The topic of church music came up recently during meetings I’ve attended concerning a new church planning to launch this year.
What type of church music do you prefer? Do you like hymns played on an organ or more contemporary music played with more “modern” instruments?
Some insist hymns are far better than the modern songs. I don’t agree with all of those points, necessarily. Some people respond better to upbeat music and rhythms than hymns usually provide.
In any case, I’ve recently been asked questions like that as part of a survey for a church launching later this year in Charleston, which is nicknamed the “Holy City.”
As I looked at some of the worship songs listed that might wind up being part of monthly “preview” services, I realized something that hadn’t occurred to me.
I really am indifferent about church music.
I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church that was so conservative about everything that we couldn’t even applaud a beautiful musical performance. A loud organ, apparently, was pleasing to the Lord’s ears. But clapping hands obviously wasn’t.
There are hymns that I still think are beautiful. But in later years, I moved to a nondenominational church that featured music rendered by electric guitar, keyboard and drums.
Very loud drums.
All of it was loud, actually. I didn’t realize how loud it was until I was essentially replaced in the tech booth with a computer and found myself sitting in the audience. Then I realized the loudness in the booth was nothing compared with the loudness in the audience.
I also realized, since I no longer had buttons and sliders to distract me, how generally lousy the lyrics for most contemporary worship songs actually were. And how repetitive.
Would I prefer old-style hymns over the seemingly endless repetition of more modern stuff? Now that I think about it, maybe I do.
Having been so turned off by contemporary worship music, I really could do without all of it.
I apologize to any religious musical performers reading this. It’s not you; it’s almost entirely me.
But if I attended a service where there was no music (or not much of it) and just a sermon and benediction, I don’t think I’d be upset about it.
Maybe I’ve found some sort of musical burnout.
Or maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve heard music in churches that actually says something worthwhile. Or at least is performed at a level not likely to cause hearing loss.
I told the pastor of this new church about one song in particular, which I’ll not name here. There’s a moment in it where percussion begins building to this melodramatic crescendo. During this build-up, the same couple of lines are repeated. And repeated. When I last looked at a song sheet, as I recall, the lines were repeated seven or eight times in a row.
If you have to rely on that much repetition, you don’t have nearly enough to say.
This particular church has promised no electric guitars or drums, so it seems it’s not planning to trade deafening loudness for substance.
It’s a shame many “modern” churches apparently can’t see the difference.