Word vs Worship

Briefing cover January 2007

January’s issue of the briefing had an in-depth look at the 2006 Hillsong conference and another couple of articles which discuss how different church movements use music in their services. This discussion comes at an interesting time for me as I consider in what direction I should be pushing music at the Toongabbie Anglican church Sunday night service.

My criteria for selecting songs in the past has been, in no particular order:

  • Singable for the congregation
  • Interesting for the musicians
  • Theologically accurate

I’ve struggled in the past with songs that are overly repetitive, are boring to play, that the congregation just don’t participate in or just don’t fit the ‘mood’ of our services. Also songs that are just slabs of bible text or essays on Christianity can be painful to try to play and sing.

I want to be careful in what I write here as I have close friends and family involved at Hillsong and similar churches and I don’t want to be perceived as attacking them or their style. I am merely trying to discover the best and most faithful way I can lead the music team at TAC without endorsing or opposing the opinions held by others.

The articles in The Briefing try to express the attitude that the modern pentecostal and/or charismatic style churches have when they engage in ‘praise and worship’. It is very experiential – by working hard we can create the appropriate environment for God to be present so people can feel His presence. As a result the better the music the closer we are to God and the more impact He can have in our lives.

I may have just butchered that explanation so I may revise it later.

On the other hand, classic evangelical music has been focused on the Word and so the quality of the music being played is less important than being correct in the worshipers attitude and content. Indeed it is my experience that many evangelicals feel music is imposed and artificial and distracts them from focusing on God.

I like music. I like music in church. I like music that talks about God and makes me think about Him, how wonderful He is and the wonderful things He does. I like music in church that helps me remember basic doctrines and passages from the bible.

But I don’t believe we discover God through song. I don’t believe God reveals himself to me more if I am singing than if I am serving Him, or reading His word. I believe God reveals Himself in whatever manner he desires, whatever I happen to be doing at the time is up to Him.

I think there must be a middle position. We sing to encourage each other and to speak out loud how great our God is. I believe we can do that in a way that motivates and encourages the singers, without being either too focussed on the words, or on the experience, instead on the nature of our God and in the company of our Christian family.

I’m not sure if I’ve really declared anything clearly or succinctly or definitively in this post, but I hope I’ve raised some issues and encouraged anyone who might read it to contemplate what they look for or enjoy in music at church. I wrote most of this post over 2 months ago but couldn’t decide if I was happy with it or if it said what I really thought. In the end I guess it is better that it is out there so other people can think about this stuff, even if it isn’t perfect. Then again, until that day comes, which of us is?

Leave a Reply