One could imagine the shock of terror on the rigid man’s face as the music began to play. Were people actually taking a part in this? Were people singing psalms over the popular bar melodies that had become so popular within the culture? This wasn’t the convoluted orchestral music that the man in the congregation was used to. This was blasphemous! Bar music and church music should not mix, and it was equally nonsensical for the people of the audience to join along. What has the world come to?
I am currently enrolled in a church history class at Central Bible College. This past section we went over the life of Martin Luther. It was both informational and inspirational. One thing that I never considered before was the way in which Luther changed congregational worship. The professor, Dr. Crabtree, vividly illustrated the emotion behind this idea. Before, the congregation merely listened, not participating in congregational worship (i.e. singing along with the music), but the service was directed towards the Lord’s Supper. When the Reformation happened, Luther took many of the popular secular bar songs of his time and put Christian words to them. Singing and participating in worship has since been an integral part in many evangelical church services.
But has the “American Church” gone off the deep end lately? Many have thought so and have dubbed a new genre of worship in the American Church that has been whispered across the pews… no, not pews… this church is too relevant for pews! This genre is unofficially known as, “Performance-driven Worship.”
But isn’t every “worship service” a performance? Once music is added into the mix, the shindig is on! I find it appealing that some people pick and choose what they consider a performance. I find it even MORE appealing when churches mask their approach to their performance, wanting it to seem as though they aren’t performing at all! Let me be frank: a lonely woman tickling the ivories and wailing “Days of Elijah” can have just as much of a performance factor as an immaculate, well-practiced worship team with strobe lights and fog machines.
The big question here really is: “Who are we performing for?”
I think one of the problems here coattails along with my previous blog – that people are trying to integrate personal and corporate worship. If worship is to be a performance towards God, then it is in the hands of the worship leader to make sure that God receives the most glorious and richest performance ever! This means that the music genre will have to be culturally specific – meaning that there will be churches with an organ, and there will be churches with a fog machine. This also means that the person leading worship picks songs that glorify God and are conducive to a corporate worship setting. But this problem isn’t the only one.
I think another problem is that people are confusing “performance-driven” with “self-gratifying.” The point of a “worship performance” is to point the people to God not point people to oneself. I’m sure that people can stand in awe of both God and in awe of the guitarist’s mad, face-melting solo, but just make sure the point is not lost. Remember that this is a weighty balance. Some ego’s can handle it and some can’t (from an on-stage perspective). If leaders don’t have patience and understanding about these issues, I don’t know if this balance can ever be resolved.
Maybe you need to reflect on a time when you weren’t gracious with the worship at a church you attended. Give the key-tickling, 90’s-song-wailing, sister in Christ a chance! And don’t assume that the fog machine is there to replace the “Holy Ghost.” Learn to live with one another. And remember that EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION ABOUT WORSHIP MUSIC!
This is just my opinion.