Sunday, November 18, 2007

Content is paramount

A story I heard on NPR this morning may help to continue our conversation about worship. The thing that jumps out at me time and time again is the idea that our contemporary worship is thinning out. What I mean is, the content of the songs themselves, the praise, the lyrics, are becoming more superficial as time progresses. That's not to say that all new worship songs lack deep meaning; but are they more generally working towards a more shallow direction? I would argue they are, at least in comparison to many of the old hymns.

I think this country's celebrity worship (pardon the pun) has had a role in this. In our pop culture, we raise bands and stars to unbelievable heights. Record deals and tours, fame and fortune. Unfortunately, I think Christian artists are following suit. Instead of being theologians first and musicians second, it comes the other way around. Everyone wants to write a worship song that will sweep the nation and be cast with mega-church projectors. My bible college was full of this.

Maybe in a sense we've neutered what worship is and should be, by allowing it to become about the popularity of the song or the band that sings it. Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, MercyMe, David Crowder.....if you're a Christian, chances are you've heard of most of those. And I'm not saying these guys are not genuine. I don't think the problem is them. It's that the church has allowed worship to be sold on the open market.

However, I realize that there is some gray area here: what may be an artistic piece to one person may be worship to another. And what may sound horrible to me on KLOV may move someone else toward a genuine relationship with God. These situations are sacred, and I believe God can work through many things.

It just seems like the contemporary worship scene is mimicking the entertainment stage. And worship is not meant to be simply entertainment. And maybe entertainment isn't meant to be worship.


Arizona Bam said...

Good way to kick off the discussion, Jake.

In my mind, new directions for worship (particularly in music) certainly are going to come more to the forefront in the near-future. The NPR piece is intriguing because it shows one form of the rub that's being experienced between the "old guard" and the "status quo." I recently watched a NY Times video titled The Worship Rock Scene. What drew me into this short documentary was how it portrays the "status quo" from a neutral, third-party perspective. And it left me feeling... weird. I mean, I have had a general discomfort about this direction of worship for a few years now, but watching that shed new light on it for me. Concert lights... stage presence... line of sight for the performers... fluffy lyrics. It just seems out of control. And you and I have both been in that spot behind the mic... and I think you and I would agree that when you're so close to the routine of it all, it's hard to see this monster for what it has become.

Yet, I don't want to get bogged down with the negative aspects. There's hope in new directions and innovation. Zack passed on this article by Brian McLaren to me a few months ago, which offers McLaren's ideas for new directions of musical worship. Beyond music, I feel pulled to other expressions of corporate worship that are other-sensory (such as visual, tactile, poetic, liturgical, etc). I haven't really landed on any specifics just yet, but this is one direction that I'm looking forward to exploring more with others who are interested.

Yard said...

On being negative - definitely agree. I know I've experienced true worship despite the setting, and others do all the time.

I love the 'other-sensory' ideas. I think that will help us act towards what we all say, which is that worship isn't entirely about music.