Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's Not About Me: But I Actually Am Me...

First things first. Read this article which was sent to me by a wonderful friend of mine.

Are We Headed For A Crash: Reflections On The Current State Of Evangelical Worship

Here are a few excerpts:
"Last week I spent a couple of days attending the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine, featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went."

"It’s good for worship leaders to experience this kind of wide-exposure from time to time, and the National Worship Leader Conference certainly provides it."

"Yet throughout the conference, at different sessions, with different worship leaders, from different circles, using different approaches, and leading with different bands, I picked up on a common theme. It’s been growing over the last few decades. And to be honest, it’s a troubling theme. And if this current generation of worship leaders doesn’t change this theme, then corporate worship in evangelicalism really is headed for a major crash.
It's a good, true and interesting article. I've always maintained that balance is the hardest thing to find. As a part-time worship leader I try to keep to one original song per service these days. Because I don't lead frequently enough for the congregation to stay familiar with my music. When I was full time I would introduce a new song (mine or anyone else's) 3 weeks in a row to allow the congregation to digest it. I make a point to try to put songs in a key where the melody doesn't go higher than a certain note, in order to make songs as physically easy to sing as possible. There are congregations, such as at Tommy Walker's church that have developed a culture of participation in worship even with very complicated music. And I have heard of people being very accusatory towards Tommy for showboating with his guitar, when literally nothing could be farther from the truth. But the person was not part of his church's worship culture."

It's a conundrum. I am not moved by a lot of the worship music that comes out so I don't use it when I lead. I am often disappointed by the fact that there are often several near identical versions of the same worship song recorded by different worship bands and artists. I often find it creatively lazy and not honoring our very creative God... But I am not a "standard issue" type of person in general. I am the guy who just did a live remix of Birdland and Mustang Sally after all. So I am obviously not a normal person...

I know it's a problem, especially when a self proclaimed worship junkie can't even follow along and engage in worship.But I am not sure of how to address that problem... It's very hard to lead people along a path you are not on. Every sincere Worship Leader wants to take people into the presence of God. But not very worship leader is in tune with his inner Chris Tomlin. (For the record, I led worship this past weekend and did both The Wonderful Cross and Take My Life voluntarily and virtually without alteration. He is just the first name that came to mind.) But as a writer, I literally can't fanthom a worship world where we all fit into one universal cookie cutter shape for worship. As creative people, Christians are so often told how great it is when we "use our gifts for the Lord". Sometimes with an underlying implication of instead of using them for "yourself" out in the world. For some our creativity is our livelihood. And if we didn't use our gifts in the world we'd either have to work outside of our gifting and many, possibly most have to do so, or work only in ministry which is rare and often very limiting. And if the fact that we write our own music is part of the problem with worship today that puts a serious damper on using ones gifts "for the Lord"...

As an aside, I truly believe we are doing a huge disservice to this generation of musicians by teaching them how to NOT read music. I am not even the sight reader that I should be, but if I were the king of the forest I would destroy virtually every chord and lyric sheet in existence and decree that lead sheets be mandatory. I wouldn't really go quite that far. At least put the chord over the right word. But I do believe we have some very bad musical habits in most churches that you could quite frankly make a case for them being dishonoring to music itself if not to God. Case in point, electronic drums are often teaching young drummers how to lack musicality (DYNAMICS) by just turning down their volume and playing as hard as they want. (I've even heard a drummer friend extend that to drum shields...) And I mean after all, isn't the Creator of the universe worth more than just three triads. David said I I'll not offer a sacrifice that cost me nothing. But I am a extended harmony snob and I digress. That said, for the record, I live to worship singing Revelation Song and How He Loves (oops that has four chords and one is a minor 7 chord). I only recently succumbed to my natural tendency to "blackify everything", in the words of my good friend and brother The Reverend Dr. Dave Pettway, and reharmonized How He Loves for the Northern California Gospel Music Festival... *Pett, these days I am very prone to Latinizing and/or reggaefying everything but I am as God made me...

Life IS a complex thing... And finding balance in worship is no less complex than life itself. Not every worship leader is a songwriter. Nor is every worship leader *MADD like I am. (Musical Attention Deficit Disorder) I guess the best thing to do is as worship leaders is search our hearts and try to prioritize pleasing the Lord and bringing His children into His presence and helping lead the lost into His arms above all else and earnestly working on making the HOW most appropriate for the culture of where we are leading. And of course, destroying all the chord and lyrics sheets and electronic drums... I'm trying to be kidding about that...

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