Friday, July 8, 2011

Another comment on Super-Pop...'Ecumenical Taste'

Again, my response was getting long. So I'll just keep making these new posts rather than hiding them in the comment section. 

I dig it Nick. Great thoughts. Helpful feedback. And your words are kind. Don't worry about adding more expectation. I've known those expectations in many many forms for five years now. If I couldn't handle it, I would have already looked for other work! I'm always excited about a good discussion. The interaction is what helps me learn most...not just the writing. So, thanks.

I'm mindful here of the language Paul uses in Corinthians about all things being lawful but not necessarily profitable. I somewhat agree and disagree with you about my role in making the worship event 'happen.' Yes, there is a sense that certain leaders have a kind of gifting, what some call an anointing. I hope I have that anointing and want eagerly to grow in it. Yet, I'm leery of putting any leader on a spiritual pedestal. I don't like how high our stage is Dimnent. I don't like over lighting the stage or video projections of the worship leader's face. I believe we should be focusing on the corporate experience of singing and praying together.  I know too many worship leaders who seemed to be 'with it' spiritually, yet whose lives are a wreck...broken families, homes, sexual sin, deceit, greed.  This is typical of our celebrity cult and must be subverted. The people on stage cannot be seen as more spiritual and in tune with God. Much of what I want to do is be strong enough of a leader to frame the worship event and then get out of the way. There is of course much more to talk about just in this one section of the worship leader's role. I'll move on.

The greater role of a worship leader isn't necessarily his/her presence and leadership in the event as it is his/her stewardship of identifying what is truly 'profitable.' Songs at 130 bpm might be helpful for you. It may be very good for me to learn by stretching myself into this style, yet is a steady diet of only uptempo songs spiritually healthy? I don't think so. That is why I don't call the music we do "praise music," nor are the bands "praise teams." There are many other arenas of worship that God has called us to other than Thanksgiving and Celebration (I laid out some of the main themes of worship HERE). I just happen to be on a journey of joyfully rediscovering how to lead a congregation to "rejoice always...and again I say rejoice." That is why I'm thinking about super-pop worship, listening to it and trying to discern it.

A large purpose in my writing and teaching is to instigate a larger conversation about the kind of discernment a worship leader must wield when picking songs, arranging songs, putting a service together in order to best form the congregation of worshipers and then leading the service. There are black and white areas when we engage such discernment, but must avoid being prescriptive. This means that what might work at Hope College for our campus ministry might not be the best for the church down the street or across the country. I cannot prescribe what is best for every other ministry. Instead, a biblical and theologically informed conversation and discernment will help each of us work out questions of song selection, arrangement, public presence in our respective fear and trembling. 

My particular journey right now while I learn with Hope College students is how to get better at more uptempo songs. There are some super-pop songs that I will not lead and I'm bold enough to argue shouldn't be bothered with anywhere. BUT I'm discovering some uptempo songs that are delightful and nourishing. However, while I want to be teachable and stretch in doing more uptempo songs, I try to also work harder at introducing more hymns and am always looking for contemplative songs and especially songs written outside of North America. I like what you said about the need of diversity of sounds. Frank Burch Brown calls this "ecumenical taste." Harold Best claims that often when we say that we won't sing that song, what we really mean is that we don't want to sing with those people. Often what is profitable is something of a diverse diet of various worship themes and worship sounds.

This final topic which I won't elaborate on here in this post is that while I want to grow in ecumenical taste, a diversity of worship themes, sounds, tempos, pop rock, folk, bluegrass, global, choirs etc., we cannot be too worried about trying to cram all this diversity into a single worship service. We have in campus ministry two semesters to try many, many things. That is what makes my work both hard and exciting. I hope people can hear a bit of 'ecumenical taste' on this year's worship recording, Morning & Evening.  It is also available on iTunes now I believe.

Thanks again for your thoughts. Blogging would be boring if nobody offered their thoughts. PEACE

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