Posted tagged ‘Keith Green’

The Rigid New Worship

March 12, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 12, 2019

                                  

A few months ago my wife and I attended a mega-church that had grown incredibly fast…numbers-wise! It wasn’t my cup of tea. The pastor’s message was okay, although it had a not-so-subtle hint of “Look at us now!” to it! But the striking…er, deafening aspect was the performance upfront that was referred to as “worship music.” I usually enjoy singing, but since I couldn’t hear my own voice I closed my mouth. Obviously, where I was in my parameters of worship was different than the masses.

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s there were battles in churches across the country that were known as “the worship wars.” Some churches had broken away from hymns and began singing praise music. Others put one foot in the hymnbook and one foot on the praise choruses sheet music. Generally speaking, the elder generation saw praise music as a step away from Jesus and a step closer to fallenness. The younger generation wanted the parking brake taken off of the organ! Few were happy. The Deceiver used music about Jesus to bring division into the church.

I was an “in-betweener”, singing “The Old Rugged Cross” in morning worship and then “Pass It On” at youth group that night. We never sang “Pass It On” in the church service, but, of course, we never sang “The Old Rugged Cross” in youth group.

And then when I was a student at Judson College things started changing. Keith Green came to campus and did a concert and I was “wowed” by the depth of the lyrics and the sound of the music. And then there was a lady known as “Honeytree”, and Rich Mullins, and a three siblings group known as The Second  Chapter of Acts. I still remember when our hymns-only church sang “Easter Song” by Second Chapter…but it was deemed okay since it was about Jesus, the resurrection, and it was Easter Sunday!

I remember the consternation about having someone play the drums in church, let alone the bass and electric guitars. Gradually, there was a softening of the hearts, or, perhaps, a turning down of the hearing aids, and we trudged to a worship wars truce. A suspicious spirit, however, emerged in a number of churches. I remember a man in my church who would leave the sanctuary every time a praise song was sung. If an organ was good enough for Jesus it was good enough for him. Anyone who liked those new praise songs was suspect in his mind, and, on the other hand, other people were suspicious of him!

But now we’ve come to a new day where the worship wars have ended…sorta’! Congregations were seeing their young people leaving the church and using adjectives such as “irrelevant” and “boring” to describe it. So…they surrendered to contemporary Christian music!

Once in a while they still sing a hymn…a revised, updated, hymn that is! One that has the same words, but a better beat in case anyone wants to dance in the aisles!

It’s amazing the flip that has happened! Just as there was a rigid loyalty in the older generation to singing the old familiar hymns, it seems there is now a rigidity in the new worship about not just singing the new music, but to making worship into a performance. The voice of the lead singer needs to be so amazing that the congregation thinks they are in the “American Idol” audience. The lyrics, more often than not, have to be so simple that the audience doesn’t even need to look at the mega-sized screen up front. The music so moving or soothing that it causes the audience to either jump or sway. 

Just as our old traditional congregations were steadfast about having the hymnal in hand the new worship is uncompromising about having the audience’s hands free.

I don’t believe we are headed back to the worship wars again, and that’s a good thing! But we do have a new crisis that we’re walking through. I’ll call it “The Worship Wows!”

Letting Go of My Cassette Tapes

June 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2016

                                

It’s been a difficult week. I took my carrying case of cassette tapes to Goodwill! It was comparable to that day several years ago when Carol and I took Lizi, our youngest, to college.

Carol has been cleaning up the basement this week. The trunk of our car was loaded with various boxes and forgotten treasures. I was okay with the old humidifier finding its place in the trunk, but then…then (dramatic music for effect)…she brought out the tape case.

I had forgotten about it, but then I started looking at all the products of music production that it held.

Twila Paris….Bohemian Melodies…Lake Wobegon Days…Whale Sounds…DeGarmo and Key…Cat Stevens…Andrae Crouch…Larry Norman…Keith Green! The last three are now dead, but hey!…their music never dies…unless, of course, its on a cassette tape.

I begrudgingly zipped the case closed and said a few holy words over it, sprayed incense in the air, tore my cloak and threw ashes on my head, and then drove the condemned to Goodwill.

I realize that neither of our vehicles has a tape player, and the one cassette player we have is somewhere unknown, but it is hard to let go of objects that I’ve associated with a certain period of my life.

Cassette tapes were from a time when Carol and I were raising three kids. There’s a sweetness to those memories. I would listen to Twila Paris as I prepared the Sunday message. When the music ended, I pressed the eject button and the tape door would open. I’d flip the cassette over and press Play. Good times and good music.

Life is littered with those Goodwill moments when we just need to let some things go. Pack them up and move on.

Churches usually aren’t very good at that. Sentiment runs high. Every congregation has a certain number of people who want things to stay the same. Like with my cassette tapes, I just wanted them to be there in case, for some odd reason, on a rainy afternoon I ever had the urge to hear whale sounds again.

Years ago there was a man in my church who had to travel most of the time. He would be gone for three or four months and then be home for a week. I got wind of the fact that he wasn’t going to come to church anymore so I called him. He said the church had changed, that it wasn’t the same. In essence, he wanted it to be there for him whenever he had the urge or possibility of attending. In his turbulent and fast-paced life he wanted the worship service to be the same as it had been in order to bring back to him memories of a period of his life that he longed to return to.

It’s hard to say goodbye, because we feel that we’re being insensitive. There are those who transition, it seems, with ease, and then there are those of us who hold on because we associate whatever we’re grasping with God. If it at one time was a vehicle of God we think it borders on blasphemy to get rid of it.

Churches are often hoarders out of a confused love for God. It’s like when I go to Best Buy and purchase a new Blu-Ray player, and then bring it home and sit it on top of my DVD player, which is still sitting on top of my VHS player.

Sometimes we just have to take the cassette tapes to Goodwill!

What Carol doesn’t realize is that I sneaked half a dozen tapes out of the case when she was out of the room. I think that’s okay! Bohemian Melodies, it seems, are few and far between these days.