"Now that the novelty has worn off, the contemporary songs have to compete with the more traditional songs"

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I think the author defeats his own primary point when he says this:

CWM no longer marks a church as emerging, hip, edgy, or forward-looking, because many/most churches now do it.

I just don't see how you can claim it is waning when you acknowledge many/most churches now do it. Furthermore, while some churches who already use CWM (contemporary worship music) may be adding some older hymns back into the mix (the ratio the author talks about), no one is abandoning CWM in favor of traditional music, but churches formerly using only traditional music are still moving to a blended worship by adding CWM. I only see the trend continuing to grow overall, especially when you are counting songs like "How Deep the Father’s Love” and “In Christ Alone" (named in the original article) among examples of CWM. Many FBFI type churches have adopted these types of songs just in the last handful of years. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Bert Perry's picture

My take is that at a certain point, many churches have gone past the "point of no return" where too many music leaders (never mind congregants) have absolutely no clue about what constitutes good music in any genre.  There is going to be a lot of rebuilding in many places, and I fear that many churches have done so much damage, there will be (even apart from the question of Christ's return) no next generation for them.  I pray that churches will realize that we have a tradition going back 800 years (and that of which we have evidence--certainly the real tradition is much older) of great music, the chaff winnowed from the wheat by those who came before us.  Maybe we should, say, use it?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RickyHorton's picture

I agree with Bert that there is a rich tradition of music that should continually be used.  However, many people only think it is an either/or type thing...either use the old stuff or use the new stuff but you can't mix the two.  The best of the new and old should be used.  Over time, some of the new will no longer be used but that has happened since the dawn of time.  There will be a select few that will stand the test of time.  

Bert, you mentioned though that "too many music leaders...have absolutely no clue about what constitutes good music in any genre."  Are you saying that music leaders in the past were, in general, more educated in music?  I wouldn't think that would be the case.  In fact, I would think the opposite would be true.  Or perhaps you are just saying that though they may be more musically trained/educated they are simply more willing to do lesser quality music.  I would think that this would be the same historically as well though.  Certainly churches in the past have sung hundreds/thousands of songs that simply didn't stand the test of time because they just simply were of lesser quality.

M Leslie's picture

I hope this doesn't mean a return to the "Gospel music" era. Smile

Let's hear it for Gadsby, Watts, and Luther. Now strike up the band.

Bert Perry's picture

Somehow Ricky's comment brings this to mind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw

Tradition!

OK, seriously, agreed 100% that a lot of people make a "both/and" into an "either/or".  Now regarding the question about music leaders with, or without, education in music, I have the privilege of writing as the daddy of five kids taking piano lessons.  One thing we have noticed is that if you have a piano teacher who actually teaches theory, you are lucky these days.  Fifty years ago, one could more or less assume that any piano teacher worth her (his) salt would do so.

In the same way, half a century ago, you would have  a very good chance that anyone with a high school degree would have studied a bit of Latin and probably a touch of logic.  In other words, emphatically YES, worship leaders, especially at small churches, most likely knew their music much better half a century ago or so than music leaders do today.

Along the same lines, I would suggest that the type of music we listen to goes hand in hand with what the music leader, and to a degree the congregation, knows about music.  Before I was a believer, I was a member of a Methodist church where the organist--my high school principal with an earned doctorate--was a splendid musician.  Hence I was acquainted with the older hymns as a child.  I still love them.  But today, over a quarter century since he moved on, the beautiful organ that was purchased in part because there was someone who could put it through its paces largely collects dust--much like most pianos at our churches that don't even get tuned.  (this REALLY irritates my daughters, by the way--playing a way out of tune piano just HURTS)  And.....those old hymns collect dust, too.  

So again; emphatically yes, even if the music leader was a "mere" accomplished pianist or organist, I would suggest the music leader of yore probably knew more music than today's, which are often people who simply have a good grasp of the 12 bar blues on which modern music is often based and a half-developed sense of tune--we hope that they learned from someone else besides Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

I wonder if the SI staff file articles like this just to rile up the userbase here at SharperIron.... Bleah

Just kidding.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mark_Smith's picture

Bert, do you truly have some abstract way to determine what "good music" is? Is it the melody/harmony/rhythm? Is it lyrics? How do you determine for all what "good music" is? If you can't, it seems to me that this issue is subjective EXCEPT that music used for worship should be theologically valid, lead the singer to God, etc...

M Leslie's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Bert, do you truly have some abstract way to determine what "good music" is? Is it the melody/harmony/rhythm? Is it lyrics? How do you determine for all what "good music" is? If you can't, it seems to me that this issue is subjective EXCEPT that music used for worship should be theologically valid, lead the singer to God, etc...

That's an excellent question, Mark. Perhaps someone will use the "General revelation" to codify the sound of song birds? What about the sound of babbling brooks? Maybe there is a rhythm that is God ordained? Certainly the Bible does not reveal such answers.

DavidO's picture

This agnosticism would be hilarious did it not seem well nigh willful.  Are we commanded to categorize things as beautiful or otherwise and to think on the former?  But then we assert beauty is entirely a matter of taste.  I call hogwash.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, it's not a completely "concrete" idea, but it has in its core three basic issues.  The first you mention; the lyrics must be, at least broadly speaking, Biblical.  Is the theology derived from the Bible?

The second and third have to do with the quality of the lyrics and music, and this is where things get a little bit hairy, theologically speaking.  We start with a basic premiss; that God desires us to praise Him (Psalms 149 & 150, elsewhere) with "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."  OK, now why does He choose to glorify Himself with this?  Why do we have two books of songs (Psalms and Song of Songs) in the Bible, as well as songs by Deborah, Moses, Mary, and others?   Why are Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and most of the Prophets written in lyrical form?  Why isn't the plain speech of a sermon good enough?

I submit that one possibility is that God created us as, to a degree, musical creatures--that music speaks to our hearts and minds differently than does prose.  Listen to the alliteration the author (two clicks away) notes in Psalm 1:1--do the poetic devices (rhyme, meter, alliteration, consonance, simile, assonance, and the like) speak to how we are created?  So I would submit that "good" poetry would be poetry that uses these devices effectively to communicate the message to heart and soul--really the same reason a good preacher uses the same tools to help the congregation remember the point.

In the same way, I would argue that certain kinds of music do lend themselves to certain kinds of emotional reactions.  Expressing the tenderness of a wife to her new husband, as in Song of Solomon?  Skip the speed metal, and maybe try a flute or violin.  :^)   Psalms 149 & 150 give us some hints--hey, we have percussive instruments included in the performance of the Psalms.  Looks like at least some Psalms were sung with a 'beat".    Note other Psalms have instructions as to performance.  We don't always know what it meant, but that exists.  

I would submit to the group that if we listened to the Psalms being read fluently, we might (a) find that God's Word is using some of the poetic devices in a fairly consistent way for memory's sake and link to our hearts and (b) they also lend themselves to certain styles of music.  We might also find that we can learn a lot from the secular world in terms of how music and poetry are presented--for example, think of Elvis Presley's Gospel work, which tends to put most CCM and southern gospel to shame in its musicality.  Bluegrass musicians (e.g. Alison Kraus) also do a lot of wonderful Gospel work.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RickyHorton's picture

Based on some of Bert's answers on the other music thread, I believe he is mainly talking about good music being music that marries good text with good/appropriate tune.  I would agree to an extent.  I would also agree that Scripture doesn't lay this out either.  There certainly are some songs where the text simply doesn't "match" the tune (e.g. "I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore....").  "When I Survey" is probably one of the best examples of a tune that matches the text.  Is there anything wrong/sinful with the others?  No, but they are the ones that will eventually die out anyway.  Honestly, some of the CCM put out does a better job of matching words with text than some of the hymns.  But once again, I don't see this as a CCM or hymn option.  I can pick out the best of the hymns and the best of the newer songs and both be edifying.  We may change the style from the original but we can use it in the culture of our church.  This is where I think the article may have it wrong.  It seems like music throughout history morphs (for lack of a better term) more so than changes.  What may be perceived as a decline in use of Contemporary Worship Music may simply be a further morphing (gradual change). 

Sean Fericks's picture

I think the author has overstated the obvious.  Yes, the edginess of a CCM / Praise Band service is a bit played out.  It is now pretty normal.  I also think people are starting to tire of the CCM-only worship services, and are re-discovering the best of the older hymns.  This is a welcome development.

However, I think the author almost insinuates that there is a competition between the old hymns and the new.  Does "In Christ Alone" compete with "Amazing Grace", or do the songs work together?  Do they complement each other?  Does Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God" compete with Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"?  Personally, I would love to sing both together in the same service, the former with a full praise band, and the other with a pipe organ.

Also, I would think that the Mr. Gordon would be excited by all the contemporary song writing.  After all, a sign of vibrant worship is new material.   Sure, most of it will last a few years and then fade away.  This is exactly what happened with Watts, Crosby, and Cowper.  The best sticks around for the generations to come.  The remainder is well-used to praise God, it blesses many, and then it fades into time (perhaps to be found again by a later generation).  But let's not think that Redman, Tomlin, Townsend, Hamilton, and the Gettys are writing in vain.  They have offered us many wonderful avenues of praise to God, and we ought to be thankful.  God forbid that I live to see the day when the Church stops writing new music.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Ricky, that's about it, except I'd go a little bit further; I would posit that if we would read the Psalms in the original, we just might learn a little bit more about how David and others did it, and we might be led to follow that example.

One example that one can follow in English; the Psalms inspire emotion, but they are not emotive.  Rather, our emotional response is due to the fact that we have just heard God's deeds in the lyric text of the Psalm.  Contrast that with highly emotive "camp meeting" songs and a great portion of CCM; one would wonder whether one was in church, or at an "Air Supply" concert, at times.  

OK, now we don't have an explicit "overly emotive music is bad" verse, and we do have Psalm 42 ("as the deer"), but if we are indeed getting more emotive than Scripture warrants, are there possibly some problems that would result?  Maybe we're going to interpret a lack of incentive and a lack of emotion as.....a type of rebellion instead of simply not being acquainted with the mighty works of God?  

I don't have a firm answer, but it's worth pondering, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

DavidO wrote:

This agnosticism would be hilarious did it not seem well nigh willful.  Are we commanded to categorize things as beautiful or otherwise and to think on the former?  But then we assert beauty is entirely a matter of taste.  I call hogwash.

I think your contention is making a couple (possibly unwarranted) assumptions:

1. The assumption that "otherwise" than beautiful must be ugly.  I would contend that although we may be able to identify some things as being beautiful, that doesn't necessarily make everything else ugly.  Maybe there is a middle category or even a scale corresponding to "in the eye of the beholder."  If we think about it, we can all come up with things that are neither ugly nor beautiful, except perhaps to some observers.  I.e., I'm not sure we can attach a universal beautiful/ugly label to everything, even if there is beauty we can identify.

2. The fact that we are commanded to think on beautiful things is not the same as not thinking about ugly things.  In fact, we are told in Ecclesiastes that the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning -- i.e. thinking about death, something that I believe we can agree is ugly and was not God's intention before the fall.  We should also consider chastening, something that can also be ugly, like God's punishment of the Israelites.  So while we should perhaps concentrate on the beautiful, that's not a command to not think about other things as well.

I once asked Scott Aniol about this, since his contention is that the absolute beauty of any song can be measured.  If that is true, and we can compare everything on an absolute scale of beauty, why are we not singing just the one absolutely *most* beautiful song there is, since singing anything else is necessarily offering God less?  He didn't really have an answer for me, not that I expected one.  I would contend that the reason is that beauty is not the only consideration, and in my view, not even the primary one (i.e. truth, honesty, justness, and purity would come before beauty, and there are times to think on things that are not beautiful).

Dave Barnhart

Ron Bean's picture

Sometimes I get the impression that they think that I can't determine what good music is without their input. Sometimes I get the impression that all would be well if I would just let them tell me what was good music.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

DavidO's picture

dcbii wrote:
 I think your contention is making a couple (possibly unwarranted) assumptions:

1. The assumption that "otherwise" than beautiful must be ugly. . .

2. The fact that we are commanded to think on beautiful things is not the same as not thinking about ugly things. . .

I'm not really making these assumptions but I don't address them since they're beside my point.  So many people make the point that beauty is entirely subjective, implying if not outright stating that these things simply cannot be judged at all.  There's only what we like and dislike.  But this cannot be the case.  

I'm not closed minded about this.  I may be wrong about what is beautiful or what is not.  I am willing to have that discussion with anyone, Ron Bean included.  :)  I'm even willing to "lose" that discussion (including within the context of my local church).  But there has to be a consensus first that there are at least some objective criteria, that some forms are beyond the pale, and that not everything goes.  That's all.  

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

DavidO wrote:

But there has to be a consensus first that there are at least some objective criteria, that some forms are beyond the pale, and that not everything goes.  That's all.  

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the fact that there are some objective criteria (and I would agree with this) doesn't mean that all criteria that we would use in this discussion are objective.  There may be some here who would claim that ALL beauty is subjective.  I'm not one of them.  However, I would doubt that anyone here thinks there are no objective criteria, so I'm not sure how that helps.

I also think you would actually have pretty wide agreement here that not *EVERYTHING* goes.  However, there would be a lot of disagreement over exactly what *does* go, and what those limits are.  So even if your contention I quoted is agreed upon (not that it is completely), that's probably not even 5% of the disagreement.

Dave Barnhart

RickyHorton's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

One example that one can follow in English; the Psalms inspire emotion, but they are not emotive.  Rather, our emotional response is due to the fact that we have just heard God's deeds in the lyric text of the Psalm.  Contrast that with highly emotive "camp meeting" songs and a great portion of CCM; one would wonder whether one was in church, or at an "Air Supply" concert, at times.  

I agree wholeheartedly that our response comes from our knowledge of God, or more precisely, from Scripture.  I preached a message once on this very premise using Psalm 100 as the example.  It goes from telling us something about God to praising Him.  He is what causes the emotion, or at least meditating on who He is and what He has done.  I have no affinity for the camp meeting songs whatsoever.  However, I've read quite a bit of hymn history and also looked into the stories behind some contemporary songs.  Many, if not most, of the songs that would probably be deemed highly emotive were written as a result of the author meditating on Scripture or God.  The fact that a song may not contain theology (though those are my preference) does not mean that it is of any less "quality" than those that do and in fact may mean that they had just been meditating on Scripture.  When you think about it, can there be an overly emotive reaction when it comes to God???  Should we squelch an emotional response to someone realizing that Christ died for them?

DavidO's picture

dcbii wrote:
 However, I would doubt that anyone here thinks there are no objective criteria, so I'm not sure how that helps . . . that's probably not even 5% of the disagreement.

Ok, then I'm addressing the few, rather than the many.  Fair enough.

Dean Taylor's picture

I just met with the wife of one of our senior adults who entered glory last weekend.  They are in their late 70s.  In planning the funeral service, the wife asked that we sing It Is Not Death to Die (old text but adapted and popularized by Sovereign Grace) and In Christ Alone (Getty & Townend).  In addition they requested one Majesty Music song.  No traditional hymns or gospel songs.  In my experience, modern hymns with solid texts and singable tunes are being embraced, and not only by the young.  Some truth-rich hymns and spiritual songs have emerged, even from the Jesus movement and the contemporary music environment, and they have staying power and will bless the church in the ages to come.  

              DeanHTaylor.com 

Bert Perry's picture

RickyHorton wrote:

 

I agree wholeheartedly that our response comes from our knowledge of God, or more precisely, from Scripture.  I preached a message once on this very premise using Psalm 100 as the example.  It goes from telling us something about God to praising Him.  He is what causes the emotion, or at least meditating on who He is and what He has done.  I have no affinity for the camp meeting songs whatsoever.  However, I've read quite a bit of hymn history and also looked into the stories behind some contemporary songs.  Many, if not most, of the songs that would probably be deemed highly emotive were written as a result of the author meditating on Scripture or God.  The fact that a song may not contain theology (though those are my preference) does not mean that it is of any less "quality" than those that do and in fact may mean that they had just been meditating on Scripture.  When you think about it, can there be an overly emotive reaction when it comes to God???  Should we squelch an emotional response to someone realizing that Christ died for them?

This cuts to the heart of what is going on, IMO.  Now I would agree 100% that there ought not be disapproval of a free and emotional response to God's grace.  Now here's the question; is singing a song in church a free response, or do we have an expectation that the entire congregation will sing or at least mumble along/sort of mouth the words with whatever song is presented?

The latter is the case, of course.  So it's not a question of whether the reverie of the composer is appropriate, but rather of whether the congregation is being told to go along with that reverie without being given the context of it.  More or less, it's the church equivalent of putting Kenny G. on the Victrola and expecting romance to automatically follow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy6KWBEoDRU

And as Garth would tell you, the guys that really, really, really object to this sort of thing the most are, well, guys.  You know, the guys who stay home from church because they're complaining that Sunday morning worship is too feminine.   I don't guarantee that putting content before emotion will bring him into fellowship, but watching a lot of the men not even trying to mouth the words in church--and I'm talking about saved members here--I'm thinking it can't hurt.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RickyHorton's picture

That is exactly what we do in our services.  All our songs follow a common theme for the day and are preceded by Scripture...the song then either reinforces the text or is a response to the text.  There are good music/songs that are simply an emotional response, and utilizing Scripture with the song is a tremendous blessing.  I also sometimes like to pair a theologically deep song with another song that is simply a response to the first (praise, thankfulness, essentially an emotion that results from the prior song).

I love your examples....first Weird Al, then Kenny G., and now Wayne's World!  You have diverse tastes!

Bert Perry's picture

RickyHorton wrote:

That is exactly what we do in our services.  All our songs follow a common theme for the day and are preceded by Scripture...the song then either reinforces the text or is a response to the text.  There are good music/songs that are simply an emotional response, and utilizing Scripture with the song is a tremendous blessing.  I also sometimes like to pair a theologically deep song with another song that is simply a response to the first (praise, thankfulness, essentially an emotion that results from the prior song).

I love your examples....first Weird Al, then Kenny G., and now Wayne's World!  You have diverse tastes!

Please, please, PLEASE don't imply I like Kenny G!  I'm right with Garth getting my root canal done when I hear nasal, lugubrious saxophone presented as somehow the music of romance.  :^)  (j/k; I know you're not accusing)

But yeah, I don't know if I'd have survived high school if it hadn't been for Weird Al spoofing all the nonsense music my classmates liked.....

Back on topic, I don't have a whole lot to add right yet, except that I've wondered at times whether the response of the men in the church is a good indication of whether the music is "working" or not.  They're the ones who look like statues first when they don't like the music in my experience.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

But yeah, I don't know if I'd have survived high school if it hadn't been for Weird Al spoofing all the nonsense music my classmates liked.....

Ayatollah!

Also, some of us actually do enjoy Kenny G.  His music is not up there with Mozart's Requiem, or even "The Stars and Stripes Forever," but of course, it's entirely different from those, and at certain places and times, I find it enhances the mood.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Actually, Weird Al's spoof of "My Sharona" was "My Bologna".  Steve Dahl--Chicago disk jockey and all-around provocateur of "Disco Demolition" fame or shame--did "Ayatollah."  

(I grew up around the city of Capone, Dillinger, and Obama......and Larry Lujack, and Dahl & Meyer, and....some baseball team that hasn't won the series since 1908)

Suffice it to say that my personal preference is for music with a little more "edge" to it than has Mr. G.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Actually, Weird Al's spoof of "My Sharona" was "My Bologna".  Steve Dahl--Chicago disk jockey and all-around provocateur of "Disco Demolition" fame or shame--did "Ayatollah."  

(I grew up around the city of Capone, Dillinger, and Obama......and Larry Lujack, and Dahl & Meyer, and....some baseball team that hasn't won the series since 1908)

Suffice it to say that my personal preference is for music with a little more "edge" to it than has Mr. G.  :^)

I'm sure you are right.  I remember some of Weird Al's songs and probably just mixed this one up.  Tells you how much I know of any of the pop music scene!  Thanks for the correction.

Dave Barnhart

pvawter's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

 Now here's the question; is singing a song in church a free response, or do we have an expectation that the entire congregation will sing or at least mumble along/sort of mouth the words with whatever song is presented?

 

Bert,

This is, I think, a very pertinent question. Is congregational singing a response to anything? Or do we just expect people to walk into church on Sunday morning and sing whatever they are told to sing? IMO, the singing of the congregation ought to be in response to truth and the Spirit's working in our hearts. For this reason, we have shifted more and more of our singing to the latter portion of our service so that people can sing songs that echo the response of their hearts to God's word as it has been read and preached. In most churches of which I have been a part, the service is front-loaded with singing and precious little opportunity was given to respond to the word of God apart from a come-forward invitation.

As to whether it is a free response or not, I think that 1 Corinthians 14:40 would mitigate against having a completely free response in a public worship service, but if songs are chosen which reflect the same tenor and theme as the Scriptures which have been expounded, then a genuine and heartfelt response is certainly possible.