Church music: a little research

September 14, 2008

Well, after finishing my long-term interim church position, I decided to do a little “research” over the past few weeks and visit some worship services that have piqued my interest. Realize, I’m not trying to determine what is “good” or “right” – that varies from person to person. Mostly, I just wanted to make sure that my images of contemporary, blended, and traditional church music were still accurate.

One church my wife and I attended was most definitedly contemporary. Whatever you think about this style, I happen to enjoy it as part of my personal worship expression. However, this church was particularly excellent. I’ve been to contemporary services that were “too loud”; this experience was definitely loud enough, but the sound was so clear that the loudness was not prohibiting my participation in worship. Big plus!

The service was well-led, and had a visual excellence that matched their audio presentation. Was it too “over-produced”? Not really; after a couple of minutes, the “TV studio-quality” perception took a back seat to truly honest worship. The great part of this is that the worship team was not showing off, or acting like “holy rock stars”. Even in traditional and blended settings, that kind of attitude is too prevalent, and it totally destroys honest worship.

And if you met the members of this team ‘in the wild’, I doubt you would ever recognize them as ‘contemporary’ musicians: a late-40/early 50-something worship leader (sorry, shaving your head can’t totally hide your receeding hair line – but it did look good), a drummer and a probably-40’s bass player who’d be at home in any ‘regular’ job, 2 pleasant 30’s-ish ladies as backup singers – either could be your neighbor across the street. Just plain folks, but really into sharing their hearts through music.

People my age and up (50+) sometimes have a tendency to ‘dislike’ contemporary music. Too bad they haven’t gone to that church!

Everything else that my wife and I attended fell into the ‘blended’ worship category – sort of…

Actually, one ‘blended’ church was a definitely contemporary setting, except that they have an orchestra, keep a choir involved and still use a grand piano onstage. In reality, they are contemporary – just not “typical” contemporary. The great thing is that it works, and they have lots of people involved in worship.

Another church used much the same approach, but missed the mark a bit. Similar resources were in place, but the music selections and energy level were less enthusiastic. The choir was really good and very energetic though.

The last church in this review group advertised their service as “blended”, but it was actually a traditional service – with orchestra, organ, and a huge choir. However, it was quite informal in dress and mannerism. The energy was good, and the congregation was just as friendly as you might hope to expect.

So I hear you thinking – “which one was best”? Sorry, wrong question! There’s no such thing as “best”; we simply have a Lord who deserves our best, whatever it may be.

I did have a great time visiting in these places, and I’m thrilled that all of them are available to express our worship to a deserving and almighty Lord.