Take a minute to read this great excerpt, written by Sojourn’s worship pastor Mike Cosper, and then head over to Sojournmusic.com and read the rest, from a three-part installment on the climate of modern worship in churches.
This is the landscape others see from the outside looking in – musicians who almost barely know how to play their instruments, music without roots or traditions, songs without dynamics, services with rock star worship leaders wearing faux-hawks and designer jeans. They look great, they sound okay, but don’t ask them to change keys. Contrast this with the classical traditions of the church, where musicians spend 15-20 years, starting in early childhood, studying music, studying musical performance, working with choirs, orchestras, and various ensembles throughout their educations, and then often continuing through a seminary “church music” education.
Of course, much of this is a caricature. I know many worship leaders and pastors in churches like this who have a deep knowledge of and love for music. I know many worship leaders whose humility guards them from the excesses of rock culture. I know many leaders who have a love of theology, hymnody, and scripture, and whose services reflect that love. But I also believe that this is the unfortunate exception and not the rule.
And the warning cries abound. It’s both redundant and fashionable to sit around and lament how devoid and barren our worship music is today. But what’s the way forward? Pastors have this dual responsibility in North America to be faithful and to be attractional (two forces that are often at odds with one another). And what attracts people to churches today more than the poppy music of contemporary worship?
As with so many places in our culture, we’ve severed the connections with traditions that can help inform, correct, and guard us from mistakes from great to small. While certainly, in the light of God’s sovereignty, we have to say that there is something good afoot in the radical shifts in worship culture in the US, there is also a road ahead so fraught with dangers that without some kind of roots, some kind of theological grounding, some kind of historical connectedness, we will SURELY lose our way.
What I want to ask is who will guide us? What will the reformation of church music education give birth to in twenty years? Will it look different, or will we simply look back in twenty years and laugh at our young foolishness? Worship leaders aren’t the only ones asking these kinds of questions.