Why I Don't Sing at Church Very Often

I love to sing. And I love to make music. But I don't always love to sing at church, and I don't particularly enjoy making music for church. More to the point, I often feel frustrated and annoyed by Church music.

As a musician, I think that Music needs to be authentic and real. There are plenty of Christian musicians who have made it to the big times and are recording formulaic music that sells millions of copies. They sound great, they ARE fantastic musicians, and they are writing songs that are hugely popular. And that's ok. But we live in a time where writing and recording music is easier than ever, and the sound systems in the vast majority of evangelical churches is more than adequate to support a creative community of musical and technical artists. And yet - it doesn't. Instead, we in the Evangelical community of faith settle for homogeneous cover bands and a haphazard approach to media creation and sound design, because 'it works'.

And to a great extent, it's awesome to cover songs of those who are tapping into universals of the human experience when it comes to music - including universal worship experiences. And it's great to allow any johnny or sally to run the sound board. But at the same time, every church has it's own unique and important experiences to bring to the table regarding worship, and striving for excellence in the area of worship can seriously add some weight to the collective experience of the local church. We all experience God in unique ways, and each church has a unique "Kingdom of God" finger print.

Why aren't we allowing our artists, poets and musicians to actively bring that to the table? Why aren't we creating space for the rebels, the doubters and the non-conformists to speak life into our worship services?

A lot of modern worship music has grown on me ... but ... we're at the over-saturation point. to paraphrase Marshal McLhuan, any time you over-extend media the opposite of it's intended effect will unfold. With music, there is a threshold - it's hard to nail down but it's there regardless of the style - where before the threshold, you still love the songs and the sounds, but once you cross the threshold you are over-saturated and the love turns to mild disdain and eventually to "I can't stand to hear this anymore". The intended effects wears off and you are left with the opposite of what was intended.

I've reached this point with Christian worship music. It all sounds the same - it's all mid-tempo - it  talks about the same things (there seems to be minimal poetic risk taken), and there is thus little to grab onto. I feel basically the same way about radio pop music. There's only so much of "Oh baby I want your body" type of poetry that one can handle. I can handle exactly zero of it. So at least Worship music isn't alone.

Church music therefore tends to throw a wet blanket on me, no matter how enthusiastically I want to press in. Occasionally, I will stumble across a worship team that is so utterly committed to the songs they are singing that I can't help but be drawn in. This is the exception, and from my experience it's a rare exception.

In summary:

1) Church music most often isn't a reflection of the actual church community, but rather a reflection of top 40 church/pop music, which is just what is popular. It fails to honor the uniqueness of each church body.

2) The music is homogeneous, and often focuses on one of three themes -- that God is great, that I used to be caught in sin but now am set free, or the fact that we are worshiping God right now.

3) There is no room for doubt, pain, suffering or loss in modern worship. In a medium that by nature could help us experience the entire range of human emotions in connection with God, we only allow it to basically focus on two: joy and conviction.

By: Ryan McGuire

Part 2: http://thinktheos.blogspot.com/2016/09/homogenous-music2.html


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