cute & confusing part one

Bloged in worship by rod Monday June 21, 2004

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which we were discussing worship music that we miss in our services – music that means a lot to us for various reasons. I blogged before about the need to assess why certain hymns, songs, etc. are important to us. Nostalgia based emotion can be a very deceptive feeling that can replace worship because it feels so good. Even this response can be legitimate in that memories can be encouraging and solidify our walk and faith. As an expression of worship though, it can be very confusing. Of course, if this music is all we do, it is not based in nostalgia, and therefore, doesn’t constitute the same threat.
When we speak of stylistic variety in worship, I often hear it said that we should include more gospel, country, even bluegrass. Of course that would be entertaining, but would it facilitate worship? Personally, I have a hard time worshipping through music that is not a part of my true experience. Fortunately, my sincere experience includes a very wide variety of styles. Many people though, have a far less varied musical experience, but are entertained by styles on the fringes of their experience. Barbershop, bluegrass, celtic, and gospel spring to mind as styles that have become very popular outside their indigenous context and are even presented as cute or lighthearted relief in otherwise serious musical sequences.
I grew up around musicians who played a bluegrass style no matter what the song. It was their style and everything was expressed that way. If I were to break into a bluegrass version of “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” at my church, everyone would be entertained, or tickled by the style, but would cease to be singing it for the same reasons they would be if the style were unaltered.
My backdoor neighbor is manager of Gospel music radio stations. He once told me that he was jealous of “our” Christian music because it was more sophisticated and theologically deeper. I was astounded. I told him that I was jealous of “their” music because I felt it was one of the last musical Christian expressions that truly expressed Christian faith from an authentic cultural experience. But this is only true in its legitimate context. Bring that music and worship style to my church and it becomes cute, entertaining and unreal. It is no longer an expression, but a consumption.
Consumption of wholesome, heartfelt, encouraging stuff is a good and legitimate activity perhaps, but we have confused consumption with expression, feel-good entertainment with facilitated prayer. We have allowed the package to distract us from the contents.

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