I came across an article the other day that went on to discuss the latest trend in worship music. EDM. Electronic Dance Music. The author briefly touched on the musical trends in mega churches over the past 20 years and how styles have changed about every 5 years, eventually reassuring guitarists that their prominent role in today's worship music shouldn't really diminish because EDM is too out there, most churches don’t use a click (which is basically a necessity for this genre) and it’s a bit too complicated/requires too much of a time commitment for your run of the mill volunteer church musician/worship leader. Basically, EDM worship music is not going to last, have no fear. For universal appeal stick to a basic pop sound for contemporary worship.
Given that the article was addressing the “Hottest Trends” in worship music and referring strictly to musical style and that it was a bit tongue in cheek at times when describing worship “trends” and “fads”, I found myself smiling at the humor of the “worship culture” that we’ve created. I was also struck with one glaring thing after I finished the article. I think we’ve missed the point. Big time. The Gospel.
Articles like this seem to be popping up more and more. Some author is discussing the trends in worship music and what all of the “mega churches” are doing. It’s this really weird sub culture that isn’t really a Christian sub-culture since “Christ” really has nothing to do with what’s being discussed but it’s happening in church and supposedly it’s all for Christ, so I guess it’s “Christian”. It just seems to me that it’s more important to be relevant, trendy and un-offensive in this day and age than it is to be Gospel centered.
I have friends that want nothing to do with the church’s attempts at “relevance” with regards to a church service or any type of weekly church gathering because it just seems fake to them. It can also be kind of confusing and a lot weird. I’m also pretty sure we’re not attracting people to church with our poor attempts at mimicking pop culture in our gatherings.
An un-churched individual walks into one of our gatherings, they’re greeted warmly by people, offered coffee and asked to join the rest of the group in this massive industrial looking cathedral. The band starts playing a Philip Philips song (insert any top 40 song) and it’s awkward because, they just heard it on the radio on their way to what they thought was church or maybe they just heard the artist in concert the night before and what they experience when they arrive is this awkward looking eclectic group of people playing a really weird and to honest, mediocre version of the actual song that they just heard the night before. They thought they were going to church, not a mediocre karaoke club.
The lights go down, the band starts and they’re punched in the face with this weird mix of EDM, Mumford and Sons and U2 (complete with lights and fog, surprise we’re giving you a rock show as well!) because the pastor and the worship leader (who are genuinely trying to reach people) want to appeal to all and be relevant at the same time.
After the church passes around the plate and another mediocre version of a top 40 radio hit/k-love song is played, the pastor comes up and delivers a motivational message that is some type of mix between the smiling pastor they saw last Sunday on TV and Oprah.
They leave, extremely weird”ed” out at what they just experienced and they still have no clue who Jesus is because the church was so consumed with being relevant that Jesus got worked out of the mix accidentally. Whoops, there goes Jesus. We accidentally replaced Him with a weird, mediocre, “un-offensive” EDM, Mumford, U2 top forty band, and motivational speaker, who told them that all they really have to do is change their thinking and that regardless of what they’re going through, stuff will get better…which is actually extremely weird and kind of insensitive all at the same time.
When the church tries to be relevant, stuff can tend to get weird. When the church starts to replace what Jesus said and taught with coffee, flashy light shows, mediocre, inspirational tunes and a motivational speaker who looks like Steve Jobs and sounds like Oprah, the people that they’re genuinely trying to reach get really freaked out and can tend to miss Jesus, who is the reason for our gatherings because they’re distracted by all of our attempts at being relevant. Instead of giving people the gospel we give them a bunch of things thrown into a blender that actually lack any sort of spiritual nutrience….but wait…we played “Oceans” and “In Christ Alone”, those songs should make up for our “Gospel-less” service right?
We need to be constantly reminding people of the Gospel and incorporating it throughout our gatherings. We also need to stop trying to copy what every other church is doing, what ever other worship band is playing and just be what our communities need us to be, real, honest, authentic and relentlessly bringing the Gospel into our gatherings. Life is way too hard to be given fluff and cotton candy on Sunday morning when what we really need is substantive, Gospel centered worship and preaching. If we happen to strike the same musical chord as the culture does, great but most of the time we won’t and hopelessly trying to copy what the culture is already doing isn’t really going to help. We need to stop playing follow the leader and start creating something unique, something Gospel centered, something new. When we do that, when we stop playing copycat to whatever the hottest trends are in churches that are 50 times our size and completely different from a cultural standpoint, relevance will come. Great music will come, great art will come. People are attracted to authenticity. When we keep the Gospel at the center and stop bowing down at the alter of cultural relevance, people will be changed and affected in deep life-altering ways that no top-forty-worship-cover band-thing (that sounds really weird) could ever do. Sing The Gospel and preach the Gospel. The rest will fall into place.