Thursday, September 17, 2015

What if our Worship Music was as Multifaceted as the God we Worship? (Part 3)

One of my pet peeves as a Christian and as a pastor is that even though we serve and love and worship and trust a God Who is interesting, inventive, and unique, our worship music could hardly ever be described with those same adjectives.

There are three main areas that I find especially saddening given the God we worship. First, we looked at The Lack of Variety in Themes and Subjects. Last post we talked about The Dearth of Poetic Genres in Christian Worship Music. This time we will cover the absence of diversity of musical styles in Christian worship. 

What is the number one joke (that's funny only 'cause it's true) people tell about Christian worship music? It's actually the same as the number one reason I've heard people give for not enjoying listening to Christian music. 

...  "It all sounds the same."

True that. Ok, fine, to be fair there are some exceptions...there are...right? 

Average answer: "uh...there's...uh...yeah, well, just 'cause I can't think of any right now, doesn't mean they don't exist." True. but the fact that many people would face such a difficulty illustrates the problem. 

I know that Chris Tomlin and Hillsong do sound different, but they do in the same way that I thought Justin Bieber was Taylor Swift singing the first time I heard him on the radio. See, just like Bieber and Swift are both essentially pop music, Tomlin and Stanfill are both CCM. They may have some slight differences, but they both belong to the same musical style. 

If we are honest for the most part on Sunday mornings, in many if not most churches in the U.S., we only worship God from within one musical style. Ok, for some the one musical style is "Hymns" while for others it is "CCM," and perhaps for others it is "gospel." But the fact remains that despite the fact that we worship the God Who invented artistic expression including music, and Who radiates His multifaceted nature in the colors of love, justice, wrath, gentleness, power, patience, creativity, and sovereignty, we worship our God in the same musical style week in and week out. 

I'm not suggesting that God is bored (although if we are, perhaps He is too), more like He is being under-worshiped. You see the nature of musical styles is that they typically allow for/generate a limited set of emotive responses, and usually cohere with a limited set of subjects and poetic expressions. 

For example, one style of music is blues, one which brings up and allows for the expression of sorrow, disappointment, and loss. It is given to talking about those subjects, and lends itself to laments. Rap on the other hand allows for the expression of anger, frustration, and even pride (often as a means of pointing out difficulties faced and overcome). This takes the form of boasting, confrontation, and declaration of the way things are. The form is also given to covering a lot of content quickly and memorably. Screamo, for contrast, tends to allow for super angsty, angry, or depressed subject matter, expressed in the form of wailing or screaming, venting raw emotions. 

Yet, doesn't God deserve us to worship Him in loss, in frustration, and in raw unbridled emotions?  Doesn't He deserve to be worshiped for all that He is and does? Doesn't He deserved to be worshiped in a variety of poetic forms? Doesn't He own and deserve all the musical styles to be actively used in giving Him glory through our interacting through them with Him? That's my biggest issue. Our Multifaceted and Totally Awesome God, the Holy Trinity, is being under-worshiped.

The thing is that while we might not always think of different musical styles being that important, the truth is that the absence of different musical styles in Christian worship music may have lots of unintended consequences. It may be one of the big-picture reasons that Christian worship music lacks all kinds of subject matter and many poetic forms. And those lacks may have other connected unintended consequences. 

The lack of musical genres may be one of the reasons that people in many churches feel a deficiency in their worship experience. They need to "have the blues", they need to confront terrible realities, they need to vent their deep emotions to God, but the music styles they are being offered by their worship leaders is to some degree holding them back from engaging with God on the levels they need to. Their personal spiritual growth is being held back. 

Another possible result in the contemporary American church is an overly simplistic understanding of faith in God. In other words, maybe our music is what is reinforcing the patterns of flawed thinking that many people have about God, prayer, and faith. 

And maybe what the researches call "moralistic therapeutic deism" is not merely coming poor sermons, poor discipleship, poor parenting, and poor perspectives coming from the non-Christian world, maybe it is also coming from poor worship. 

It is my hope through this short series that Christians will feel free to worship God about all subjects, in all poetic forms, with all musical styles, so that they can grow in their relationship with God personally, and so that collectively as churches and the Church we will give God the worship He deserves.

Please engage through the comments or share this post with someone who you think would have some good input in the discussion. 

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