pecaspers: a Blog in transition

November 10, 2012

Prospective Pastor Questionnaire – Part 7

7. With what worship style are you most comfortable? If that is not the working style employed by the church, would you expect to lead the church to develop that style?

Allow me a detour before I get to the answer to your question. I know that when you say “worship style” what you really mean is the style of the music in the worship service. However, one thing I would be careful to lead the church to develop is an understanding that worship is more than music. All of life ought to be worship (see Deuteronomy 6:5, Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 10:31, 1 Peter 4:7-11, and many more). We as Christians have done damage to the truth of what it means to really worship God by allowing this word to become a synonym for church music. There is nothing wrong with talking about “worship music,” but we muddy the waters when we use the word worship to mean nothing more than music. We make it all the worse when we use the term to mean a specific style of music as though any other style wasn’t worshipful. For instance, if you say that your church service begins with “worship” followed by taking the offering and then preaching, what does that say about the value of giving and hearing the word of God preached? Is generous giving to the work of the church, for the aid of God’s people, and for the spread of the gospel NOT an act of worship? Are the preacher preaching and the congregation hearing the word NOT worshiping by doing so? No! We sing in worship, we give in worship, we hear the preached word in worship, and we ought to also work at our jobs, play at our sports, mow our grass, eat our food, and do all we do in worship to the one true and living God.

However, I know what you mean. And use of the word worship to mean music is a pretty common error. It’s not like I jump down someone’s throat every time I hear them do it. The point of these questions and answers is for you to know my heart a little better. I figured it might be helpful to get this pet-peeve of mine on the table. Now, to the substance of your question.

I am most comfortable with whatever style of music is most appropriate to the setting of the worship service and can be performed live well. Not terribly helpful, is it? Let me explain.

It makes me uncomfortable to have a two electric guitars, an amplified bass, a keyboard, and a full drum-set rocking out in a small, country church full of stereotypical country church folks who don’t like loud music. At the same time, it makes me uncomfortable to be in a large church with plenty of competent musicians and hear an old Sandi Patti song sung off-key accompanied by a background track on a cassette tape.

Now, I like a band with one or more vocalists for leading the singing as long as they are good and the room will support them. If they are falling off the stage or making the walls shake, then that’s distracting and keeps me from fully worshiping. If they keep hitting wrong notes and can’t hold a tempo, then that’s distracting and keeps me from fully worshiping. However, if they have a strong, well-rehearsed sound, then dim the lights if you like–or don’t, either way–and let’s raise our hands–or not, to each his own–and let’s get our corporate worship on.

At the same time, I like one vocalist accompanied by a single piano. In a small space without amplification, or a larger one with one or both of them mic-ed, that’s a great way to go. Simple, focused, and it’s easy to find that melody for those who don’t read music. If the pianist can handle playing the harmony, then that’s even better. The church I grew up in had a one pianist playing the song as written and another pianist playing chords and ad libbing, and that’s a great sound. I’m also a big fan of a piano and an organ together. All this, is assuming you’ve got someone who can sing well enough to lead and someone who can play well enough to accompany.

My current church is struggling because our three capable pianists’ hands are all getting stiff and painful with age. We’ve had to switch to using mostly tracks rather than a live accompanist, which I think takes something away from the experience. Still, what else are we to do? Sometimes you just make do until God brings to you someone who can fill the need, I guess. Canned music should be a last resort, in my humble opinion, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

I would have to say that if it were all about me, then I’d prefer to have a man who sings baritone leading the vocals backed by a choir of 55% men and 45% women accompanied by a twenty-piece orchestra including brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, piano, and pipe organ with the ability to add an acoustic guitar or two, an electric guitar or two, a keyboard, and a bass when wanted for just the right feel. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Worship music isn’t about me. It shouldn’t be about mere personal preference. If it’s all about me and my preferences, then it’s self-centered idolatry instead of Spirit-and-truth-filled, God-focused worship.

So, would I expect to lead the church to develop a small orchestra, choir, dueling pianos, or a band? Only if there are bunch of talented musicians in the church who want to start an orchestra, etc. There are really only a few things I would expect to implement when it comes to the music of the church. First, we would sing songs that honor God and are biblical. Some people are amazed to find out that many songs sung in many churches are in-fact man-centered and/or full of bad theology if not out right heresy. Second, we would sing songs we can sing. There are some amazing songs full of wonderful truths that just don’t work for congregational singing. Those can be for other parts of the service or other settings, but we shouldn’t knowingly deprive John Pewsitter of the experience of joining in the singing when he hasn’t got a prayer of singing the songs. Thirdly, anything that meets those first two expectations would be fair game.

Bear with me for a bit on this last point. I’m amazed by elder church members who reject all music that is younger than they are. It makes me sad for them and for the whole congregation who is missing out on the wonderfully rich new “hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) that are being written right now. I’m equally amazed at the mindless way many of my own generation and younger want to exclusively sing new songs. “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Just as I Am,” these are songs that have stood the test of time and are good for our people to sing and know. I’m not even fully comfortable with the attempt to re-vamp old hymns to give them a contemporary feel, but I do think this has it’s place and is something that people have been doing throughout church history.

I have observed that previous generations are more likely to miss out in this regard. At our association’s annual meeting a few weeks ago, you could tell by the marked difference in volume level that the songs popularized in the last ten years were unfamiliar to many of the messengers. The average age in the room was probably somewhere in the fifties–sixties if you only counted lay people. We are an association made up predominantly of small churches in rural communities and small towns. No one is teaching most of these senior saints the current hymns of men and women like Keith and Kristen Getty, to say nothing of praise songs of Chris Tomlin and the like. I have not experienced the same phenomenon at youth events. At StudentLife Camp this year, our band for the week was Rush of Fools. One night they said we were having a hoedown and proceeded to play bluegrass style versions of “I’ll Fly Away,” “I Saw the Light,” “Victory in Jesus,” and more. Maybe it was because there were words on the screen, but the 1,500 or so young people were all singing along just fine. “Victory in Jesus” may have even been up a notch compared to the newer songs sung at other times. Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Bill Gaither, Charlie Hall, Laura Story, Aaron Keyes, they all can help us as we approach the throne of God with an offering of songs of worship.

That said, if your church doesn’t currently sing any songs written after 1981, then we would introduce this very slowly and carefully; likewise if you presently sing only songs written since the turn of the millennium. I have no desire to ignite a so-called “worship war.” That falls far short of maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3).

Advertisements

Blog at WordPress.com.