Church, Manchester, Faith, Punk

worship music sucks

Further experiments in dance music

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the experiments in dance music we are attempting at CCM.

Our hope is that the music that we worship God too will be missional. We want people who don’t know Jesus to see and hear us worship and to be able to identify with what is going on. Also, I want our worship leaders and musicians to feel very free to be creative. I don’t want them to feel in the slightest bit restricted by my personal taste or by any expectation of what worship music should sound like.

I want our corporate worship to be Jesus focussed, Spirit powered and God inspired. After that I want creativity that makes God smile and that Non-Christians will be surprised by.

Anyways, Mike Bradley has finished another song. Fancy a listen? Of course you do –

Your Love Never Fails is by Jesus Culture.

Hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to post a version of Jesus saves which is probably the best song we have done so far. No pressure Mike. No pressure.


Dance Worship

So we are on a journey at CCM at the moment. The guys at CCM:City are experimenting with dance music in our worship times. We are privileged to have some very talented musicians who are passionate about worship.

I have banged on about worship music being missional for ages in the hope that a few people would join us who A) agreed and B) were talented enough to make it happen. Prays answered. Thanks boss.

Manchester has more nightclubs than people, dance music rules in this city. To not at least try and incorporate dance music into our worship would be a colossal oversight.

So we have a track that we want to put out there. We have used it on a Sunday a few times and it works (pretty much). We are working hard on increasing the flexibility of the music so that we can go wherever God takes us as we worship. We are not quite there yet. What you will hear is a backing track that we make our drummer play along to (he is awesome) and the worship leader adds some elec guitar. We think that we can soon fire the drummer and just have a guy on a laptop.

Anyhoo, we remixed consuming fire by Tim Hughes. We slowed it down a little. We threw in some beats. We ran it over with a lorry and then we got R2D2 on lead vocals.

Have a listen –

Worship with The Beastie Boys

So I wrote the other day about God Gigs. That is a secular gig where you just worship God. I remember friends of mine telling me how they would worship while clubbing and I can remember a number of gigs where I decided to worship God because I was having such a good time already. One particular Beastie Boy gig sticks out in my memory.

Anyways, the venerable Simple Pastor asked a good question –

What at a Beastie Boys concert was directing you to God?

The Beastie Boys are not Christians. In fact I am fairly sure they are Buddhists. So they are not your conventional Worship leaders. But the music is incredible, and he atmosphere created has the feeling of a large community event.

So what at a Beastie Boys concert directed me towards God? Well, I love the music. It gives me chills when played at volume. So I guess I just decide that I am going to praise God. Simple really. I am sure I could do this at any music event (apart from at a Jonas Brothers gig, then  I would probably be crying out for the end of the world, some sort of rapture or maybe just plague of frogs…).

To be honest I applied the same principle at a recent Christian Conference. This time the music was a little outside of my taste (like Rio is just outside of Manchester) so I just decided to worship.

The problem with the argument about worship music is that so much gets discounted on account of personal taste. Usually the taste of the Church leaders.

God Gigs

I check in regularly with the relevant magazine website, I like how it looks and I like what they write about.

This is a cracking article about how sometimes secular music can give us an opportunity to worship.

It reminded me of a couple of gigs I have been to where I just felt like I could worship God. Its hard to explain why this sometimes happens but here are a few “God Gigs” –

  • The Beastie Boys at the NEC in 1999. A gig in the round and the whole place pumped. For some reason I could worship easily.
  • Pendulum – Reading 2008. The whole crowd connected with the band and it felt like a community event
  • Snuff – London 1993-1995. I have no idea how many times I saw this band, but every time I saw them the crowd new every word and every action (that’s right, punk music with actions! It made Evan Rogers look bored and disaffected)

I have no reason to tell you that, and it aint very interesting but in the light of some of my recent posts about the poor state of worship music in the UK I thought I should write something positive.

For your watching pleasure –

What Worship leaders should listen to

Simple really. Whatever your congregation listen to and whatever the people of your city/town/village are listening to.

Worship music that comes out of the church community is a wonderful thing. Matt Blick is trying to promote a few song writers based in local Newfrontiers churches which is fantastic. My point being, songs should come out of the community and reflect the community.

Lets take CCM:City as an example. We are based right in the middle of student land, 100 yards below the curry mile, and a short bus ride from the centre of Manchester. So far we are largely made up of single 17 – 30 year olds. The music that these guys listen to and identify with is going to have a certain vibe!

However at CCM:East we have families, kids, teenagers, older people, and people from different continents so the vibe there will be something else entirely. Neither will be better than the other. I know which one I prefer but that is purely down to musical taste.

Hopefully both communities will keep producing good worship leaders and good musicians. Most importantly, I hope we can produce our own songs which speak to us as a church and speak for us as a church. CCM:East has been doing that for a while as it is (Alistair has skills!). CCM:City has not got there yet but hopefully we will produce songs and song writers that will properly reflect central Manchester.

Two Terry Tweets

I noticed Terry Virgo tweet these tweets yesterday –

  • Worship songs having no content in stating the glorious facts of the gospel are sometimes prized merely for their melody, like entertainment.
  • Sad attempts to make worship “relevant” compromise our real desire to meet with the Lord we love & commune with him.

I have to say that I agree. I don’t want worship to be for entertainment (however I really don’t want to sit through a worship time led by a free form jazz band who have no concept of melody). The point Terry seems to be making is that the content of songs is the most important thing. Songs should be packed full of theology. The words should inspire us, teach us and point us to God. So in many ways the music doesn’t matter. I can worship at a big Christian conference even though the music is a long way from my taste because the words are amazing and because if I don’t choose to worship then the stones will worship (although to be honest I did bunk a bit as there is only some much “crazy dancing” this guy can do)..

Don Terry then tweets about how attempting “relevant” worship can compromise a real desire to meet with God. I am not sure I know what he means by relevant. I suspect he is frustrated by worship songs that lack in content and worship times that don’t leave stacks of space for the spirit to move. Again, I agree.

I do not want relevant worship at CCM:City or CCM:East (CCMs two sites). I want heartfelt, passionate, and authentic worship to God. I want songs with words that teach and inspire. You can do all of those things in a wide variety of genre. I would even suggest that this is possible, with the right crowd, when using some of the more extreme genres.

If you can have songs with amazing words, people who worship whole heartedly,  and the Spirit can move as he wants then God is glorified and the worship is relevant. So there is no reason why you cannot use dubstep, teenpop, Xfactor drivel, death metal, punk, britpop, dadrock (although we have this one nailed already), bhangra, and anything else you fancy.

Generic mid 90s white boy rock

Andy Back and Luke Morris make excellent comments on my last post. They are address the issue of lyrical content and I agree with them both. A corporate worship song packed with good theology and biblical content is the best kind. The “Jesus is my boyfriend” stuff is hard for me to navigate without getting a little annoyed.

A number of modern worship artists/leaders write songs with cracking content. Stuff you can really get your head round and as a middle class lad, who has been to Uni and been around church culture my whole life it is easy for me to identify with these songs. That may not be the case for everyone. I think songs that are more about emotional than intellectual engagement are not to be dismissed by theological snobbery.

My main beef is the music styles used. Which some may view as being less important than lyrical content but I beg to differ. PJ Smyth blogs about the importance of credible Sunday meetings and Ed Stetzer writes (brilliantly) about contextualisation here and here. The music we use when we worship has to be a part of that conversation.

Let me pose you a question. Why do most of the large Christian Youth events, albums and even Youth Churches have generic mid 90s white boy rock (Paul Weller on a slow day) as their Worship Music genre of choice? Again, where is the creativity?

(Please note – I am aware that I am asking questions and have not ever provided the answers! I have not tried to innovate with music at church myself as I have never had that level of influence or anywhere near the level of required ability. My hope and my intention is that CCM:City will at least attempt the things I am ranting about)

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.

Where are the creatives?

So worship is properly rattling round my head at the moment. I wrote recently about Multi-Cultural worship can be a red herring for churches if they don’t carefully think through what they want to achieve. I honestly think that the British church is missing vast opportunities to reach out with the music they use in their main meetings. Music can be a huge missional opportunity if we use it correctly.

Anyways, as I was thinking about this a song came on the radio (6music Woop! Woop!) that made me sit up and listen. It is a beautiful tune that made me want to worship God. They are not (as far as I know) Christian, but they are imaginative, ground breaking and heartfelt. Everything worship music should be and often isn’t.

Now there is every chance that you may watch this and think it is toilet. That is not the point.

What is the point? Well, where are the creatives? Where are the worship leaders who are breaking new ground in music and genre? Are they being sat on by conservative church leaders? Are they put of by criticism? Am I holding people back in our church because of my own musical tastes?

Anyhoo, watch this –

I am a snob

One of the searches that brings the most traffic to this blog is “Why worship music sucks”. I get  hits from that regularly. I think it is kinda funny but I also wonder if it just shows I am only contributing negatively to this debate.

I want to be part of a church that pushes cultural boundaries. I want to see church bust out of the “worship music genre” and create sounds, music, songs, and worship that the local communities can really get a hold of. I want to see churches that innovate musically so that the world looks in and sees creativity not mediocrity. Do I get that by whining about worship music and contemporary christian music (CCM)? Probably not.

A friend of mine got annoyed by my complaining about CCM and worship music. In short, he told me to shut-up or have a go myself. This would be disastrous given my considerable lack of talent and gifting. However, it did make me think that I need to be able to do something productive.

So here is some positivity – At Christ Church Manchester I am not alone in my desire to produce amazing worship. We have some very good worship leaders who love music (this is surprisingly rare) and are genuinely talented. We also have musicians who are trying to get into local bands and influence the scene in Manchester.

In September we will start our second site called CCM:City (it was formerly The Chapel). One of the things that excites me about this venture is that we are not scratching around for musicians, we already have some real talent. It wont happen quickly and I am expecting some spectacular mistakes but I honestly think these guys and girls could do something quite special.

My job is to give them plenty of freedom, backing, time and to avoid snobbery. My taste is not important. There is a chance we could end up with something I find very distasteful but it maybe incredibly innovative, creative and worshipful. I cannot wait.