Thursday, November 10, 2005

A New Philosophy of music

I still haven't quite figured out where I stand on music in worship, but I have had some recent thoughts on the issue. I used to be very frustrated about the idea of using music to facilitate worship because I felt that music can be manipulative. How can it be true genuine worship of God if the music creates an artificial emotional feeling (which it does)? Music is very powerful, it can evoke a wide range of emotions, feelings, sensations, memories, etc. It is very addictive for this very reason.

However, I think I’ve changed a lot on this issue. Basically, I now question why even use music? I think that this emotional response from music is its purpose: good music is supposed to send shivers down your spine at a climax or modulation. It’s supposed to make you want to sing along, and its supposed to be pleasurable.

This is not something I’ve ever questioned, but then it hit me: if we think music in worship is ok, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with this being part of the worship experience. I don’t think biblically there is a good argument to rule out music entirely, and maybe this is alright.

Maybe the benefit in music facilitating worship is just because of this. It draws us in, opens up our emotional poors and allows us to express feelings, experience feelings, and ultimately offer up praise to God in a way we might not naturally be able to.

This is manipulative, for sure. But not necessarily wrongfully so. A good preacher has the ability to give a convicting message. This is not manipulation, but a tool for the Spirit to work.

Now, it may be countered, that the Spirit is the one that /should/ open up our receptivity to worship, the Spirit should be the one who convicts us, etc. This is very true. However, if we’ve all heard a badly presented sermon, or heard a bad worship set, it is obvious that the Spirit’s moving in our hearts is contingent to some degree (sometimes more, sometimes less) on the human element. This simply is the way that God has chosen to work.

One last thought: I think there still is a point where music in worship can be too manipulative. When the worship leader is trying to bring glory to himself (which believe me is EXTREMELY easy to fall into), there is a certain degree of hollowness that is conveyed. In fact, when the whole presentation of a service is just that: a presentation, this really can bring a deep sense of shallowness, emptiness, and fakeness. Unfortunately, for most in our culture I think this often feels more desirable and ideal than the more ideal situation.

In this ideal situation, the worship leader is simply humble before God. While often times this accompanies a simpler set (acoustic for example), I do not think this is necessary. What is necessary is for humility above all, and submission to God. When this takes place, I think that the element of manipulative music can be there (given the quality of musicianship), and the Spirit is least hindered to move. The result can be quite powerful, and very enjoyable.

Of course, this is a simplistic perspective: if a worship set goes bad, it could be any number of things. It does not necessarily mean that the worship leader wasn’t humble, or the band sucked. The spirit of a worship set often is determined by far more than we can comprehend, (both spiritually and physically).

But anyway, I'm not sure if this is where I stand, but its a new way for me too look at things.

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