Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Times...They Are A' Changin'

Music is constantly changing, and how much more so with Christian music.  It’s been said that most churches don’t split over theological issues; rather, they split over worship styles.  What works in one congregation doesn’t necessarily carry over to the next.  Dr. James Dobson said that, without a doubt, the most controversial program they ever had in the history of “Focus on the Family” was about church music, because music styles are so personal.  No matter which church one attends, music will define “who” the church is in the community!

Change isn’t new to the current culture. Every generation has had its own “contemporary” music.  I know of a very famous music director and worship leader who is also a terrific composer and songwriter. At one church, he was criticized for confusing the congregation with new types of orchestrations and was even chastised publicly for lengthy intros to his songs. So, to counter the criticism, he wrote some songs that were too short, which brought complaints from the other side. He also got into hot water by changing the songs that had been chosen by the pastor, and for introducing too many new songs into the traditional services. Sound familiar? The period was 1685-1750, and the worship leader was Johann Sebastian Bach. Things haven’t changed that much, have they? 

When I was a teenager in the 70’s, I was a songleader. We had times of worship, but it never seemed to be while the music was being played or sung. After the Maranatha revolution, we started entertaining the concept of “worship” during our music...and then we found ourselves immersed and enamored by the Integrity Music paradigm. This was exhilarating new worship which infiltrated our congregations, and although I was apprehensive, the congregation embraced it...and there was a subsequent explosion of new worship material by many new artists! 

And worship is still evolving. New worship CDs seem to come out every day and it’s impossible to keep up with them. There is undue pressure placed upon worship leaders to sing the hottest, latest, greatest worship songs and to present them to the congregation as fast as the team can learn them. Yet, the Lord still blesses time-honored music as much as the new. What’s a worship leader to do? Sing the old? The new? Blended? What kind of music pleases the Lord?  If God would answer that question, I believe he would say, “Any music that causes a change in your behavior to make you more like Christ is the kind that captures my heart!”

So...with these changing times, what is the secret to a successful music ministry?  Psalm 45:7 and Hebrews 1:9 both declare how we can receive the anointing of God on our music, our ministry and our lives.  “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”  When we pursue righteousness, God anoints us. And when He anoints us, it’s because He has others in mind! As a worship pastor, I try to “tailor” the worship experience to incorporate a mélange or “potpourri” of styles that all might be drawn into fantastic, genuine and authentic worship, allowing people to encounter God. 1 Peter 4:11 says,
“If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen!”  That should be the goal of every music ministry... to provide an atmosphere where others can encounter God!

Despite our challenges with the “styles” of worship, the Lord said, “Whosoever will may come!”  May He help us be vessels of His Spirit to change the hearts of those who “won’t” to be those who “will!” We need that same power of God to take our dry songs, whether old or new, and breathe in anointed life! Amen!

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