Church, Manchester, Faith, Punk

A response

I have a buddy.  He is one of those good buddies from way back that you don’t see as much as you like even though they live closer than you’d care to admit. He is a worship leader, a blogger and he is currently attending a month long training program for worship leaders in California (tough break). I know very little about this training school or the church running it but they must be amazing because he is an excellent worship leader already.

Anyhoo, he replied to my last blog. Read the post and his reply.

I thought I would respond to him.

Well, to start with he is obviously correct. I want to see all the things Jon wants to see in worship. I want healings, salvation, the broken fixed, and the disturbed to find peace. Would I be happy for that to take the focus away from the musicians? Even if the musicians were ground breaking mini-Mozarts? Of course.

However, (there is always a freakin however. why CAN’T WE JUST GET ALONG!!!) I want both. I want music that is innovative, passionate, original, and incredibly creative because that is what God is. God is the ultimate creator and we were made in his image.

As a Christian who attends Church I have had to learn to turn off my musical taste when I worship.  I tune into the words of a song, I tune into the bible and I tune into Jesus. I choose to worship. I cannot count the vast Christian conferences I have been to that have incredible talent at their disposal and yet the same blandness gets served up every time.

Am I missing the point? Worship isn’t anout the music, right? In that case lets sack off the music. If the music is not important then lets just use our voices.


14 responses

  1. Woah horsey!

    “Am I missing the point? Worship isn’t anout the music, right? In that case lets sack off the music. If the music is not important then lets just use our voices.” – a course ending to a good post me thinks.

    Your ‘friend’s comments were very good – but you make a good point too. There IS something about music that strikes up something in us that causes us to sing, shout, cry out, sob, whisper (As the Psalmists remind us repeatedly in their patterns for communes with God), something about beat and melody that captures us up in something supernaturally creative – regardless of whether words are present or not – but this unction in us is to see Him more glorified and exalted – and as a result see the Kingdom come..

    To be brief i guess i want to say three things:

    1. Your desire for ‘tasteful’ music comes from a connection in you with the creative creator Spirit of God that is to be used for worshipping Him in the private and corporate and a tool for seeing him glorified in situations outside of the corporate sung worship time – i agree with you that this important.

    2. Your desire for God to to bring “healings, salvation, the broken fixed, and the disturbed to find peace” in times of corporate worship is a Godly one and one both your ‘friend’ and I share – this is a Godly desire.

    3. It seems to me like you’re not one side or the other – you want both. Because:
    a. You have faith for Gods kingdom to break in during our times of corporate worship
    b. You have faith for Christians to impact culture in a way that see’s it redeemed for the glory of God – not conformed to the 90’s soft rock christian standard, but redeemed / transformed into a God honouring, Christ exalting, Spirit filled culture of worshippers using all their creativity to worship Him.

    Slap me if i’m wrong.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:38 am

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  3. You are correct on all the points.

    The last sentence was kinda sarcastic.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:50 am

  4. David


    June 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

  5. Paul Norris

    This is a great conversation and I am sure that this discussion on how we do “corporate sung worship” (worship is more than just what we do when we meet and sing together, right?) is taking place in many more place than just here (and if it isn’t it should be). It is a subject that I am wrestling with constantly. I will continue to read with interest.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

  6. thelivingroomjb

    I love you Tim, (in a pleutonic, arf arf, manly kind of way). I totally agree with your response. I’m wondering whether we just need a lot more avenues opened up to express our creativity which includes musical styles. It’s not all about the Sunday service anyway. I think maybe the Sunday thing ends up being a bit ‘middle of the road’ sometimes because we can’t cater for everyone.
    And so I think we need to look at worship in different contexts outside of the Sunday service, or another Sunday service at a different time. Let’s not be boxed in by the Western Christian culture that we’ve become so used to. Let’s think for ourselves and do something about it!

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand breathe!

    June 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm

  7. thelivingroomjb

    Oh yeah, just for your information, you mentioned a while back about the Jesus Culture album which you said was the least offensive album you’d listened to for a while, (or words to that effect!). This is where I am attending the worship school, at Bethel Church, Redding, CA. Jesus Culture is the youth movement in the church. I fact, they recently released an EP and it was number 10 in the overall iTunes New Releases. No marketing strategy or record company behind them etc. Amazing.

    June 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm

  8. Hallo. Interesting discussion. Having been alive during the 60s, when pop music was settling down into 4/4 rock & roll (plus occasional reggae) and when punk, new wave, romantic, jungle, garage, drum ‘n’ bass and the style that has stolen the epithet RnB were all a distant future, the church was undergoing the kind of radical music shake-up you seem to be suggesting. Not only did we dispense with the organ, the organist, and the organist’s wife, we also ditched the hymn books and with anything older than ten years. I can say we, because it was happening in my lifetime. I joined in during 1972, and the radical difference between ‘established church’ (6.30-7.30pm) and the ‘chorus culture’ (7.45-9.15pm) was widely dismissed by ‘grown-ups’ as ‘rebellious youthfulness’ – mainly on account of the emotional/responsive nature of the lyrics (as opposed to hymnody, which was seen as being scripture or theological discourse set to music). At the same time, ditching traditional formats of verse/chorus x7, and traditional iambic pentameter, for example, meant the ‘new’ was often considered, with some justification, ‘less worthy’.
    But the Jesus generation of the 60s & early 70s grew up, went to Downs/Dales Bible Week and somehow the bland c&w worship style was king.
    Now the 2nd generation is breaking out, and we have a similar shake-up on account of the likes of Jesus Culture and new songwriters who are once again expressing reaction, rather than stating theology. I have to grind my ancient teeth when we sing ‘there’s only one word that comes to mind, only one word to describe… holy holy, holy God’, which is about as inaccurate as it’s possible to be. Lots of words come to mind when I consider God. If I knew my Bible better, there would be even more. And I don’t buy the theory that the word Holy contains concepts such as longsuffering, eternal, jealous, fearsome, gentle, just, all-knowing, father… etc.
    And yet the Jesus Culture style of music seems to press the buttons of the student generation, and I can’t sit here and expect a reconstruction of Wesleyan hymnody to be something that is going to happen. Let alone Zinzendorf. However, I remain committed to quality theology expressed in memorable tunes. That’s what keeps me worshipping in private. If in public settings I have to settle for something more commercial, then I suppose that’s okay, as long as the preaching doesn’t drift as well.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm

  9. Andy Back knocks the ball out of the park!! Amazing comment. Will respond.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm

  10. Luke Morris

    Oooh Mr Back, good answer. I’ve felt similarly for a while now (although no doubt a shorter period of time than you seeing as though I’m still – just – in my 20s).

    It’s all very well having really really really ridiculously great skillful and wonderful sounding music for worship but if that amazing band are grooving along to words along the lines of “we’re dancing, we’re dancing, we’re dancing, YEAH we’re dancing!” then it’s missing the point for me.

    Call me old fashioned but I love my worship songs to be focussed on Jesus and have some good theological clout (even just a little) rather than being focussed on what I’m doing or being a bit worship-lite.

    However surely there’s room for both great musical ability and great songwriting ability.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm

  11. While we are at it, I have another comment. It seems there has been a subtle, but unwelcome shift in the way songwriters are so very keen to instruct the congregation in posture for worship (‘we’re raising our hands’ or ‘we’re dancing like whirling dervishes now’). Is it me or are we almost encouraged to expect God to be quite impressed?
    There are not a lot of scriptures where the worshipper’s emphasis is upon himself, but there are quite a lot of songs where this seems to be at the focus. Perhaps the market leader (but a great song, written by a man with a good heart) is the ubiquitous ‘Here I am to worship’. While there’s plenty of theology in the lyric, the Godwardness is diluted by several references to the worshipper… compare this with ‘Here I am, wholly available’ which not only reflects Isaiah’s humble sacrifice, but contains a great pun as well. Compare it with ‘Once again I look upon the cross where you died…’ you see, it’s not the reference to ‘me’, but the where the focus of the song lands, and with this one, it lands on Jesus, which is, to my mind, best. Compare it with (if I may quote from before the 1970s for a moment) ‘I cannot tell, why he whom angels worship…’ or even Rosetti ’s carol In the Bleak Midwinter (yes, I know there are climate issues with the wintry scene it sets) where in the last verse we sing ‘What can I give him, poor as I am?’ Compare it with (O glorious hymnody of the mid 19th century!) ‘My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness’. Do you see? It’s not that the songwriter refers to ‘I’ or ‘my’, but that the glory is all for Jesus.
    I have to ask about the recent tendency towards ‘Lord you are worthy of all my praise’, (yes, even the much-respect David Ruis has slipped up here) which isn’t far from the biblical phrase ‘Lord, you are worthy of all praise’, but makes it clear that the Lord is even better than I am (which is apparently reckoned – falsely, and unbiblically – to be quite remarkably impressive), so he’s worthy of all MY praise. Is this a subtlety we should overlook? Perhaps it is, but perhaps it’s at our peril.
    Please don’t run away with the idea that since ‘Happy Song’ I have abandoned respect for modern worship-songwriting; that would not be the case. But a few more songs which are like the output of Stuart Townend/Keith Getty (yes, a touch MoR for some, I concede), Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton, Phatfish, Brooke Fraser (breathtakingly melodic and heartfelt, but without falling into the error upon which I rant), Larry Norman, Dave Fellingham, Charles Wesley, Count Zinzendorf himself (hilariously bowdlerised by Wesley) and King David, to rampage wildly through many centuries.

    July 1, 2010 at 7:26 am

  12. sam evans

    Andy, you categorically cannot mention phatfish and wesley in the same breath! That’s all i can say on that without invoking the Lord’s wrath!
    I agree, the issue is wishy washy words that have weak theology and felt needs behind them. No matter what your taste in music i defy any christian to not be stirred up by hymns like ‘in christ alone’ etc. It’s truth. That’s the key to worship. Those hymns stir faith because of the truth in them, surely a key to the healings longed for.
    Again i’d agree focus on christ is essential. In life, day to day, if we focus on ourselves and not christ it goes badly for us very quickly, should worship not be the same?
    Could we not have DnB or rave worship times where powerful truth is spoken over and we respond individually and corporately? Do we necessarily have to sing together every time we meet? Could churches have several services of different styles of worship? Problem is these services tend to fall on their faces in the pre-domimantly family orientated churches in the uk.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

  13. Luke Morris

    My “favourite” is probably in “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever” which has a soft lilt and a slow beat and then offers up the lyrics “and we’ll dance with joy like we’re dancing now….” Which usually sets a few folk off on a slow, uneasy sway because they’re aware they’re singing and doing two different things.
    The thing is, the song isn’t at the right tempo to dance to. Unless maybe we start to play the song with a reggae rhythm.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

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