Monday, October 27, 2014

Contemporary worship music

At the beginning of "The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons" T. David Gordon writes "by imminent decline, I do not mean imminent disappearance." But he does believe it has been in decline for some time for reasons qualitative, sociological, and doctrinal.

Anyone who follows this blog or knows me personally already knows how I feel about arguments like this. I hope he's right, and for the reasons he advances, but I'm not at all sure he is.

His sixth reason for the decline has to do with us "Boomers":
Thankfully, my own generation is beginning to die. While ostensibly created “for the young people,” the driving force behind CWM was always my own Sixties generation of anti-adult, anti-establishment, rebellious Woodstockers and Jesus freaks. Once my generation became elders and deacons (and therefore those who ran the churches), we could not escape our sense of being part of the “My Generation” that The Who’s Pete Townsend had sung about when we were young; so we (not the young people) wanted a brand of Christianity that did not look like our parents’ brand. Fortunately for the human race, we are dying off now, and much of the impetus for CWM will die with us (though the commercial interests will “not go gentle into that good night,” and fulfill Dylan Thomas’s wish).
As one who is also of that generation, but always somewhat at odds with it, I'd be interested to hear the opinions of others, especially younger others.

The really serious concerns are not with modern Christian music in a concert setting but, rather, how CWM affects intentional worship. For instance:
CWM is ordinarily accompanied by Praise Teams, and these have frequently (but by no means always) been problematic. It has been difficult to provide direction to them, due to the inherent confusion between whether they are participants in the congregation or performers for the congregation. In most circumstances, the members of the Praise Team do the kinds of things performers do: they vary the instrumental or harmonious parts between stanzas, they rehearse, etc. In fact, if one were to watch a video of the typical Praise Team without any audio, they ordinarily look like performers; their bodily actions and contrived emotional expressions mimic those of the entertainment industry.

Theologically and liturgically, however, it is the congregation that is to sing God’s praise, and what we call the Praise Team is merely an accompanist. .... [more]