About a decade ago, Ruth and I were part of a small group that met monthly in a city about 40 minutes away, which was chosen as a central location for a number of people who came from several different directions. We were all involved in some type of church planting or community building and I believe all of us had been influenced greatly by Michael Frost.
The group itself was part of a national network of similar groups that was (in theory at least) sponsored by the church planting initiatives department of a major denomination; though I don’t recall much in the way of networking with those other groups, aside from a few meeting reports that were shared.
Yes…this is an article about music…be patient, okay?
We still keep in touch with a few of those people — ain’t social media great? — including Rick who posed an interesting question about modern worship in the middle of one of the meetings. Have you ever had that feeling where the songs sung in church just don’t do it for you as they once did? Ruth emailed some answers to Rick’s question to our group members, but in the intervening decade, it’s never been shared online…
•••by Ruth WilkinsonAt our last meeting, Rick asked a question that I've been thinking about, namely, "Why don't these songs work for us?" Here's what I've come up with so far... 1. We're not spiritual enough. (Ok, that one's dumb, but it had to be said.) 2. We're producers, not re-producers. We know what creativity looks like and, boyhowdy, that ain't it. 3. We're human. We're connected to the world we live in, as God made us to be, and these songs have nothing to do with life and the world. Except for the occasional ocean or mountain, which don't figure largely in our everyday lives. 4. We're artists or performers and we know what good execution looks like. We get distracted by inexplicable chords, inept tech support, spelling mistakes and missing lyrics projected over overwrought nature shots. 5. We have enough experience of God already to have some idea that he is more complex and incomprehensible than what these songs express. We've had enough of simplistic theology. 6. We work hard all week and standing for 20 minutes interests us not at all. 7. We're individuals and don't want to be told how to 'worship' or what music to like. 8. We've spent too much time listening to Santana to be impressed by strum-a strum-a strum-a, or a drummer who only knows one rhythm. Bumpa chicka Bumpa chicka Bumpa chicka Bumpa chicka. 9. We can't quite get past the woman playing percussion in 4/4 when everybody else is in 3/4 (yes, really). 10. We just don't live in a singing culture. People don't sing. Except in church. Which we tend to treat as some kind of wonderful distinctive, but is probably just an anachronism. (My church is an exception to that, one, however. These guys sing and sing and sing, but they choose the songs as we go, so it's a bit different.) 11. That said, we don't get to choose the songs. We are told, in effect, what to feel regardless of where we're at. I think karaoke church would be awesome. All that without considering the 'worship industry' that we are bombarded with on what passes for Christian radio.