“As a listener I can only speak for myself, but I find that more challenging music can better communicate the sense of wonder and awe appropriate to a religious setting. If I want to sing a bunch of stale, bland pop songs, I’ll have a campfire, not go to church. That probably puts me in the minority, but there must be others. And I worry about the cumulative impact of always choosing the lowest common denominator of music as a medium of worship. It drives people like me to get their kicks elsewhere, and it sets your average churchgoer into a pattern of expecting emotional feedback from worship, which isn’t the point.” Jordan Bloom
Admittedly, I am not familiar with Jordan Bloom but I appreciate what he has to say here, except for the “emotional feedback”. If reflection on the character and work of the triune God doesn’t make me emotional then something is wrong. But surely there is much to be said for music that accurately reflects Christian truths in a robust way. A rejection of hymns dismisses doctrinally rich music that can fuel the fabric of our faith. So I appreciated what Stephen Miller had to say in this blog post, Why New Churches Should Sing Old Songs. I for one appreciate the old hymns and what they convey.
On the flip side, is the contemporary Christian music that provides a simplicity in lyrics. Now it is not uncommon for those who like doctrinally rich music to dismiss the shallow and repetitive nature of many songs. Yes, some of them are and a steady diet of them is not good, I don’t think. I have no doubt that Bloom’s comment resonates with those against contemporary offerings in favor of the more doctrinally robust hymns.
One of the problems this creates is how defining worship according to our preferences and that results in worship wars. A while back I wrote this piece, Critiquing Worship Music Criticism. One of the things I noted was that we should not reject a song just because it has simple lyrics. Nor is it unreasonable to think that songs must contain this concise theological treatise. A simple lyric can resonate just as much as a complex one if our theology is robust to begin with. Moreover, the insistence that simple lyrics are meaningless in the site of God smacks of elitism and creates unnecessary criticism. What about those who have learning deficit and need more simplified lyrics? If it causes us to reflect upon God and faith, then there is value there.
And this is why I think we need to evaluate how we handle the worship wars. Nate Clairborne provides some additional food for thought on worship music
The more I reflect on this issue, the more I think we need to strike a reasonable balance about what we classify as worship music. I actually do like it when churches mix it up and play really hearty hymn combined with songs of simplicity. And given all the disagreements present within contemporary Evangelicalism, is this something we really need to be fighting about?
I would love to hear your thoughts.