Friday, April 10, 2009

Worship Snobbery

I’m one of the setup teams at my church, which means one of my responsibilities is making sure there are enough chairs for people to sit on. This involves staying at the back of church for the first half hour or so of the service, putting out extra chairs as they’re needed. This means I don’t have much opportunity to engage in the first worship set. I don’t mind this at all but it does mean I don’t get much chance to participate in congregational worship.
One of the times I get a massive chance to do this is at Spring Harvest every Easter. I was there last week. However, I couldn’t engage with the worship, either in the big top or in iScape, the youth session. This got me thinking about my opinions on worship, and I think I might be what I call a Worship Snob. I seem to be very fussy about worship experiences and am rarely happy with them. I think this is probably not a good thing.

Here are some things that annoy or frustrate me on this topic.

‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ songs. These are just very very incorrect. Jesus is not your boyfriend! So stop singing like he is!
Lame or uninspired music, with no inventiveness – something you would never ever listen to
Lame or uninspired lyrics that say nothing and just seem there to fit the tune
Soppy songs, such as ‘All I once held dear’, except on very rare occasions (actually, the verses of All I once held dear are quite good, but the chorus lyrics and music are very soppy)
Lack of sequence in a worship set (e.g. at Spring Harvest: Dancing Generation into Let me be broken (even if you don’t know the songs, the titles alone should show the incongruity of this transition))
Over-repetition (e.g. Lord I lift your name on high, seven times, including four key changes – another from Spring Harvest this year)
Lack of oomph or passion, which is often in the soppy songs
Worship leader/band shown on the screen – this is very distracting

I think quite a lot of these things tie into two larger themes:
1. Worship, however contemporary, is a strange thing to a non-believer. Churches MUST make it as accessible as possible. A lot of the above things are very ‘Christian’ things to do and are not that accessible to non-believers.

2. Men hardly ever sing. When they do it is in sports, when supporting a team. Hardly any worship songs are sung in this way. And people wonder why there aren’t many men in the church! A lot of the above things are very unmanly (and this is coming from a man who isn’t even particularly manly!)

Another point may be that I am generally fussy about music, and I think this leads into worship music too. Maybe I have too high standards, I don’t know.

One might say that these things shouldn’t inhibit worship, but I just find myself distracted or annoyed, as if trying to worship while a fire alarm is going off.

Either I’ve got a point, that worship music is inaccessible to a lot of people, especially men, or I’m a worship snob. Or maybe both, or somewhere in between.


BuckinghamFool said...

Ben, fantastic comments. One of the things that annoyed me most about Spring Harvest and other youth type events was the whole "Jesus is my boyfriend" style of songs. Could not have put it better myself.

Elliespeaks said...

"Jesus is my boyfriend" totally agree, annoyance. In fact, most of the stuff you've mentioned annoys me, however it doesn't bother me enough to write a blog about it. But bless you *pats your head*, I hope you find a way to get over this.

Tim Dixon said...

You've hit the nail on the head, I think.

I suppose worship songs are caught in the dichotomy between becoming too emotion-driven or too dry/theological - maybe it stems from the free churches trying to get away from the percieved dryness of older hymns and thus throwing the baby (excellent lyrics and meaningful songs) out with the bathwater (outdated phraseology and dirge-like melodies).

Out of interest, what worship songs do you think mix the two well? "Blessed be your name" is the classic, I suppose. Mind you, I love "Thine be the Glory" and "Crown him with many crowns"!

Unknown said...

Tim - if I understand correctly, you mean which songs mix good music and good lyrics, is that right?

Blessed Be is my all-time favourite worship song, so I agree with you there. In fact, I think Matt Redman is the very best at mixing good music with deep, meaningful lyrics - Tomlin/Hughes/Soul Survivor in general lose out on the lyrics sometimes, Townend/Kendrick are weaker on the music, Brown/Beeching/Oakley/Layzell are inconsistent.