Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Have I ever told you what I really think of the contemporary worship band?

  • How short would my preaching career be if I insisted that the sound system blast my voice as loud as the band's music?
  • The quickest way to kill congregational singing is the worship band, whose music is so loud that no longer does the Christian church sing to "one another" songs and hymns.
  • The unity of the church is seriously impaired by these ephemeral praise songs that have a currency of about 8 months, and will not get passed down to future generations. Thus, the old folks who have served the Lord faithfully for 50 years do not share the joys of the songs of Zion with the younger generation.
  • And don't get me started about the light show. When did the church's worship become a rock concert?
  • I guess the worship band's music is so uninteresting, so uncaptivating that it has to be blasted as loud as possible.
  • And I guess that the text of the music of most contemporary praise songs must be so mediocre that one must gin up the emotions by excessive use of musical tricks.
The tragedy of this is that our denominational institutions actively promote the contemporary praise band movement--with all the above characteristics, and so incidentally promote the demise of congregational singing. We send our youth to camps and conferences featuring really cool people playing the same five or ten songs over and over again, with great expertise, and they get hooked on the sensational. And when they return to your typical Baptist church with its musical limitations, they think songs like "No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus" and "And Can It Be" are boring and unrelatable. Our seminaries even might be doing the same thing. 

Here's some good congregational singing.


Anonymous said...

Preach it, brother!!!

I especially appreciated this insight: "The quickest way to kill congregational singing is the worship band, whose music is so loud that no longer does the Christian church sing to 'one another' songs and hymns. The unity of the church is seriously impaired by these ephemeral praise songs. . . ."

We, too, have a praise band (at the Southern Baptist church I attend), and they play once a month (far too often). The last time they played, one of the leaders said to the congregation, "Sing out; we can barely hear you singing."

I commented to her afterwards that the music is so loud, and the monitors so loud, blaring back into their ear, that the band cannot hear the congregation singing; and the congregation was singing.

Another problem our "praise band" has is that no one knows the songs they sing. How can we sing out when we don't know how the song goes?

Great post, Leonard. I appreciate your pastoral heart and concern over the congregation's worship of the Lord.

James M. Leonard said...


You know that's Roger Waters in the first picture....

James M. Leonard said...

1. It's not that contemporary music is too loud. It is that every worship band in my vast experience drowns out congregational singing. This is not a cultural issue. It is an essential issue about congregational worship. I'd level the same criticism against a cathedral organ if it were played so loudly.

Incidentally, any cathedral organ worth its $1.5 million could drown out even the loudest band. Fortunately, most organists realize that they are there to LEAD worship, not to drown out the worshipers.

2. It is not because they remind me of rock concerts that make light shows bad. I happen to like light shows at rock concerts. I just happen to think we should not rely on them to produce an emotive response to our Lord. In like manner, I hate sermon illustrations featuring cute little puppies that get run over by a mean old driver, too.

3. Maybe I should have emphasized more the importance of the theology of a Church United which marches in great procession through the ages. My criticism is not so much that old folks don't like the music of young folks. It's an issue of unity. The Orthodox get their sense of belonging to the Church of the saints of all the ages by parading icons about and featuring them in all the stained glass. But since we don't resort to icons, it is our common hymnody that unites us. And because contemporary worship songs are so ephemeral, we will end up with no common hymnody.

SagebrushProphet said...

Sorry your experience has been limited to the loud, and non-worship bands. The contemporary worship at of our congregation is led by a worship pastor who is trained in both Bible and musicianship and knows and instructs the musicians and singers of the worship team to lead worship, neither entertaining nor substituting for congregational worship. and we use o aongs that are not theologically sound and Bible based. New ones are introduced and taught, and if you are in worship, and participate, you hear the congregation's voices balanced well with the worship team. Although some songs are more recent,such as God is Able or Mighty to Save we also include such songs as Amazing Grace, In Christ Alone,and How Great Thou Art. Never has a service failed to give honor to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Enthusiasm is a welcome and present aspect of both worship team and congregation. Perhaps one reason this has worked is that we don't have a worship band, but a worship team, and everyone present joins the team!

Dick Paul said...

It is an actual issue in Ukraine too. Loud'n'proud praise. Many pastors are looking for a compromise between contemporary youth trends and sound reverence and God's fear. I have a personal question for Br. Leonard. You like P.F. I read christian authors that refers P.F. to satanists as well as rock music at whole. Excuse my poor english. In other words they says that rock, especially, hard-rock and christianity are not compatible. As for me, I was a rock-fun. P.Floyd, D.Purple, Uriah Heep, etc. And I can not understand how You can stay the fun of h-rock band, being christian minister.

Dick P.

Tom Torbeyns said...

The reason I was and still am more attracted to Christian Metal is because the lyrics are often far more biblically correct. And it can be used as evangelism. As if modern praise music is the exclusive music king David used for praising God...