Real. Worship. Music.
Any teenager will tell you that there is nothing more embarrassing for them than to see their parents trying to be as cool and current as they are. When they see someone as young as thirty, trying to act, talk, and dress like a teenager, they roll their eyes and think, "how pathetic." Those parents who think they can hang with the ever changing trends with their kids are only fooling themselves. When it comes to music in most of our churches today, I think it is past time that we address something that may just bring a little reality to Sunday morning.
I'm going to point out some things to you that you may not want to hear, but it is absolutely, undeniable truth. That's why we call my column, "Can You Handle the Truth." According to a fairly recent survey conducted by Lifeway, two thirds of kids between the ages of 18 and 22 will drop out of church at some point. There are several reasons that are speculated as to why, but I would like to address a huge elephant in the room that almost seems too obvious to ignore, yet we do. Let's talk about the music and trends that have filled the majority of our churches. No one wants to address this because at some point, we have to admit that we are wrong and we need to make some changes. It all started when someone had a brilliant marketing plan by labeling a style of music as, "Worship Music." It almost sounds blasphemous to say that you don't like worship music. If you don't like worship music, then you must not like worship. And that ladies and gentlemen, that is where the church has fallen prey to a music industry that has convinced their target audience that somehow this music, regardless of any sign of anointing, lack of depth or lack of musicality, must be an essential part of our worship services. After all, it is "worship" music. We have failed to realize that worship is a lifestyle, not a music style.
The main thing I hear so many pastors, youth pastors, and parents say is, "but that is the kind of music that our kids like, so we have to do it to keep them and attract more kids." Really? Well, the stats don’t lie. It isn’t working. Have you checked your kid's iPad or phone and looked at their playlist? For the overwhelming majority, it is not filled with worship music. They are listening to Justin Timberlake, Tori Kelly, Adam Levine, and other secular artists whose music in no way sounds like what we sit through on Sunday morning. Listen, I'm not condemning an entire musical genre. There are some songs that come out of that genre that are good, well written, and anointed, but not nearly enough for us to feel like if we don't cover at least one of the top ten songs on K-Love, then somehow we haven't experienced real worship. I told someone once that there was worship long before any of these worship artists got their record deals. Remember when I told you how kids feel when they see their parents or anyone over 30 trying to be cool? Well watching their parents do the 1974 Freebird sway back and forth on Sunday morning definitely does not make them like it any more. In their minds, any chance of this music being cool just flew out the stained glass window.
I recently had a meeting with a very good praise & worship singer/songwriter. She played me several songs, many of which were very good. On one song that we talked about writing together, I suggested bringing in some scriptural references of past accounts that would strongly support the title of the song. She told me that she wanted to keep the song as a prayer so it would be a “worship” song. I shared with her many scriptures where God told His people to remember what He had done? Why? Because it strengthens our faith, and prepares us to sing to
God and thank Him for His faithfulness, love and power. She told me that what I shared with her totally opened up her perspective on writing. There is nothing wrong with those songs that are directed to God. However, as much as they are needed, we also need those songs that make us remember and make us look forward. Let me give you a very real example of what I’m talking about. If your pastor got up every Sunday morning and prayed for twenty or thirty minutes, having a conversation directed only to God, the congregation may be impressed with his prayer, but that congregation will spiritually starve if nothing is directed and ministered to them. If we are going to call our music a ministry, why does the same logic not apply? We have to stop limiting our worship to songs that we sing on Sunday morning, and realize that how we think, the decisions we make, how we pray, and renewing our mind through scripture Monday through Saturday is more important than our Sunday morning music. If we don’t know how to use our hands to lift each other up and be the hands of Jesus to our neighbor, do you think God is impressed when we raise them on Sunday morning?
Is the answer to drop the new music and only do songs based on the copyright date? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that we need to pay attention to the content, the message of the music. A music minister who is called, talented and anointed can make that message musically relevant. The emphasis is anointing. If you don’t like the style of a particular song, that’s a minor issue. If you don’t recognize and appreciate the anointing and message, that’s a far more serious issue. I'm telling you this in hopes that we can get back to something with some depth that will help our kids want to stay and truly minister to the entire church. The church is starving for something that goes deeper and lasts longer than the life of a song that is trending. I'm telling you this, hoping that we can trade shallow lyrics, skinny jeans and out of tune guitars for something better. Real. Worship. Music.