Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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The Big Tent

 Out of the growth-marketing philosophy as promoted by today’s humanistic-based Church Growth consultants large movements have been built around many prominent churches that encourage the use of marketing tools and devices in order to emulate society and attract people. As a result, many times church leadership see bringing in contemporary commercial music into the church as a way of “attracting” people through the musical genre. In so doing an entire litany of commercialized middle of the road “new worship” music has arisen that many times is geared towards compromise with the world rather than the proclamation of truth. Though garnished with the label “praise and worship” a good deal of our contemporary church music tends to focus more on popular appeal. Hence, true biblical worship is lost in the midst of the church’s attempts to relate to the world.

Since the late ’60s and early ’70s Contemporary Christian music has become very marketable. Yet it should be noted that it is not necessary to undermine spiritual and musical content for sake of commercialization. Even as Christian worship and praise music has become more commercial through the success of recording companies such as Maranatha!, Integrity and Word, some composers have arisen in their midst to pen better-written music and lyrics. As a result, the worship and praise style will at times contain a little more depth than its simple praise chorus beginnings. Some prominent songwriters have arisen out of the fray to compose music that does not reflect the trite expressions and sporadic instances of bad theology contained in some of the earlier
contemporary worship forms. Since the worship and praise music that we see in certain music circles today does not compromise lyrical content, a lot of the theological makeup of these songs is slowly becoming more defined and profound than it was in the beginning. Rendering Christian music commercially viable, therefore, does not necessitate a compromise with honesty. In fact it can enhance it.

But there are many times when it does not. When considering the concept of relating to society, it is also common to see modern composers lower church music to the level of a society that is dominated by the likes of sit-coms, reality shows and MTV. They tend to play for the crowd rather than ministering to the Lord. So much has been lost because of it, as overt simplicity, repetitiveness, feel-good lyrics and the same old hooks have displaced theological depth in Christian lyrical content. Text emanating from passionate testimonies has many times been replaced by surface-level cliches that are written for the sake of commercializing rather than from the heart.

Instead of singing from a soul that bears deep life experiences, the tendency in much of our commercial music today is to write
lyrics that will sell. So, many musicians in every field put on plastic performances rather than singing from conviction. In pop music we have seen the flashy stage acts of people like Britney Spears and company who utilize gimmicks to cover up for a lack of talent and sincerity. This same scarcity of honesty has been embraced by many Christian artists who you will see donning their Disneyland smiles while looking too cute, just a little too nice, dull, drab and boring. Christian music in many arenas is so pop that it has become namby-pamby instead of convincing.

Where are the Keith Greens in Christian music today who dare to sing with passion about what they believe to uncompromising lyrics that burn in the heart and convict the soul? Where are the guts in contemporary music anyway? What ever happened to the fervor that you found in the music of Beethoven, or the grit that flows out of the music of ‘60s groups such as Crosby, Stills and Nash? Because of their sincerity alone, the ‘60s rock artists, though they promoted all the wrong ideas, tend to put many musicians in the church to shame. If Jeff Sharlet, our Harper’s writer quoted at the beginning of this chapter, was talking about the lack of passion when he wondered where the angry songs are in the church, then he had it right. And there is no sense
in singing or playing music unless the music is filled with passion and conviction.

In Christian music you can see passion and conviction in the praise music of Tommy Walker who travels with a band of musicians who play their hearts out, and do it very well. Then you have Chris Tomlin who sings lyrics full of intensity and doctrine. Dennis Agajanian plays superbly and with nothing but heart. But this music that proclaims truth and ushers from deep within needs to become a little bit more common.

The problem that we face today in that regard is that truth and conviction within a belief system divides and that is not the goal of the contemporary society that the proponents of Church Growth hope to emulate. We live in a “big tent” inclusive world that seeks to bring people together rather than tear them apart. Music that clearly speaks Christian teachings does not fit into today’s New Age “let’s get together asmone” creed. And many in the church who have come under the influence of the Church Growth Movement’s “become like the culture” thesis are now convinced that they need to adopt this “oneness” theme in order to survive.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

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