I recently read a terrific article by Branon Dempsey that asks the question “whatever happened to church music?” Here’s an excerpt:
…My pastor recently asked the question, “why are songs of today not as fast and not as joyful as the ones from way-back? Today, they seem more monotone in worship. What happened?” he inquired. At first, I saw it from his perspective and understood where he was coming from. Songs that were 10-20-30 years old were different. Our times were different, and our faith reflected those times. Also, logistics in doing music and instrumentation in the church was different, as well as the technology.
Songs before did seem a bit faster, happier, and more major sounding in key. Not to say we don’t now, but in my observation, I think I’m taking more notice of its relevancy. My pastor was curious for an answer; I paused for a moment to think.
In the 80’s-90’s, we had a different era of established worship songwriters, artists and publishers. We were singing songs that weren’t offered in the hymnal. Besides, we were still singing old songs 20-30 years back then as well – just as we do today.
Regardless, we kept singing those songs for years because they worked, and still do with many congregations. In 2014, we have a plethora of songs that all started from the seeds of humble beginnings. The complication we have today is choosing good songs that work Theologically and vocally, that retain meaning, energy, and sustenance. How you do the song according to style is reflective to the make-up of your band, their culture, their talent level, and capability.
As an “old-timer” who started leading contemporary praise & worship in the late ’80’s before most of today’s worship leaders were even born, I have noticed a more angst-filled, me-centric style of worship coming out of today’s millennials. I miss the simplicity of “I worship You, Almighty God, there is none like You.”
Churches that desire to stay relevant to the current culture present a worship experience not much different from the concert we might have attended on Friday night at the local coliseum. So there is little Biblically-based teaching coming from the pulpit (or stage) that instructs a church full of new believers why we worship the way we do (lifting holy hands, inner/outer court, holy of holies, etc.).
The teaching component of worship instruction is all but missing from today’s modern church. That is, in part, responsible for a very casual approach to the worship service, where attendees saunter in at their leisure in their shorts and flip-flops, balancing their cell phones and Starbucks cups, climbing down the row so they can sit with their peeps and enjoy the show. By the time the 3-song “setlist” is completed, very few have really worshipped.
There does seem to be a lot of “worship training events” where worship leaders and their teams can go for instruction. I just hope they are given the opportunity to share what they’ve learned about the Biblical basis for worship in their own local churches. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back towards a more practical application of worship where the focus is on the worshipped rather than the worshipper.