it would sell very well. And so, even if that was a needed element, you wouldn’t see it happening on a large scale.

Your point about pastoral leadership in the music program is well to observe as well. In most of my music leadership positions in churches, I was left on my own. In my case, I had a pastoral heart to reach beyond the “fluff” and to seriously look at the theological content, etc. of the music. Most of the time. But I’ve worked in support roles under other music ministers who did not have the same desire. They were all about what sound was hot, or what song was charting, or…you know the story.

More importantly than increased pastoral leadership, however, is the responsibility of the body itself to be bringing forth music that serves to edify, teach, and exhort. (For example, 1 Cor 14:26 talks about people in the gathering bringing a “psalm” among other contributions to the service. And again, the context is edification of the body.) This obviously requires good teaching in the first place, and a discipleship focus that goes beyond just “pastoral leadership”. The members of the body itself should be equipped by those gifted to equip (cf. Eph 4) to bring forth the right kind of music in the gatherings.

3. Third: The tendency of the current worship scene is to use music aimed at a younger and younger audience, and this is causing the loss of a priceless heritage of church music.

I think this is the direct result of the way we did youth ministry for so many years. In my first music position, I remember asking “When do the younger people learn to worship in ‘big church’?” The focus of youth ministry for so long (and this still happens in a lot of churches) was to give them a church service that appealed to their tastes and preferences. Now, guess what? Those young people have grown older and become the leaders of our churches. And so what did they do? Changed the style to match what they had always had. I think we, in so many ways, created a monster!

I’m definitely sensitive to the heritage of rich hymnody. I grew up on hymns. The first songs I started to pick out on the piano when I was three years old were the hymns sung earlier that day in church. My second piano CD (“‘Tis So Sweet”) is 62 minutes of all hymns, played non-stop in a very intimate fashion. So, I definitely love hymns. And yes, that heritage is being lost.

To be honest, though, I don’t know what the balance is. All of those hymns were, at one time, new songs. So, obviously, there’s a place for new songs in the body of Christ. However, if the answer to statement number 1 above is less time devoted to music, how do we maintain a heritage AND allow for new repertoire to enter the “canon”, so to speak?

Perhaps the answer is to develop ways of using music other than just the corporate gatherings of believers. I don’t have a good solution for that, but I think the question itself raises even more questions.

I think that perhaps the question shouldn’t be about heritage vs. new, but to deal first with the question of “why music in the first place?” If we can figure out what the foundation is for having music in church in the first place, we can begin to consider “which music?” in development of our thoughts.

I also find that the question of “heritage” is very, very subjective. What heritage do we maintain? Gregorian chant? Metrical Psalms? Reformation hymns? Fanny Crosby? A little big of everything? If what we are doing is based on sentimentality (which I fear it often is, despite our best intentions), then I think we’ve already missed the point.

4. The church culture I grew up in used a lot of choirs. Today, those are fading, and the type of worship leader churches are looking for as a result is typically less trained, younger and more of a performer. What do you think of the shift from Minister of Music (trained musician who can work with choirs, etc.) to the younger, guitar-playing worship leader? What gifts are needed to serve the church with music?

This question brings so many thoughts to my mind that I wonder if I can answer it as succinctly as you need me to here. It might help to put some of my cards on the table so that my answer will make more sense (hopefully!) in context.

Over the last four years, my thoughts about ecclesiology have been rapidly shifting. I have gone from vocational ministry to what is commonly referred to as “simple church”. This concept of church, by and large, does not involve “vocational” or professional ministry. It doesn’t fully close the door on financial support for certain situations, but it does seek to diminish (if not outright demolish) the “clergy/laity” distinction that has permeated the Christendom concept since at least the time of Constantine.

(As a side note, I should say that I do believe there is something of an “elder/non-elder” distinction in the New Testament, but it is not for the purpose of hierarchical systems.)

Another very key element in this model of gathering, too, is a move away from things that are “performance-oriented” or that result in primarily spectator observance of one person or a small group of people doing anything, whether it be teaching or music. This does not mean that teaching and music do not take place in a simple church. Far from it. There is still rich teaching that takes place. And there is frequently music taking place (more in some gatherings than others). But the emphasis is on participation of everyone.

From that standpoint, I have shifted in my views away from any sort of ongoing “special group” of participants, such as a choir. That’s not to say that choirs have no place in church gatherings, but rather that I would not see a place for them as a regular or frequent occurrence.

Ironically, I have just spoken of choirs in the preceding paragraphs in the context of “performance-oriented”, which is the exact opposite of the question you have asked regarding worship leaders. So, let me step away from the ancillary point about choirs and address what appears to be the main thrust of your question; namely, the worship leader.

You ask about the shift from a “trained musician” to a “younger, guitar-playing worship leader”. Of course, I would argue that the “younger, guitar-playing worship leader” may, in fact, be a “trained musician”, but I think you’re dealing with stereotypes here because you earlier referred to them as “less trained”. So, let’s boil the question down to what I think about the shift from trained musician leaders to untrained musician leaders.

Overall, from a philosophical standpoint, I would say that the shift has some positive elements in it. But this is wrapped up in my ecclesiological shift from “professional” to “participant”. The idea that we are opening up opportunities for ministry to someone who is not formally trained is, in many respects, a good one. But I think the issue goes deeper. And that pretty much leads me to the final part of your question, which, to me, gets to the root of the matter.

What gifts are needed to serve the church with music? As a very simplistic answer, I would say there is one gift needed: the Holy Spirit. Now, I realize that sounds very esoteric, and perhaps even impractical, but let me play it out a bit before you tune me out.

As I’ve mentioned previously in this interview, the specific place of music in the church is not spelled out very clearly at all in the New Testament. But we do see references to singing with regard to our relationship to one another and our gatherings as believers. However, some things seem starkly absent from the descriptions given:

1. Any sense of human “leadership” in the singing that is to take place.
2. Any clear sense of “corporate singing”.
3. Any sense of training or ability as a prerequisite for singing.

On the flip side, we do see evidence, especially in 1 Corinthians 14:26 that singing is to come from participants in the body. It is one of the possible contributions listed in that verse of what should be happening when we gather. But it is mentioned in the same sense as praying, tongues/interpretation, prophesying, etc. In other words, while one might be bringing a teaching to the gathering, or one might have a prayer to offer, one also might have a song to bring forth. Within the flow of the gathering of believers, singing is just another element that can be contributed by anyone.

All of this discussion in 1 Corinthians 14 is in the context of Paul’s instructions regarding the use of spiritual gifts. In chapter 12, he makes it abundantly clear that the giver of the gifts is the Holy Spirit, and that He alone is the One who determines what gifts are given to whom, and whether or not they are to be used.

Now, it bears mentioning that “music” is nowhere (in this context of 1 Corinthians) listed as a gift, in that sense, but because of its passing mention in chapter 14, I would conclude that it falls into the same category when we are considering how/when/if it is to be used.

The concept of choirs, or even congregational singing, is very evident in Old Testament. However, I think there’s something to be said for reconsidering how much change took place between the Old Testament form of worship (where human mediation and direction was very much in play) and the New Testament (in which anyone can participate and contribute under the leadership of the Holy Spirit). I believe personally that the changes and ramifications are much more significant than we have made them, even in our “contemporary” churches.

So, to summarize, while I think the shift from trained Minister of Music to untrained, informal leadership is relatively a move in the right direction (philosophically speaking), I think it falls way short of where we need to be. In fact, I would submit that it falls so far short as to suggest that it is not the question we should even be asking. The question that is perhaps more appropriate, as I have already mentioned in this interview is: Should we be placing anyone in “leadership” over musical aspects of our gathering, or should music be a spontaneous contribution by anyone in the church so moved by the Holy Spirit?

Exploring that question would necessitate exploring lots of ramifications. If this interview heads in a direction suitable to such (and there is not necessarily any need for it to), I’ll be glad to spell out how I think music (and those skilled in music) could function in a gathering. If not, once this interview “airs”, I’ll possibly write about it on my own blog for further discussion.

Comments

  1. I appreciate this interview. In my context, “worship” is usually used synonymously with “music” – and sometimes with a certain style of music. I’m glad that more people are recognizing that music and worship are not synonymous, and that at times music can distract from worship, just as other activities can distract from worship.

    The idea of leaderless music may scare some people. I think this has more to do with the idea that music (or anything) should be “excellent” or “well done” in order for it to be useful in worship, or that the presentation itself is worship. Howver, if the purpose of songs (as Steve alluded to) are to teach and admonish one another, then the presentation / style / ability / etc. are not nearly as important as the content of the songs themselves – at perhaps the attitude with which the songs are presented. In this sense, music is no longer another part of a “service” or “event”, but instead becomes part of a conversation that includes songs, teaching, prophecy, etc.

    Again, thank you for the interview, and I’m looking forward to more.

    -Alan

  2. What a meaty post! It is my belief that the body of Christ needs every generation that it represents, and all the members should worship together somehow. I’m beginning to find that it’s possible to be culturally comprehensible without jettisoning the hymns of the faith.

    Whenever I’ve been at the huge cutting-edge worship conferences, the “shiver moments” always come when the cool band cuts out, and the whole worship-leader congregation is singing a great hymn of the faith in glorious harmony.

  3. Dan Price says:

    Interesting post. I have many concerns about the current of todays “worship” situtation in the church. I think that many have fallen for the idol of “worship music” and have missed what worship is.

    At the same time, I feel that there is a lot of freedom to do church in many different ways and when you start saying “oh, you can’t have a worship leader because there wasn’t a worship leader in the Bible” you go farther than the bible does in really, teaching from silence. Some might refer to this as the “Regulative Principle” which basically says “you can only do in church what is done in the Bible.” This ignores the fact that much of Acts was Narrative, not instrustive in nature and that there was really a lot of freedom to have church gatherings in many ways. So that’s my only concern.

    Thanks for posting stuff like this. It’s good to think through why we do things.

  4. I see these battles raging in my church.

    One guitarist loves blues-based music. Another likes slower, 70s-style worship songs. The worship leader loves Top 40 Christian. Our worship music becomes a melange of these styles. Personalities play a big role in this selection rather than what is best sung by the congregation, or what is most edifying and blesses the Lord. Having an other-centric mindset is what we need in worship. It’s not about you or me.

    As to performance, I’m the worship team drummer, and I got blasted a couple weeks ago for stymieing the Spirit because I missed a cue to extend a song. I wasn’t happy with that assessment since it makes the music into some magical incantation that calls down the Spirit. Too many worship teams approach worship with that faulty belief.

    What blesses the Lord? I think that’s the question that too often goes unanswered.

    Great post. I will probably riff on this over at Cerulean Sanctum next week. The ideas have been rattling around in my head for a few weeks and this gives me more ideas.

  5. Very interesting perspectives. I noted with interest several points, to wit: the overemphasis of music in the modern church, the advent of the “idol of Excellence”, and the change in worship patterns from OT to NT, for starters.

    In my neck o’ the backwoods, the trends are definitely moving towards the worship-leader-driven, “contemporary”, excellence-wrapped style. If there’s anyone else in my community who thinks about the issue at this level, I don’t know them.

    One thing that I do hear regarding NT worship is an argument from silence. The assertion is that, it’s “understood” that the NT church worshipped in a manner much like what we’re doing today (in other words, patterning it after temple worship). Since it is understood, it was not necessary for the NT writers to mention it. (I hear the same argument for rigid tithing to the local church, but I digress.)

    The really frustrating thing is, I’m a musician who’s involved with the “worship ministry” (read: Music ministry) at our church, and I don’t buy the system. And I can’t even quit, not without causing a huge stink, because they can’t seem to find anyone to replace me. Ironically, all the senior saints who don’t relate to the modern songs see me up there playing them, and assume I’m all for the new regime. It’s hard to personally focus on worshipping in this setting; more often than not I’m just punching the clock.

    One last thing: I hear a lot of the “Satan as former worship leader” myth put out as if that were a settled fact (check it out; it’s not). My personal theory is that, by exalting the role of this so-called Worship Leader in Heaven, it by implication exalts the role of the worship leader on earth. It’s self-serving.

    Frustrating. But thanks for the blogging here on the topic– at least I find support in the fellowship in others with similar psychoses!

    -Jim Bob

  6. Check me if I’m wrong, but the only time worship is mentioned in any regard along with music, it’s at the dedication of the temple. The choir starts singing, and the people worshiped. The music wasn’t the worship. It provoked people to worship.

    Music is described as praise. If we are truly leading “worship”, somehow or another, we must present God to them. I’m starting to realize that that happens much more effectively through Scripture, prayer, and communion than the latest song will ever do (and yes, I’m a songwriter). Praise lays a groundwork for worship, but only exposure to God provokes “Spirit and truth” worship.

  7. Larry White says:

    Having enjoyed singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in a variety of worship and non-worship settings (I am not an instrumentalist), some of my happiest memories are of the unaccompanied hymn-singing in Primitive Baptist churches. With no instruments, choirs, or planned programs, hymn numbers are called by anyone in the congregation, begun by an elder, deacon, song-leader, or the person who calls the song. The oldest songbooks, like the Lloyd Hymnal, have no notes and so are lined out by the leader. In most churches they have been largely or totally replaced by “hymn and tunebooks” joining words with notes encouraging more conventional three- and four-part harmonies. Depending on what part of the country the local church is in, you might use a Primitive Baptist Hymn and Tune Book, a version of The Sacred Harp or one of the other early collections like Southern Harmony, Old School Hymnal, The Good Old Songs, Harp of Ages, something with more Brumley and Gaither, or the tunebook of a strong singing family like the Lees of Hoboken, Georgia. In the PB churches where I worshipped, singing began roughly a half hour before the generous hour-long sermon. Singings are also held in homes, instead of choir rehearsals, sometimes with Bible discussions, always with refreshments or potlucks. As Old Baptists apply the regulative principle, CCM has no place in church. Neither does Handel’s Messiah. But everyone including those who can’t carry a tune in a bucket get to fully participate. The closest thing to a rehearsal is when a group selects and runs through half a dozen hymns they will sing for a nursing home audience. Those with instrumental gifts or other musical interests will, of course, God willing, find other opportunities for spreading the gospel in performing and/or recording, or enjoying other canons and trends. I am only suggesting that this is one small part of the body of Christ that I believe has been blessed, in varying measures and despite its weaknesses, to serve the Lord with a graceful balance between song, prayer, and preaching.

  8. This all seems a bit baby-and-bathwater to me. granted that much “worship leading” in many churches is more to do with the music than with worship, and that the choice of musical style is often dictated more by the preference of the worship leader than by the needs of the congregation, surely the simplest solution to all this is just to have better worship leaders? Ministers (in the literal sense of “servants”) who understand what worship is and whose goal is to help the congregation into worship.

    I’m a bit bothered by the unchecked idealism of this kind of thing:

    “Another very key element in this model of gathering, too, is a move away from things that are ‘performance-oriented’ or that result in primarily spectator observance of one person or a small group of people doing anything, whether it be teaching or music.”

    Really? That sounds very priesthood-of-all-believers and very body-ministry, but I know that 80% of the members of the churches I’ve been in are just not capable of bible teaching — either they lack the understanding or the communication abilities or their gifts and calling simply lie elsewhere. It doesn’t look practical or sensible to me that something as specialised as teaching (as opposed to, say, singing) should be distributed randomly among untrained and inexperienced non-specialists.

  9. I like this post, but I am concerned with the NT-only approach some are taking with worship. Instead of seeing the NT as a break with the OT (always dangerous), we need to be careful to trace the OT teaching on worship into the NT and ask how our worship can express the ways OT motifs are fulfilled in the NT. The clearest example of this is sacrifice: OT sacrifices are fulfilled in the one sacrifice of Christ, which is then represented in the Lord’s Supper.
    It was the pre-Constantine church that developed liturgies designed to do just that.

  10. roberta schouten says:

    I just started reading this blog and I wanted to add my two cents worth. I am a confessional Lutheran, and I don’t think much of what is called “Praise” services. The music is often “pop” and not as scriptural as I think it could be. I do agree that too much emphasis is placed on singing song after song, and not enough emphasis on scriptual text. I prefer the litergical worship service, where traditional, scriptural, teaching songs are sung, and where the sermon is the focal point.

  11. Michael, I want to thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of thinking through the answers to the questions you posed, and am enjoying now reading the thoughts of others in response.

    If I go out of bounds in terms of tangents on this post here in the comments, let me know. I want to respect your blog space. Tangential conversations can take place on my blog, if you’d prefer. But I probably should respond to some comments here.

    Mike Taylor, you are by no means the first person to label me as “idealistic”! 😉

    Really? That sounds very priesthood-of-all-believers and very body-ministry, but I know that 80% of the members of the churches I’ve been in are just not capable of bible teaching — either they lack the understanding or the communication abilities or their gifts and calling simply lie elsewhere.

    If it sounds very “priesthood-of-all-believers and very body ministry”, but it’s not what you advocate, then what would “priesthood-of-all-believers” and “body ministry” look like to you?

    Although this is a bit off-topic from the main gist of the original question, I’ll briefly give some response to this.

    Please note that there is a difference between saying all “must” teach and all “may” teach. Obviously, people are at different levels of maturity and giftedness. So I’m not advocating a forceful method of making everyone teach.

    However, if people lack understanding, is that not a problem that we should be helping to eradicate through discipleship? Those of us capable of teaching should be equipping others so that they can do the work of the ministry (i.e., teaching and equipping others?). If that’s idealism, then I think you would have to take that up with Paul. 😉

    In all seriousness, though, thank you all for the feedback here. I may respond to others as well, but I want to be sensitive to the main point of this post.

  12. jimbob,

    One thing that I do hear regarding NT worship is an argument from silence.

    This is a valid point to consider. I try not to argue so much from silence, though, as much as looking at the things that did change with regard to the way the body was to relate to each other and to God. From that, I’m obviously connecting some dots (perhaps incorrectly, I’ll acknowledge) as to how that affects the way we approach our gatherings together as believers.

  13. Dan Price,

    Ironically, the Regulative Principle is quite far from where I’m at in my thinking. But I see your point, and like I mentioned in an earlier comment, it’s a valid point to consider and weigh.

    Again, though, I’m extrapolating some principles, not from silence, but from the direction given in the NT as to our relationship to one another in the body.

  14. You got me thinking….

    my responses….
    #1. There is just too much music in the WORLD. Have you noticed? Music is penetrating our lives more than we know. Yes, the church mirrors that – i guess i am not sure what you expect? I think you should propose some alternative worship experiences – there are plenty to choose from. I think it’s just easy to keep doing what we are doing and hope it works.

    #2. I think this is the most realistic of all your propositions. I can think of a handful of some major church-music influences. They have done some good you can argue, but for the most part they have stolen the personality of the individual congregation worship, and traded it for the bottom line. But this, i see, is a result of our denominational structure.

    #3. hymns are also guilty of the latter. It is a Catholic or worldwide heritage you speak of – the book of published church songs we can all share. See #2.

    #4. i just laugh when i think of where you are coming from on this. At first i totally agree, and then i realize that we are looking at worship all wrong… spiritually the church body is the “choir” – who doesn’t always sing with our voices, and we put too much emphasis on the “leader” anyway – whether it be a shot-nosed punk youth who can play 4 chords on a guitar, or a retired accomplished musician with 4 masters degrees. What gifts are needed? Heart.

  15. Steve, thanks for responding, and so graciously. I concur that “idealistic” is not the most terrible label to be stuck with 🙂

    You asked me:

    If it sounds very “priesthood-of-all-believers and very body ministry”, but it’s not what you advocate, then what would “priesthood-of-all-believers” and “body ministry” look like to you?

    Here’s the thing. Some of the things that we do in church (both in the narrow sense of “church meetings” and in the broader life of the church) are fundamentally things that anyone can do: singing is an obvious and topical example, hence congregational singing in which everyone takes part. (Let me tangentially add here that I’m not wild about the growing tendency towards lengthy instrumental passages in worship music for this reason: they replace participation with performance.) By contrast, teaching is something that only one person can do at once, and everyone else has to listen. Most of the time I don’t want to sit and listen to someone who’s not a good teacher: I need the fresh insights that an experienced, gifted and anointed teacher can bring, not the passing thoughts of someone who happens to fancy getting up on their hind legs that week.

    This may sound terribly elistist — sorry if it does. It comes from many years spent in charismatic churches where participation was very much encouraged, and where the result was too often a sequence of insubstantial or sometimes downright heterodox contributions. Yes, we should all sing; we should all read from the bible; we should all care for each other. But some ministries just don’t fit into that model, and I would argue that teaching is one of them.

    In summary, I don’t think that the priesthood of all believers entails neglecting the special gifts and training of called individuals in favour of a free-for all. (I’m sure you don’t, either, so I’m sorry if this comes off as criticising a straw-man parody of what you’re actually advocating.)

  16. Thankyou for a very needed discusion on worship leaders. Seems like I have bin through most of the different expressions above and ended up in a surprising place. The deepest place of worship for me has become the liturgy in the Catholic and Orthodox Church. It took me way beyond anything I could have understood before.
    Used to think everything was corupted around the time of Constantine [couldnt help but notice your comment] which fit nicely into the world view I learned at bible school along with the rest of my limmited evangelical understanding of church history.
    Try reading “Four Witnesses-the Early Church In Her Own Words.” by former fundi Rod Bennet. [atleast read the reviews on amazon ;}] or “Faith of Our Fathers”.
    take care and thanks
    oscar
    The early church wasnt as free wheeling as I once thought. Its ok to desire that but is little foundation to base this desire on “the way” of the first generation or two of the early church.

  17. Mike, thanks for your reply. I do think that there’s a bit of a straw man in your representation of my views, but I’m not offended.

    I need the fresh insights that an experienced, gifted and anointed teacher can bring, not the passing thoughts of someone who happens to fancy getting up on their hind legs that week.

    What I have advocated has nothing to do with “someone who happens to fancy” doing anything. It has everything to do with each member learning (being taught) to let the Spirit guide their contribution.

    And it has everything to do with those gifted to “equip the saints” doing just that, so that the body is maturing.

    If we really and consistently pursued, taught, and modeled maturity in the body of Christ (not just conversion, not just attendance, not just serving the institution itself), the straw men would blow away on their own. 🙂

  18. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    Thoughts about iMonk’s questions:

    1. I’m not sure the problem is just that we have too much music at church or just that we have too much music as a whole, though I agree (and Paul Hindemith wrote a very cranky chapter about this fifty years ago in A Composer’s World so this isn’t a new development). It also seems like we let other people make music for us, which gets straight to question 2, doesn’t it?

    2. and 3. seem related to me a the level of a vast increase in the musical styles we can know about with a paradoxically simultaneous decline in the average musical literacy that includes knowledge of production. I guess that’s an awkward way of saying lots of people can pick up a guitar and play a song they heard on Christian radio but knowing how to write it down so that a congregation can learn to sing it seems to be rarer and rarer. It seems the gap between what the hired musicians can do and the laity can do is closing as less trained musicians become music leaders.

    Half of that seems good in that a musical style will likely be a better fit in a lot of cases but half of it, for some reason, seems bad because it makes music wars worse when people don’t understand how most of the styles people are willing to fight about aren’t nearly as different as people think once you break down the chords, rhythmic phrases, and structural similarities.

    For 4. I don’t know why a trained music minister can’t do both the choir thing and the guitar thing. This seems like a broader problem of the nature of American music education. Some styles are held as being styles that can’t be taught and must be “felt” while other styles tend to be perceived as being teachable without consideration for that nebulous “feeling” thing.

    Schools by and large don’t teach music that much and in public schools people who study tend to be “band nerds”. I feel a bit mixed about this because it seems like there’s the Scylla and Charybdis of having technical and practical knowledge of musical styles churches use less and less often on the one hand and having a more “with it” musical language but having no capacity to make practical musical concessions to congregational singing on the other hand.

  19. Your public school is usually one of the few places with a choir program. Even here in the hills of Eastern Ky.

  20. Dan Philpott says:

    Thanks for the discussion. Specifically the parts of leader led, or congregational led. Our church is struggling with this from a couple of positions. While the early church did not have a desiginated leader per se, they had structure, but it had to be a structure that was relevant. Jeruselm was a bit different than say Antioch. As the early church spread it became more diverse, what worked in one area, didn’t in another. It was not one bad, the other good, it was what was meaningful to that group. It perhaps changed overtime as well. Music is much the same, “Praise & Worship” might work well at church A and not at church B. Perhaps then the discussion should be is the church by growing larger (megachurch) overlooking segments that need to connect with God? Instead of catering to a broad spectrum, maybe customize smaller congregations to specific segments. Not sure where it all leads, but has to be Christ/Spirit led.

  21. IMonk,

    You were spot on with every one of the questions you posed, and am in agreement with what Steve says.

    The biggest issue I can sum up is the lack of participatory worship, and I see this in both conservative and contemporary churches.

    Accusations of using entertainment are often leveled against “circus” churches, but conservative churches often feature virtuoso classic artists performing to the audience’s thunderous applause. Who is to say that doesn’t amount to entertainment.

    In the last two churches I attended sang songs composed by their own people, and often many did not know the lyrics and they were hard songs to sing for amateurs. I often wondered if I was at a concert. Then a lecture from the pastor followed the concert. Again, I found myself sitting on my butt. No participation.

    I am not musically inclined, but that does not mean the church should relegate the musically challenged to second class status. Participation should be for everyone.

  22. I love the phrase ‘Idol of Excellence’

    Will preach on that in the near future – you gave me my sermon title!

  23. Patrice says:

    Our PCUSA church is beginning a search for a Minister of Music (part-time) position.

    What would be appropriate and insightful questions to ask in an interview? We are a traditional Presbyterian church, and would like to incorporate more integrated music into our worship experience.

  24. Earl cooley says:

    There is a need of more conversation concerning the song in the church today. Most songs have at least one phrase of leaven.
    Example: “I will never know what it cost to see Jesus on the cross”.
    God is able to teach us all things, this phrase leaves one with the thought that God is not able to teach or I am not capable of learning, how sad. I respond to those that sing this with this scripture: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
    One day when we see our Savior & LORD face to face we will know Him like he knows me. There is nothing about me He does not know.

    Thanks for the space to share true worship
    Earl

  25. I THINK YOUR MUSIC IS AMAZING TO . I THINK YOU ARE A WONDERFUL PERSON , I HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS,GOD BLESS YOU,ERICA