3 Errors of Corporate Musical Style

Congregation-blurThis is an excerpt from a worthy post I read yesterday at Challies.com:

It is ironic that music, an element meant to draw Christians together in mutual love and service (see Colossians 3:16) has become a force for significant division within the church. It just goes to show, I guess, that we can make a mess of pretty much anything. In their book The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out 3 common errors of musical style can stifle local church community:

Music that’s difficult to sing corporately. When you shape your musical style with the entire congregation in mind, you battle a consumerist mind-set that wants music that “appeals to me.” And you emphasize the breadth of community we should expect to find in a local church.

Music with limited emotional breadth. Much of church music is happy music. But if that is all we ever have, we substantially dilute the Christian experience.

Music that feels like a performance. Little can build a feeling of congregational unity more than hearing the whole church sing their hearts out in passionate praise to God. We should design our musical style with this in mind.

Above all, we must teach our congregations that congregational worship requires sacrifice [emphasis added]. If we’re serious about displaying the diversity that the gospel brings to a local congregation, then each of us will make sacrifices in the type of music we sing. But through that small sacrifice, we enable congregational unity that sings a much more profound note of praise than any individual could ever produce on his own.

My experience as a church musician and director resonates deeply with this. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the entire post.

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A New Place to Call Home

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A re-directed journey

I just completed my sixth Sunday leading music at Colonial Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, VA. If you would have told me a year ago that I would be doing this today, I would probably have laughed (or perhaps backed away from you slowly, with a strange look in my eyes). A year ago, I was searching pretty desperately for the next step in my life. I was searching in every direction for that next step–except vocational ministry. Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways! The nearly year-long journey through which He has led my wife and me, has left us utterly confident that we have followed our Lord here. And these have been six weeks of His continued affirmation to that fact.

A unified vision

I also never imagined a year ago that I was forging a bond with this ministry as I was making a short video over 400 miles away. The video we put together for Watchsong struck a deep chord with the leadership here and exposed a common goal between us: the desire to build unity through inter-generational worship. I am thrilled to be working with men and women who love Jesus, love His bride (the church), and are zealous for her joy!

A course for the future

I am constantly reminded of the need to give attention and care to inter-generational worship. Recently after a service, a dear lady told me, “Thank you for bringing back some of the old hymns. This new music is ‘okay’…but the old hymns are just so good!” I wonder if she knows how meaningful this new “okay” music is to me and many others in the congregation. And I wonder if the “new music lovers” understand how meaningful some of the old (dare I say “hokey”) music is to many others in the congregation. I have a responsibility to serve this particular local body as I make music choices every week–and what a wonderfully diverse body we are! This presents many challenges for building unity. And I am grateful to be on this course with many people who want to do so.

I am also grateful that Watchsong is now a part of this new journey. The goal of Watchsong has always been to serve the local church. Now, I can turn all of my attention to this goal. Everything I do and experience in my “day job” will help make Watchsong even more meaningful (and, I pray, somewhat helpful) to those who are thinking through similar issues.

Love Your Pastors!

As I’ve befriended and have been mentored by some of my pastors, I’ve come to realize that they probably hear more from the minority of people who are disgruntled than from the majority who really love and appreciate them and what they do. I suppose this is in our natures: the tendency to speak up only when we have a problem with something. Well, my wife and I have decided to be among a vocal majority who challenge that tendency, and we want to bring as many people with us as we can!

So I’m starting the “Love Your Pastors” campaign. Hebrews 13:7, 17 say this:

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Obey…and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

I am appalled when I hear of all the petty complaints that my pastors have to deal with. I am distressed that my pastors sometimes dread opening their email inboxes on Monday morning (after pouring out their souls for us on Sunday) because of the “hate mail” (their words, not mine) that will be waiting for them. And I have a feeling that my pastors are not alone.

When is the last time you sent an encouraging email to your pastor or pastors? When is the last time you prayed for them? When is the last time you asked them how they are doing and really listened instead of just dumping your own problems? When is the last time you found them after a service and told them how much you appreciate the way God uses their gifts to edify you?

These are questions that I’ve been asking myself lately. And, quite frankly, my answers stink. But I have already started making a conscious effort toward change. Praying for our pastors should be a given. My goal is to verbally (or in writing) encourage at least one of my pastors every week.

My church has a regular weekly service attendance of nearly 1000 people. What if just ten percent of us regularly encouraged our pastors each week? How would their Monday mornings feel if the typical ratio of encouraging emails to “hate mail” were completely turned upside down? How would you feel if 100 people told you this week that they love you and appreciate you and are praying for you?

Remember that Disney/Pixar movie called Monsters, Inc.? The monster city (Monstropolis) was powered by the screams of children afraid of monsters in their bedrooms at night, but the city was facing a power crisis. By the end of the film, they discovered that a child’s laughter was a much more potent energy source, like nuclear fusion compared to a AA battery. Encouragement and love have a similarly empowering effect on others.

I know there are many people who are faithful encouragers, but there are also many like me who just don’t think about it. So, will you join us on our quest to encourage our pastors each week? Will you encourage others to join you? Spread the word! Let’s overwhelm our pastors with love! Let’s give them the honor they deserve!