Worship Music History and Where It Should be Going

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

  • Psalm 96:1-3

I was watching a video to consider adding it to a post a week or so ago, and I saw another video as a suggestion at the end of the first video.  I used the first video, but not the second – good, just not what I needed at the time.  The second video ended with more suggestions, and one of those is provided below.  It inspired this post.  I love a Capella singing.  I love old church music, and I don’t mind a lot of the contemporary music.  But to have someone sing songs and give the dates that the songs were first sung in that manner in church?  That was delightful.

I read a blog a couple of years ago that talked about how a contemporary church music director started weaving traditional hymns into the worship service, because they conveyed a deeper message than a lot of what he had been selecting.  While many contemporary songs hammer the point home: Love, Grace, Peace, Majesty of God, whatever, there is a lot of repetition.  It gets a catchphrase stuck in your head, and maybe some people need that.  But most of these old hymns tell a story.  They basically give the composer’s testimony in song form.  Others tell an entire Bible story.  Some roughly copy one of the Psalms or a few verses from Isaiah or another prophet.  And they can drive the point home in the refrain.

I much prefer the story telling, in singing hymns and in telling jokes, but people have a variety of temperament types.  Each temperament type probably has its favorite style of music and their favorite style of getting the message across.

At times I wonder if our shrinking attention span is the reason why we have gone to repeating a single phrase over and over, or if repeating the phrase over and over causes our attention span to shrink?  I know, it is kind of a chicken and egg thing.  But I have noticed how some people cannot stay tuned in when I am telling a lengthy joke, totally missing the punchline because their mind wandered.  Even knowing that something good will happen, they lose interest.

And is that not one of our many problems today in the church, and throughout history if you read the history sections of the Bible?  We know what God wants, but we quickly lose interest.  Maybe that is the thought of the contemporary Christian artists.  Let’s get one simple message across and hope that it becomes an earworm, coming back to their minds each day of the week.  They have given up on people in this fallen world paying enough attention to understand deeper meaning.

So, give me traditional music, but you can vary the worship service all you want, as long as I have a bulletin, or road map.  I hate getting lost and these contemporary worship services that hand you a page with advertisements on one side and a place to take notes on the other side – does not help – at all!!!  I need my road map if I am going to get involved.

And that is the key, involvement.  Some worship services forget that the people in the pews or folding chairs or comfy recliners are the people worshipping and you are just leading them in that direction.  Instead they entertain while the audience is either amused or falls asleep.  Yes, I know.  With the amplification to ear-splitting levels, who could sleep?!?

I think worship leaders should take a temperament test.  I am an INFJ, Intoverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Judger.  I get tired around a lot of people (introvert).  I measure my value system by the possibility of what could be instead of what my senses tell me at the time (intuitive).  My value system favors feelings over logic- or ‘thinking’ (feeling).  And I can make up my mind, and my mind is set in stone, with very little data (Judger) as opposed to the person that is always Perceiving, wanting more data and never making up their mind.  There are 16 temperaments in the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index – derived from Jungian Psychology), but four basic temperament types.  If worship leaders put something into every worship service that was attractive to each of the basic temperament types (NF, NT, SJ, SP), then you would engage everyone in the congregation, those who are there to glorify God and those who may only be there out of curiosity and even those who are there simply to be seen.

But if you attract only one temperament type, you could be losing anywhere from 63% to 88% of the people in attendance, excluding those who would be worshipping God if you did nothing at all, because they love God that much.  Think of it.  One trick ponies may be like an irresistible candy bar to a few, but a total turn-off to the many.  The choice is yours.

Why has music changed over the centuries?  There are a lot of factors.  If my musician son would like to write his thoughts down, I will provide him the platform.  A lot has to do with instrumentation, blending of cultures, and the technology, but to reach more people, we need variety.  A good worship leader can reach all the people in attendance, if he follows the Golden Rule.  Treat others as they wish to be treated.  In other words, go where their mind leads them instead of trying to drag them to your state of mind.  And when you get to where their mind lives, their soul will explode with delight!

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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