First as someone brought up in the church who is also a Musician, I’ve experienced about every form of worship music service one can imagine. Perhaps the only form of Worship I don’t have much experience with is higher liturgical forms like a traditional Catholic mass or conservative Lutheran service. And I’ve been around contemporary ( I hate that word) Christian Worship since the late 1970’s. When we started we were the crazy hippy church in the minority. Many of the churches I came from didn’t even allow drums in the sanctuary.
But now thats changed, it’s hard to find a church without a live band. In fact in many communities the best gig for a musician is in a Church building on Sunday morning. Some pay better than clubs, and you don’t have to put up with a drunk cousin requesting Freebird at Two AM. So it’s all good, right?
First, Worship doesn’t necessarily require a church band and Hillsong MP3 to inspire. I Cor 10:31 says “Whatever you do, wether you eat or drink, do all to the Glory of God”. If I can chew a Taco to the glory of God, I can certainly play a Coltrane tune to the Glory of God. Worship is where you find it, there are no formula’s, no one way to do it, and like medicine no method that will apply to every situation.
Second, Groups can be manipulated. I have been involved in several worship teams for several different churches from large “freer” charismatic churches to seeker churches with the service planned down to the thirty second mark. In every case there were certain songs played at certain times that would ALWAYS generate certain emotional responses. In some cases the leaders were aware of this and wether subconsciously or consciously used this formula to elicit a certain response from the congregation. The problem is and I’ll get to more about this later is when the formula becomes a crutch and instead of looking to “Sing a new song to the Lord” we become satisfied with the routine and the familiar.
Third, Be Creative. Mt 5:16 says ” Let your light so shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Throughout the OT, God constantly ask his people to bring their best to the altar, not something you throw together 10 minutes before the service. Bringing our best means as musicians we should be constantly practicing, learning new material, exploring new forms of music, and most of all bringing up the congregation to new levels of Worship.
Here’s what it doesn’t mean:
Targeting demographics: Excellent songwriters, and I mean the really good ones, the Stevie Wonders, Paul McCartney’s and Stings of the world didn’t get there by targeting a specific audience. They got there by being inspired and inspiring others with excellence, and for the most part they really didn’t care what audience showed up, they cared about where they wanted to take them (a GREAT definition of what good worship is). They didn’t mindlessly pander to the audiences taste.
Being repetitious: Great songwriters may have a similar sound in many of their songs but they aren’t afraid to try new things and they rarely repeat the same formula twice. One of the annoying things I’ve noticed in Christian worship music lately is how many songs start loud, do a verse or two and then have the band drop out for an acapella chorus. Do it once or twice it’s a creative way to bring people into worship, do it every song, it’s lazy. Letting your light shine is the opposite of settling for what you did on the last twenty songs and bringing people into worship implies your taking them some where not driving them around in the same vicious circle.
Poor Musicianship: Ex 23:19 says “The first of your first fruits of your land shall you bring into the house of the Lord”. God doesn’t demand many things, but the one thing he does demand is our best. Now obviously this is relative, not every Guitar player playing on an average worship team is the Edge or Pat Metheny. But God does expect to give our best to him, this means to show up prepared, and play your best stuff. Oh, and for the record God has nothing against a good instrumental solo. It’s interesting that the Psalms tell us to praise the Lord with a loud instrument as often as they tell us to praise the Lord with our voices.
Not learning from the past: It amazes me how many young Christian musicians I meet who have never heard a Miles Davis tune and think the Edge invented the electric guitar. Being an excellent musician and therefore someone who has a light to shine is someone who is constantly exploring the world of music. The great musicians get as much inspiration from as many sources as possible, wether it’s Mozart, Coltrane, Van Gogh or Hendrix, they were all created and given their creativity by God.
Gods call is to be excellent, creative and inspiring as Christian Musicians. Let’s embrace it.