Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: The Deliberate Church - Music

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Deliberate Church - Music

I am currently digesting a book by Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, called "The Deliberate Church." It is a thought provoking and eye-opening book concerned with the need for churches to resist the notion of separating theology from congregational life. The book attempts, successfully, to argue against theology being unpractical.

Every chapter has been filled with insightful and practical comments, but one chapter in particular, simply entitled "Music", has made my mind spin faster than normal. What follows is a rather extensive quote from the book, but keep reading. You will find this interesting.

"One of the most important functions of congregational singing is that is highlights the corporate nature of the church and the mutual ministry that builds us up in unity. One of the reasons we come together on Sundays is to remind us that we are not alone in our confession of Jesus Christ. In our overly individualized culture, congregational singing is one of the most visible ways to encourage a specifically corporate emphasis to our worship and life as a local church body.

It is public, not privatized. Many musical worship leaders encourage members (by either word or deed) to close their eyes in pursuit of private emotional intimacy with God in the context of the corporate gathering. Now, no one in their right mind would argue that closing one's eyes in corporate worship is categorically wrong. And many close their eyes in the corporate gathering simply to take in the sound of the singing more fully. But we would be wrong to encourage people to think of corporate worship as shutting out the rest of the congregation to have a privatized emotional experience with God.

I was once in a service where the worship leader started crying uncontrollably on the platform after leading a song. Was this a healthy model of brokenness? Perhaps, and I have no doubt that he intended it as such. The purity of his heart is not at issue. It is the wisdom of his public demeanor that I would question. He was teaching the people by example that privatized emotional experience, even though released in front of the whole congregation, is the ultimate expression of corporate worship. That simply isn't true.

Privatizing corporate worship, then, defeats the purpose of corporate worship and often confuses true worship with privatized emotion. The corporate worship gathering is a public meeting; we are intended to experience it aware of our togetherness."

Dever then goes on to say, in what I thought was both hilarious and insightful. . .

"Most of us have heard songs of total victory that finish with a high note and an instrumental flourish, often right before the sermon. There's certainly nothing morally wrong with hitting high notes. But it's the triumphalistic attitude of some songs- the idea that all our battles are over and it's time to enjoy complete victory over all our spiritual enemies- that is as yet premature in these last days. Such triumphalism in our music is particularly ill suited as preparation for listening to a Christian sermon. In the sermon, we are about to hear God's Word correct, instruct, rebuke, warn, and, yes, also encourage, warm, and delight our hearts. Meditative music serves us much better in preparing our hearts to hear and heed God's Word."

I am guessing that Mark Dever is not a big fan of "Your Best Life Now." He goes on to make some great comments on the individualistic nature of our songs, pointing out the overused personal pronoun "I." Dever points to both old hymns and new praise choruses as missing the mark.

Regardless of your take on Dever's points, to which I think he is mostly right, the issue at hand to which every church should take a closer look is becoming more deliberate in what we do as a congregation. Actually thinking about the songs we choose and whether or not they are theologically rich is one sure step in becoming more deliberate.


Post a Comment

<< Home