commercialized worship music

I read an article today from a website’s archive. Quite honestly, I would have loved to have found this site earlier in my life because I was beginning to think I was the only one who was thinking in this way. (The name of the site is internetmonk.com) The article I read was one on the usage of worship music in the church today. I don’t mind listening and singing contemporary worship music in my church service. Some of it is pretty good. The problem is that a lot of it is pretty mushy, like Jesus is a life-sized Teddy Bear that just hugs you all day and whisper sweet murmurs in your ear. I don’t want to sing that type of stuff all the time. Although there seems to be a lot of contemporary worship songs, the two churches I have been attending recently seem to recycle the same ones. It gets kind of boring because the messages in the songs are relatively the same.

Anyway, I grew up in a Conservative Baptist church, which meant hymns with a pipe organ and an acoustic piano. I like the old hymns but, just like modern worship, they get stuck in a rut and sing the old favorites but I still love them. For example, I was in a small church in New Hampshire to listen to a retired pastor from the church I grew up in. During Communion, the piano player was playing an old hymn I think called “Amazing Love” but I am not sure. The chorus is what got me because the words just came into my head:

Amazing love, how can it be/That Thou my God shouldst die for me?

I cried, right there in the seat I was sitting in because the words hit home at that moment.

What disappoints me about today’s worship music industry (which is what it is) is how commercialized it has become. I recently bought CDs from Third Day and Casting Crowns. I disappointed to notice that they almost sounded the same stylistically with a lot “Oooo” in between verses. And it is not limited to those two artists. I have heard it in a lot of other music. Is it wrong to be original or different? Are we concerned with CD sales or edifying the church? It seems artists and recording studios are more concerned with writing songs we can sing along with then really giving lyrics that teach us doctrine like the old hymns.

A further example was something I read about Caedmon’s Call and there history with recording studios. They had a beef with a contract and creative conflict with their studio, or something. Anyway, the studio demanded that the band write and record another worship song album, per the agreed contract. This upset me because how is it possible to write a worship song on demand? How can one really feel like they have put a heart of worship into a song that was written to fulfill a contract obligation? (Personally, I think Aaron Tate got into a writing slump because his lyrics became repetitive.) It then becomes a song and nothing more because the question remains of whether or not they were writing to honor God or to honor the contract. How is it different from the equivalent secular music industry?

And this leads me to something Chaplain Mike mentioned in his article/blog. Is the worship band putting on a show or are they really leading worship? I have an issue with that sometimes. I see them and it seems they are performing, putting on faces of abject joy for appearance sake and then moving off the stage. I question this because I volunteer in the café at my church and I see them afterwards sitting around waiting for the end of the service. It seems to me like it is a performance, or duty, to be on stage.

Thankfully, the worship song part of the service does not last too long. They usually only play three songs, then announcements, and then the message. But sometimes I don’t feel engaged. I am not a touchy-feely, emotion person but I do know when the Spirit is moving in worship. Announcing that one can feel the Spirit move does not mean the Spirit is moving. Worship music sets the tone for the message it should not be on equal ground as the sermon. The sermon is the center of all services because it is the message from the Word of God.

I got off on a tangent it seems but it worries me that the worship music has become consumer-driven and not centered on the glory of our Lord and Savior. I pray that we as a church would not be caught up and consumed by secular influences. We should not be market-driven churches but gospel-great commission-driven churches, right down to our time of singing worship songs.

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