Thoughts About Church (3)

In my on-going observations of church, music is something you can hardly ignore. I grew up in a conservative church where drums and guitars were not accepted. The occasional acoustic guitar might be OK, but don’t even think of plugging it in (if you must, hide the amp behind the poinsettas). Hymns were the staple of our service, and the youth group would sing some risky praise choruses.

Not surprisingly, I found the music dead. It bored me to tears.

Now that church I grew up in, and a lot of other churches are expanding to a more contemporary music. They’re using plugged in guitars and (gasp) drums, as well as a host of other instruments. They’re replacing the sole song leader with a worship team, and picking music from the new crop of worship songs that’s sprung up.

Often it’s an attempt to be more seeker-sensitive, to offer music people off the street will actually like. In some ways it’s successful, though I’ve often noticed it’s the older generations that are drawn to the contemporary music. Older folks (meaning people older than me) seem happy to leave the organ behind and sing something new. But I don’t think having contemporary music in and of itself really does it. While I’m certainly happy to have guitars and sing something besides “How Great Thou Art,” I find that totally modern worship is just as dull and repetitive as solid old-school hymns.

Not to offer my church as the grand, holy example, but I really like the music at my church. It’s this eclectic blend of all types of music from all ages. We’ll sing a brand new song originally performed by the Newsboys, then we’ll sing a hymn from the 19th Century, and then we’ll sing an ancient chorus that’s doesn’t have a documented history. We have a full band that backs the music, but the arrangements vary as greatly as the song selection.

Personally, I find satisfaction in this broad mix of past and current music. In some ways it offers something for everyone, but more importantly for me it offers variety.

What I think is most interesting about music is that many churches get the idea that all they need to do to reach the younger generation is change their music. If their music is up to the times, they’ll reach younger people. I don’t think that’s true at all. In fact, I think it will actually reach older people. But I think the younger generation, from twenty-somethings on down, isn’t interested in modern music alone, but more in a diverse tapestry of music. Having a modern worship band is nothing, because the church can’t compare to the Dave Matthews Band. But tap into the church’s inherent history, and now you’ve got something. I heard the latest Passion CD follows this trend, using solely ancient songs.

What will really validate my poorly backed theory is if in 20 or 30 years a number of churches with contemporary music are stocked with aging boomers but nobody younger. They’ll be dying out just like the hymn and organ churches are today.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts About Church (3)”

  1. I’ve observed the same patterns you’ve seen elsewhere. It’s usually the people between 30 and 45 years in age that think that modernizing the entire service will bring in the young people, and the young people conversely say that they like variety. I was just talking about this with someone else last week. It’s interesting to see the exact same thing confirmed independently.

    It’s important to not forget that it doesn’t matter how much the congregation loves/hates the worship. The people who are judging the worship based on how much they like it or how much it ministers to them simply aren’t doing anyone any good because they’re not worshipping. You can’t judge the music and worship at the same time. We’re there worshipping for God’s sake, not for our own.

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