Worship music today for the most part involves working within a team. Teams mean people. People mean different ideas. Different ideas mean sometimes things don’t go how we like. There can always be friction, and this blog outlines just one instance of how this can negatively affect a group dynamic. We hope that the situation may resonate with people to discuss how we deal with this, always aiming for Christ-like reactions.
Friday evening saw our first worship group rehearsal of 2014. It was quite refreshing to break for a couple of weeks and come back to the table with fresh hearts and minds. I don’t mind admitting that 2013 ended somewhat tenuously within our group, some comments were made by one of the worship group about some of the ‘modern’ music that we were to play on a Sunday morning. It left the group in a fragmented state, feeling dishevelled and at a loss.
For context, our church is an Anglican church which is fairly traditional (liturgically more than anything) and the worship includes a large number of 1990’s Graham Kendrick & Noel Richard classics, (‘We Wanna See Jesus’, ‘Shine, Jesus Shine!’). Before my fiancee and I joined the church, our vicar would play hymns on his Rickenbacker guitar instead of the organ, which for a spell was incredibly progressive, and in some circles is probably still considered heretical. When we joined, some 9 years back, we brought more instruments to the group and served the style and worship of the church as best we could. Over the years we’ve been there, we’ve been able to add more and more modern worship songs, from people like Hillsong, Tim Hughes and Matt Redman etc., mostly singing them at our less formal Sunday evening services.
2013 was the year that we began taking these ‘modern’ songs into our morning services. Our leadership team believed that the congregation would be willing and were ready to accept the new material and we followed this through with excitement and anticipation of the work that would be done through these new songs on a Sunday morning gathering.
This excitement, for myself anyway, came crashing back down with the attitude of just one person in our worship group, who believed the material to be too modern. They criticised the ‘americanisms’ of the music, that they were not annunciating vowels correctly and a host of other blasé comments which I believe were made on the basis that they did not enjoy the music and for no other reason.
It’s here that I started to question whether the church was ready for this new music. If the worship band couldn’t accept these songs, how could we try and lead people with them.
I thought long and hard about whether we were doing the right thing and I came to two conclusions.
Firstly, it’s not all about the music. If we each played all the songs we liked and not what was right for the congregation then we’d be constantly wrapped up in ourselves. We’d say things like “I can really worship to this!”, all the while 100 other people stare at their feet, the projector screen or awkwardly at the worship leader. We need songs that will prompt a response, that reaches people wherever they are in life. If that’s a hymn from 1785, lead with that. If it’s Mighty to Save, circa 2008, then that is what we should play.
It says this in Colossians;
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
– Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
This is what these new songs were. As our congregation demographic changes rapidly, introducing new and modern material is a way of reaching them and helping them to encounter God and not just catering purely for those who have been there the longest.
Secondly, I then read this in Proverbs:
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
And this kind of tied it all up for me and I began to realise that it may have just been reckless words that were meant to bring us down. A necessary barrier to show we were walking the right path.
It comes back to a previous article where I outlined the dangers of becoming too attached to tradition and I think this shows the fallout of how words can hurt, not just feelings, but the progression of God’s work through us.
New music can be difficult to accept and introduce but there are reasons why it is introduced, but only if you are using it to connect with the people in your congregation.
Why am I blogging about this? I believe that it’s not just me experiencing this. I think there will be churches all over the world that hit these obstacles and I wanted people to know how we dealt with it and also present an opportunity to learn how other churches and worship groups deal with interactions like this.
Please leave a comment or feel free to start a discussion or ask us anything if you’re struggling with transitioning from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’ worship music within your church.