Trends in Church Music Part 2, Towards a Solution

Last week’s 700-word column Patience Testing Trends in Church Music, generated 4,500 words of response from scores of readers. Wow! You wrote me from all across Canada and the USA and the Caribbean. Although some notes shed light, suggesting solutions, there was also plenty of emotional heat:

Pro: “I couldn’t agree more!” E., “You have hit the nail on the head! 100%”D.

Con: “I couldn’t disagree more!” S., “Wow, you missed the boat on this one!”K

Confirming the Problem

“I rarely sing in church but just wait for it be over.” W.

“I long for the “worship” singing to mercifully finish the repetition of human thought, aspiration,s and self focus.

“When my mind goes numb with repetition, I sometimes open my Bible and read a couple of Psalms silently until the music is finally over.” R.

“On the way to church my husband noticed he had forgotten his earplugs. When he bought some new ones at the drugstore the clerk asked if he needed them for a plane flight. ‘No,’ he told her, ‘They’re for church.’” She thought that was pretty funny.” E.

“Our church has a large lobby with chairs and TV monitors for folk to sit and wait to go after the “music” is finished.” E.

“When the worship service start only 10% of the congregation is there. The rest trickle in much later. So who is really enjoying this music?” O.

Ethnic churches in North America, and those in the Caribbean do not seem to have this problem.

There is also human diversity. One reader who loves the music in her church read my column to a church friend who totally agreed with me and often comes late to that same church in order to miss the music. Go figure!

Towards a Solution

Some churches have policies and systems that check the content of every new song for biblical soundness, and regulate how many new songs are presented to the congregation each month. No one argued against the lyrics/words of worship songs needing to be biblically sound.

“The lyrics we sing ought to be as biblical as the prayers we pray and the words we preach.” A.

No doubt excellent new worship songs exist. Some of you even included links to your favorite albums.

“There are many amazing contemporary worship songs out there that really draw my heart into love and worship of my Saviour.” K.

The Worship Leader is the Key

The Key Element

A pastor for youth and young adults who is also a musician and worship leader and has two advanced degrees in theology focused on a key issue:

“I don’t think the new music is the problem. Although I have a high appreciation for traditional music, I appreciate music with a beat and an electric guitar. Worship needs to be a whole church experience, engaging the entire congregation. Some worship leaders obviously miss this. They are like unskilled workmen with high quality tools, but who produce inferior products.” T.

Other respondents also wrote about the worship leader being the key to bringing the whole congregation along to worship together.

“Each worship lead singer in our church does their own interpretation of how the music should be sung. The variations in timing leave most of the rest of us behind.” E.

“A worship pastor whose heart’s desire is to see the congregation worship God in song can impact praise singing in a very positive way. Unless praise and worship singing is actually doing what it says in those words, God is not glorified and people are left empty.” S.

“During our weekly ladies prayer meetings we pray specifically for the preparation of those on the worship teams.  But what to do about the unsingable tunes, the mind-numbing (soul-numbing?) repetition, the lack of meaningful content?  When the worship team leader is present, she is excellent. I have printed out your first e-mail and plan to have lunch with our worship team leader soon and encourage her. When she is absent and someone else has full responsibility for the music there is often a disconnect between the leader and the congregation in “worship” music.” L.

A professional contemporary musician confessed to being infuriated by the ad nauseum repetition. After singing the song at least ten times she started paying attention to the words. Fortunately they were biblically sound words.

“As I thought of them it dawned on me that my heart wasn’t worshiping, it was getting angrier and angrier at singing the song so many times! Although there is a limit, I now look at the “endless repetition” a little differently. Nevertheless, there is a great need for reformation in how we use music in our corporate worship services.” J.

The Two-Fold Solution

The solution to fully engage the whole congregation in worship singing is not to simply revert to the old hymns. Their archaic and obsolete language tends to turn modern worshippers off. The key is to have solid biblical truth in the lyrics and a skilled worship leader who focuses on bringing the entire congregation along in worship. Such leaders are hard to find. As one reader wrote,

“I can think of only one worship leader that consistently helped me prepare my heart for true worship. Boy, do I miss her.” D.

3 thoughts on “Trends in Church Music Part 2, Towards a Solution

  1. Jack, I appreciate your insights on this issue, although I do not regularly experience your frustration (or those of many of your readers) in worship. The worship (singing) time in our church service is a very spiritually uplifting time for me personally. But I do see many who are not engaged in true worship, rather simply singing along or standing there seemingly as spectators.

    I agree with your two-fold solution, although I would add that a worship leader needs not only to be skilled, but also to HAVE a true heart of worship before they can lead the congregation into true worship of our God. They cannot lead people to where they themselves are not.

  2. Very good point, the worship leader must also be a worshiper before he can lead others in worship. I should have stated that more explicitly. Thanks for bringing out that truth.

  3. I agree with most of the last comments under solutions. However, I did not see any reference to the real problem in worship; i.e. the worshipers. If a person does not have a worship heart and never interacts with God one-on-one in their daily life (and I am not just referring to “devotional times”), they just do not worship in church. Everyone talks about worship as if the leader can get good fruit out of bad trees. We only deal with what we have before us. The worship service is just a reflection of people’s hearts.
    I recently preached in a country church that, frankly, did almost everything technically wrong in worship. The music was not very good, the songs were not the best to start with and the leader violated most principles of effective worship. However, he and his congregation “sang from the heart.” There were genuine tears of gratitude and humility. The presence of God was there! What was the difference? Their hearts were in it. There were not any cold, rational, critical spirits. They were not concerned with the “finer points” of whether the leader and musicians did this or that. They just worshiped God. As a result I mistakenly preached far longer than usual, but I could feel God working in that room. Everyone who critiques worship may want to examine their own hearts and minds that they “bring to the table.” Also, the trend in spectator worship, while I could sight technical causes such as tempos, rhythms, keys, etc., is more likely a bi-product of recent trends in discipleship. Many of us have not learned to be worshipers. Therefore, we just observe. By the way, criticism (and anger at not getting the “experience” one wants from the service is just another form of spectating. The guys in the stands think they can make a touchdown every time.

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