This is Part 3 of 4 in a series…
Conformity or Inspiration
A worship service that creates a tap on the shoulder is far more valued than one that knocks on your soul in a raw, authentic way. After all, our HOA wants our lawn cut the same height, so why should our music exceed the prescribed decibel? The point is that being moved and inspired is far less important than conforming. Is the goal conformity to the lowest common denominator or aspiration to peek into the window of the heavenlies?
One of my favorite “old school” contemporary Christian songs is Steve Taylor’s “I Want to Be A Clone.” We homogenize rather than synergize. Like a blender creating slop, we put two independently perfect items and destroy their uniqueness. This is why “blended worship” is not as effective as ministries that choose to have services with a focus. It seems far better to have a traditional service done with excellence than to mix Steve Fee on pipe organ or Isaac Watts with a banjo. (Actually, the Isaac Watts banjo thing sounds cool, I have to admit.)
Now, I am not against blended worship, I am just concerned about the purpose some have in the neutering of art in their church. If you cannot pull off modern worship to sound its best or traditional worship to sound its best why try? Why not program what you can accomplish uniquely well?
Indigenous worship is a far better choice. We use that word in global outreach, but I think for worship and creativity in the local church that it makes perfect sense. The concept is that it should be important to tell our faith community’s story. While we should not be afraid to jump on trends and movements of God’s Spirit around the world, it should be our staple to make our expressions of worship flavored and colored by the stories of God’s presence and work locally.
The church worship team can become strictly a cover band. Why is that better than creating something out of your own artists and musicians? When part of a consulting group for a major publisher I was highly encouraged to hear that the goal of their worship music was to “mine” songs from local churches.
Too good means fighting for authentic expression rather than boiler plate. Creating means not just using best practice ideas it means making them your own. So, if I am using current music out there for worship how can my worship team make it ours?
Winners and Losers or We all win or lose In other ways we also discourage things from being “too good” because we fear the dirty word in Christian circles–competition. In the sense of rivalry, we are right to fear competition. However, just because a person has 10 talents and one person has 1 does not mean we ban anyone having 10! Instead of competition, we can have coopetition–or where two parties that excel in differing areas can work together win. Competition means someone has to lose and we often are about picking winners and losers rather than understanding coopetition.
In a church setting, there is limited resources, time and focus–even though yes God can do miracles and suspend the laws of physics when he so chooses. The gatekeepers of our local assemblies indeed work hard to ensure the building is not falling apart and that the pastor’s paycheck does not bounce. I do not think it matters whether you are in a church of 5,000 or a church 150 people. There are winners and losers in the resource area, regardless of size.
I remember being in a small church plant and some on our worship team who were bigger donors decided that we needed a respectable speaker system. As the young worship leader, I spec’d out the best Peavey audio system of 1990. The effect was that we had a nice speaker system, but our church had a shortfall in other areas. On top of the negative cash flow effect, the system was so huge it was a massive pain to transport and setup for a little church plant. We got a sound system but it was a Pyrrhic victory–one where the win was not worth the casualties.
We must be careful to not “win” at the expense of someone else. In the sound system case, we could have waited or modified the plan so that others were not impacted. In that case, we had one talent and were right to invest it. But, we just were not careful in how we did it. Too good does not mean overspending or putting things out of balance.
Having one great weekend experiences is not as important as having 52 very good worship services. Having clear, well-written communications to your church body monthly is more important than one slick mailer that has no sustainability. So, winning is winning more. Winning once is not good enough!