Revamping Christian Worship

September 23, 2011 — 10 Comments

This series was started right after my last year of seminary got underway, and then was quickly abandoned when most of my spare thoughts were redirected to my thesis. I’d like to spend some time thinking through the issues surrounding how we worship through song in church. Having been actively involved in that for the past 14 years in one capacity or another, I’ve put some considerable thought into it, but would like to refine my thinking further through the blog. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

I’ve got some ideas in mind about where this is going, but I’d like to hear from you. What really bothers you about how we approach worship? Conversely, what do you really like? Maybe its something your church or tradition does and you wish others either followed suit or developed similar approaches.

I’m primarily interested in worship music, in this series, hence the title. To “vamp” is a musical reference to what most people might call either a riff or a chord progression, which is usually repeated throughout a work. To “revamp” is of course to re-work something into better shape. In this way, I’m somewhat poking fun at the nature of praise choruses to repeat a basic chord progression repetitively. But I’m also using this as a metaphor for exploring how we can reimagine both the musical aspects of our worship music as well the overall aesthetics of contemporary Christian worship today.

Since I’m writing as a musician, and one who has been involved in leading worship from a variety of instruments, in a variety of settings, the big question I’m dealing with is this:

  • Should worship music meet people where they are at (i.e. be like pop music) or should it strive for something more?

This is what will drive this series forward. Let me know if they are roads you’d like to go down that I’ve haven’t indicated are on the map yet!

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

10 responses to Revamping Christian Worship

  1. I think that I Corinthians 14, the whole chapter, provides a great answer to your question: “Should worship music meet people where they are at (i.e. be like pop music) or should it strive for something more?”

    Though he is talking about tongues, I think that the principles he outlines here are directly applicable to music. (Similar to the passages where Paul talks about meat sacrificed to idols, there are principles that are directly relevant to all Christians regardless of whether or not their hamburger was sacrificed to Baal.)

    Music is a kind of language.

    • The more I think about the question I pose here, I think it might be a false dichotomy. In a way worship music should strive to be like pop music meaning accessible and catchy, but should transcend pop music by touching on deeper lyrical themes and be God-focused instead of man-focused

  2. Hi – just came across your interesting series on Christian music – or rather, music for Christian purposes. So – Should worship music meet people where they are at (i.e. be like pop music) or should it strive for something more?
    I guess worship music should aim to meet people where they are – which of course can be many different places – but should aim to draw them nearer to God. In fact, all Christian activity should have an aim of drawing people nearer to God, even if its just preparing the ground for a seed which someone else may plant.

    • Alan,

      I think you’re right, and that’s part of what I’m getting at. I think worship music should kind of split the difference and to some extent meet people where they are (be in an accessible genre) but should draw them closer to God (by having thought provoking and solidly lyrical content). Is that kind of what you were saying?

      Nate

      • Yes. (The short answer.)

        Where people are at (in musical terms – including lyrics) can be extraordinarily varied – contemporary or aging popular, abstruse jazz, ancient hymns, etc. etc.. So I think music used in church meetings should be varied. (as Jesus said: “Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.” : Mat 13:52,) This may stretch some church musicians beyond their comfort zone or abilities, and may put people’s backs up who think that they know that only a particular form of music should be used, and risks trying to be all things to all (gender non-specific) men. Exactly how it plays out is for local leadership to decide, with the balance of the congregation (including likely visitors) taken into account. – but the aim should be accessibility with the goal of ministry, spiritual edification, and worship.

        PS I find a lot of old and new church music sounds happier with a reggae beat…

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