Tuesday, March 07, 2006

That's Entertainment

Since we have always been a part of churches (up til now) that employed a worship style that was pretty far off from what we would choose, I have hit an interesting speedbump in my thinking. Now that we are taking part in services where the music style IS what we would choose, I feel conflicted. I feel...guilty. It's too easy. Too glossy. Too well-done. Too comfortable. The critical voices are going on and on in my head. I suppose I will eventually get used to it, but I'd like to be able to think this through a bit.

I was telling a friend about this the other day. I said, "I don't know if I'm being entertained or if I'm worshiping!" She laughed and said, "What's wrong with being entertained?"

That took me aback. "Uhhh...hmmm....but "they" always say it's not supposed to be entertainment" was the only answer I could summon.

So I looked up the definition of "entertainment"

Entertainment is an amusement or diversion intended to hold the attention of an audience or its participants.


I'm throwing this out for discussion because I can't seem to come to a mental conclusion. Obviously, thinking of a worship service as merely an amusement or diversion is bad. But the holding people's attention part...well, let's face it. Many of the churches I've been a part of worked pretty hard at NOT holding my attention. Is there such a thing as "too slick" or "too well done" ? Or am I just conditioned to feel that awkward = honest. And the saints preserve us from the thing I find most jarring...hokiness. Ultimately, I just want to not feel so conflicted in a worship service. Right now, I just feel rediculously self-conscious....and that exactly the opposite of what I should be.


A said...

I can fully understand and empathize with the tension, given our culturally conditioned pasts.

One thing that encourages me in the awkwardness is a point Dr. Lawlor made in one of my seminary classes back in the day. The first inscripturated worship service happened when the nation of Israel were released from bondage. Their response of praise took the form of what they were used to and the instruments they had at their disposal at the time. Worship came out of their culture. They used the instruments and musical forms they knew, and responded to what God had done with them.

I think that lays out something of a pattern for us. It may be similar to handling our finances. There isn't necessarily a formula or one set style. But if we are truly responding in our hearts to what God has done with anything (music, art, etc.) then it is an act of worship.

So, maybe the level of comfort has to be an internal and personal one. You have to answer the question, are you being entertained by the forms used in a worship service, or are you using forms you are comfortable with to respond to God for what He has done?

Robb said...

I find bad worship services entertaining.

ness said...

Robb, that's because you're a pill.

A said...

And bad chapel services at our alma mater led by someone playing the trombone were mildly entertaining. Forced us to revert to "crash test dummies" impersonations.

kingsjoy said...

I've found that the musical part of a worship service can be distracting if it's too slick, and also if it's too disorganized. It's a delicate balance to be well-rehearsed while allowing for spontaneous changes from the plan.

Bottom line for me is whether or not the "worship leaders" are worshiping God more than they're thinking "repeat four times, then back to the top, and crescendo on the ending" or whatever. You can tell, really.

So, that was a tangent from your subject. But, I think it can apply to your personal worship experience too. If you're able to connect in a real worship experience before God, it doesn't really matter what style of music is playing in the background. I mean, is music even always necessary? Probably not.

Now, join with me in song, "Hokiness, hokiness, is what I long for..." ;)

Robb said...

I find David entertaining.

Elizabeth said...

i'm glad that God did not give us a lot of guidelines or steps for our worship...especially in music. kindof makes me think that He did create us to all be unique and express it in different ways...and that's cool and very freeing! and i must say...i really doubt that God would ever want us to NOT enjoy our music/time for worship, etc. He's not nearly as boring and uncreative as we are!

ash said...

as a worship leader, i feel the need to add to the present discussion.
frankly i believe that the "worship service" has become too much of a separate entity in the church. it's too independent of the sermon. i think that too many churches forget that the music is there to enhance and reinforce what message is being taught for that week.
remember that music alone in church is not necessarily worship. worship is a lifestyle "i urge you.. in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship." romans 12:1
some people worship through reading the bible, some through enjoying naure, some through art and music...and many other ways as well. is it wrong to be entertained by scripture or nature?
i love the story of how matt redmond's church did away completely with instruments and sound equipment as a way to recapture what role the "entertainment" factor was playing in their services. the song "heart of worship" was written as a reaction to that.
i serve in a very large church in florida. we use different medias to reach different worship languages. i'm blessed to serve with many professional musicians, artists, and sound technicians. we simply use our gifts in a way to bring glory to god. we are to offer our best to God.
yes, there are times when the rest of the band gets lost in the arrangement and you worry about the flow of the songs, but that all falls under offering your best.
there are a million and five examples i could use of looking great on the outside and being awfully ugly on the inside, but instead i will defer to my favorite line. "jesus knows my heart." if i happen to engage someone through a song, it's nothing of my own doing.
my apolgies for the length...i had a minute...

Darla said...

i don't have anything really to add to the discussion - but have loved reading all the comments - i especially like this: "The first inscripturated worship service happened when the nation of Israel were released from bondage." WOW -i'm sitting here wondering what the heck that would have looked like and sounded like - must have been AMAZING.

A said...

Read Exodus 15 and you'll get a sense of it. Lots of tambourines and dancing. =)

ness said...

Invoking Dr. Lawlor helped, A. That made a ton of sense to me... because this discomfort has more to do with my hang ups than anyone up front. And it was cool to have David and Ash respond from their vantage point (from the stage). I know that both of you are very sincere and thoughtful people who have carefully considered your role. Oddly enough, the only time I don't feel self conscious in a worship service is when I am on stage. I think it is because I have a clear idea of what I'm supposed to do. I suppose that being really relaxed and free to respond is hard because in other places we have been, I know that people were watching me (and some were very critical).

A said...

Interestingly, that is one of the things I appreciate and enjoy most about Fellowship, and will probably miss most. Among 1200 people, through the music, lead worshippers, lighting, and screen prompts, I am able to sense more than anywhere else, that it is just me and God. That results in honest and true worship on my part more easily than any other place or time I've ever experienced. I am able to sense God's presence more there in those moments than most other places, and I hope we can figure out how to make that be true of Vintage in the next 6 months.

klasieprof said...

V said: people were watching me (and some were very critical).


Courtney said...

okay, I agree with Elizabeth and I agree with Ash and I agree with Donna and Robb and you know this makes me crazy :)
We're in a lg church too and sometimes I have to wonder if the people on stage even know if there is anyone else in the room. There are "teams" and some of the teams are really into helping the congregation get going in the morning and some of them are just putting on a show. (Ron enjoys them esp. since he likes to stand behind me and whisper his little side comments into my ear while I'm singing...it's really not conducive to worship some mornings). I just try to have the resolve that it doesn't really matter what I think of the "presentation;" my respondsibility is to bring myself, prepared, before my Father...and maybe it's okay to laugh at the guy who's jumping up and down at 8:30 am--just a little.

klasieprof said...

Published February 25, 2006
[ From the Lansing State Journal ]
New Life for Old Hymns
In a contemporary world, some pine for classic songs

By Sam Hodges
KRT News Service

A funny thing happened last summer at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. A shipment of hymn books arrived, and not by mistake.

Lake Pointe is a megachurch with contemporary-style worship. Years ago, it dissolved its choir and got rid of its hymnals in favor of Christian "praise" music, played by a rock band, with lyrics flashed on big screens.

But in August, sensing demand, the church debuted its "classic service," an early Sunday morning alternative service with choir, piano, organ and lots of congregational singing - out of those shiny new hymnals.

The first Sunday, Pastor Steve Stroope and his staff prepared a room for 200. Nearly twice that many came, forcing a move the next week to the church gym. A second batch of hymnals was ordered. The service now regularly draws 300 to 350, with chairs covering the basketball court.

"We've scratched an itch," Stroope said.

Back to tradition

Call it a counter-reformation, or a rear guard action in the worship wars. But more and more churches that cast their lots with contemporary worship are beginning to innovate through tradition, giving folks some old-time religion - especially hymns.

Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., founded by Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," is famously and influentially contemporary in worship style. But last September it added a Sunday service called "Traditions," complete with hymnals, to its several worship style options.

"Although it is not one of our larger venues, it is extremely popular with those who attend," said Gerald Sharon, part of Saddleback's pastoral staff.

Across the country and across denominations, there are churches that feature contemporary worship but offer a traditional option. Quite a few, including Allentown Presbyterian in Allentown, N.J., and Spokane Valley United Methodist in Spokane Valley, Wash., use the term "classic" to describe the service.

" 'Classic' makes me chuckle. It sounds like oldies rock for boomers!" said Mark Miller-McLemore, an assistant professor of the practice of ministry at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn. Others, including Stroope, said "Classic Service" reminded them of "Coca-Cola Classic," a term born of the New Coke fiasco.

Some miss the old ways

No one can dispute that the contemporary-style worship has helped churches grow by pulling in "unchurched" young and middle-aged people, who tend to like the informality and rock- influenced music.

It's still far more common to see a mainline church experimenting with a contemporary service than a contemporary-style church trying out tradition.

But some students of the contemporary style say that much of its music lacks the melodic sophistication of enduring hymns, or the poetry and doctrinal depth of lyrics penned by such writers as Charles Wesley ("Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"), Isaac Watts ("When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"), Fanny Crosby ("Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine") or Thomas Dorsey ("Precious Lord, Take My Hand").

And while traditional worship can be stiff and uninvolving, the contemporary experience - music, big screens, mood lighting - is often derided as "church lite."

Beyond 'tolerating'

Stroope, 52, describes himself as equally fond of contemporary Christian music and hymns. He signed on as Lake Pointe's pastor in 1980, a few months after it was founded by seven families in an abandoned bait shop. Now Lake Pointe has 10,000 members and a $12 million budget - and the contemporary worship style is clearly one of the reasons.

But as Stroope watched the church grow, he worried that a percentage of its loyal members were gritting their teeth through the electrified praise music.

"We just really felt led that there was a group of people in our church that come out of the builder generation (pre-baby boomers) who very graciously, because they love everything else about our church, tolerated our style of music," Stroope said.

"I just realized that we had grown to such a size that we probably had a critical mass of those folks."

To run the classic service, Stroope recruited the church's senior adult pastor, Lyn Cypert, and hired Don Blackley, a veteran Baptist minister of music.

The choir has done Southern gospel, various hymn arrangements and some fairly new pieces that have made their way into choral repertoire, including one by acclaimed British composer John Rutter.

"I'm challenging the heck out of this choir," Blackley, 64, said. "There'll come a point when we'll do something from Beethoven and Handel, but it'll be sprinkled in. We'll find ourselves more often doing gospel and hymns."

As for the worshippers at the classic service, they, too, skew senior. Jerry Walker, 66 of Rowlett, is among the regulars.

"What's incredible to me is, you've got the freedom and acceptance Lake Pointe offers, yet now you've got the traditional service, too," he said. "The music that's in the contemporary service - well, it's just harder for me to sing along with."

(Photo by KRT News Service)
That old-time religion: Don Blackley conducts the choir during rehearsal at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas.

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