Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Problems with Corporate Worship Music

We must consider that music is only one form of expression in praise and worship. Otherwise, worship should still be happening without music, prayer or not. However, music is tantamount to the problem of people's ideals that dictate what Church culture should feel like to them within any given community.

It Does Not Resonate With the Listener

I came across this post on Reddit:

""The problem with some Christian communities is they cloister themselves off from the world instead of being lights within it. They define Christian music as that which expresses how we 'should' feel as opposed to how we 'actually' feel. It's as if other Christians are not allowed to struggle or doubt or curse or fail. Or if they do, they must do so privately. What a travesty, and what a perversion of Christ's ministry and message. Suffering is part of the human experience, and God willfully made it part of his own experience in Christ."  

I've always felt that way. Worship music in our churches can, at times, be a very utilitarian effort in appealing to the masses. We praise with  accepted Christian truths alongside the lack of time for worship music to have adequate preparation of original work that would be more dear to the soul of the writer. However, even in that case, it may still not resonate, thus creating the same problem of "Should I identify with this?" that you would find in typical corporate worship, big or small. Can you imagine being in the cultural melting pot as a foreign immigrant and the cultural leanings of the music seem a bit out-of-touch to what you were raised with?

Don't get me wrong -- I find corporate worship on a grand scale to be effective even if hindered by its perceptibly disingenuous nature -- stand, sing the song, get your worship points in. Let's consider this a result of the church's physical design that has been regarded as thee traditional space of congregational worship for hundreds of years.

There are some songs that don't completely resonate with me as much as others will, and that's fine; some worship pastors will pick songs that match the message of the sermon, or the sermon series - they do what they can. Some songs are so meaningful to others; I have a enough of a heart to say I wouldn't want to take that feeling away from them.

We are still missing out on probably entire pews of church attendants who have all the opportunity to worship with their full heart, and yet was stunted it to its basic, uninspired level.

Commercialized Christian Music Contracepts Artistic Diversity

This is probably my most unpopular opinion, but Christian radio and CDs are controlled a bit too much by generous investors with highly conventional and/or conservative tastes.

There has been an upsurge of Christian music as an art over the last decade, but it's still in a fledgling phase of proving  profitability to such a niche market to more intuitive Christians. At this time, I see it appealing to the angst of teenagers and less to a musically-attuned generation of people.

To me, commercialized music means it must appeal to the masses, and less to God in light of bending to the will of capitalist business models.  Also consider that the current stylistic choices of western music aren't very diverse in Christian music - they're incredibly genre-specific, and at times are overly dogmatic. This all makes Christian music seem very profit-based (not entirely a bad thing, either!), doesn't it? And if we were to somehow rationalize that stylized, profit-based Christian music is a good thing, then it certainly isn't gaining attention from the secular music industry as it stands, which is a whole other set of problems entirely.

I know for a fact I don't stand alone when I say that Christian music, on the whole, isn't very enjoyable to listen to, but there are, of course, exceptions to everyone's ears. All I'm saying here is that diversity in Christian music is not valued, and music in all forms is an intellectual representation of a community or individual that creates it for resonating with the hearts and minds of the audience. We need more diversity to resonate with the heart of listeners. We need to take creative risks that incorporate a real voice into the Christian music instead of a canned one.

Christian Worship as a Social Function
Having written all this, I think the bigger problem is a lack of interest in corporate worship within smaller groups. Smaller groups meaning the individual religious functions not associated with Church, the building. We can worship in the guise of a congregation, but when confronted with smaller settings, all of a sudden, things become awkward. Couple that with a lack of intuition to write or improvise music for worship or prayer, and what you get is a repetition of familiar songs played throughout churches everywhere that generates a monotony. Yet, within these smaller worship groups there would be more leeway to advocate nontraditional styles, but we don't take advantage of it.

Worship is simply undervalued, and at times it struggles to truly glorify God's awesome power, grace, and love. Even though we intrinsically know we could never worship in a way that matches His omnipotence, we don't care to match up our callings with our cultural ideals of worship. We simply fit it into our lives when it is socially acceptable and, even then, a number of people in that setting are afraid to open up in worship. We've made worship music too much of a social function and not enough of an intimate function of expression. We don't teach enough about what it means to really worship the Almighty and its significance in our relationship with Christ.

I hope to write a follow-up piece about the solutions to some of the problems mentioned as best as I can offer them however uninformed they may be.

I'm always interested in hearing others thoughts and discussing how badly I've written things today. Drop me a comment or PM on facebook for a bit of intellectual tango. Buh-bye now!

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