American Worship pt. I

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:12 PM
The modern-day church is failing. And I say this with as much optimism as I can. I once heard someone say that there are so many Christians turned off to the church, just imagine how much greater that number is among non-Christians. Worship music is among the many categories that are failing. Postmodernity is an arguable idea, but many agree that postmodernity says one thing: modernity is dead.

Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Darrel Evans, David Crowder, Jeremy Camp, Tommy Walker, and assorted organizations are the leaders of contemporary worship. Many are excited by these names, but an important question needs answering. Why have they formed their own genre? Worship music is no longer simply defined by the lyrics but now has a specific sound. This sound can be described as a step above of what is heard on contemporary Christian music stations: distortion is more noticeable, drums can dynamically press forward, and the bass can catch a groove. But with the exception of David Crowder, singers must have clean, inoffensive voices. By nature, worship music is simplistic due to the massive amount of songs many worship leaders need to learn—only Tommy Walker and Delirious have left this simplified format—to a dagree. From a musical standpoint, worship is still behind. Even the most updated worship band is still five years behind current music trends—minus San Diego-based Something Like Silas who have found a genre home with the post-emo crowd.

Sad fact: If worship leaders were not playing worship music, they would be out of a job. We are now back to the ancient argument of “Christian bands” or “Christians in a band.” What I mean by this is simple, should we be supporting mediocre music because a Christian made it. My initial answer would be no, because I hold to Madeline L’Engle’s concept that there are only two types of art: good art and bad art, and bad art is bad religion. Thus, do we really need more people badly representing the name of God? Many Christians will say they like the sound of worship music. I do not deny that, but I would further argue that their preference to this particular style of music has been socially constructed. Here is a simplified example: Eric was scolded for listening to secular music when he was in junior high. In fact, his parents made him stop listening to secular music and started making him listen to Christian music. He was forced to listen to so much Christian music that he got used to it as a genre (the recording styles, song structure, guitar effects, lyric formation), and forgot about earlier comparisons to mainstream trends that might have existed in his head. Another example: A young girl goes to church from a very young age where the only progressive songs played are “Lord, I lift your name on high” or “Shout to the Lord.” Then someone brings in new songs from Matt Redman. Redman’s music was years ahead of her normal dose of ‘80s worship. But 5-10 years ahead of her such a trend is still another 5-10 behind. These two examples prove an important point about Christian culture. First, a fear of changing with the times sets churches back several years and claims that any modern change is a sinful compromise. In looking at modern worship this way, it could be easy for any of the popular worship leaders to simply exploit the church music scene because it only has “up” to go.

This is only the music. I haven’t even started on the lyrical portion of songs, but that will be enough for today as I do not want to allow my pessimism to completely take over.

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