Here’s a reality that many religion-beat professionals (a) haven’t actually thought by or (b) they completely get it, however their editors don’t.
Clearly, church buildings from coast to coast and world wide are engaged in heated debates, if not outright monetary wars, about centuries of church teachings about marriage and sexuality. This makes headlines. These battles usually attain the native stage (ask United Methodists and, previously, Episcopalians).
Editors like that, since these battles might be framed as “politics.”
However there’s one other topic that continuously causes divisions within the pews (or megachurch folding chairs) — music. These battles hardly ever make headlines, though they stir deep feelings between varied generations of believers. In latest many years, this has led to discussions of “worship wars.”
I not too long ago wrote a column — “Open Bible to Psalms: What messages are seen there, but not in modern praise music?” — that was, shall we embrace, “worship wars” adjoining. This led to me being invited as a visitor on the nationwide “Connections” podcast, with hosts Mike Thom and Colleen Houde. If you want to listen to that, CLICK HERE.
Throughout that dialogue I discussed that I had one other column developing that was associated to this topic. It later appeared with this headline: “Hillbilly Thomists — Dominicans tracing their roots into Appalachian music and faith.”
The Psalms column was the hook for the podcast, however it didn’t take lengthy to veer into “worship wars” territory and the entire topic of commercialized music within the trendy church. That made me flash again a decade-plus to a column with this headline: “FM radio reality in church.”
Possibly one of the simplest ways to intro this bonus podcast is solely to reprint that column. So here goes.
The clock is ticking and shortly Jeff Crandall whereas face the problem of choosing the suitable music for the Christmas companies at Excessive Desert Church.
This will probably be difficult, as a result of Christmas is what the 70-member employees at this megachurch calls a “federal” occasion. Which means that these companies will unite worshippers from the three radically totally different companies which are held week after week at this booming congregation in Victorville, Calif., about 90 miles outdoors of Los Angeles.
“Christmas often is the solely time when folks need to hear conventional music, it doesn’t matter what age they’re,” mentioned Crandall, the church’s 46-year-old “worship pastor” and the previous drummer in a rock band referred to as the Altar Boys. “Even children who’re completely into exhausting rock what to listen to a couple of carols, which makes it simpler to place collectively a service that pleases everyone. … We attempt to do the identical factor throughout Holy Week and Easter.”
In latest many years, many church buildings have been shattered by the intergenerational strife that researchers name the “worship wars.” If you wish to cut up a nationwide church, change its teachings about sexuality or salvation. However if you wish to cut up a neighborhood church, you toss the hymnal, rent a drummer, unleash the teen-agers or make another musical change that rocks the pews.
However Excessive Desert Church is the type of church that has turned this equation round. Its objective is to construct a multi-flock ministry that unapologetically affords all rock, on a regular basis, however with bands that enchantment to totally different packs of younger folks, in addition to bands for believers from an earlier g-g-g-generation or two.
Now, this nondenominational flock is poised to change into the poster church for this FM-radio-dial strategy to worship, after being dissected within the hallowed pages of the New York Occasions.
“Whenever you begin a church, you do not determine who you are going to attain after which decide a music type,” senior pastor Tom Mercer advised America’s newspaper of file. “You decide a music type, and that determines who’s going to return.”
On one stage, the music divides this church. However on one other stage, the music is on the coronary heart of worship companies that create zones of consolation for individuals who have been raised in a tradition through which customers outline themselves by their musical selections.
Thus, Excessive Desert Church affords a “Basic” service for Child Boomers and others who got here of age through the “Jesus rock” explosion within the ’60s and ’70s. This service affords a softer model of acoustic rock – assume Byrds or the Eagles – that’s simpler on the fragile and even broken ears of older worshippers, mentioned Crandall.
In the meantime, different musicians give attention to the “Harbor” service for folks between the ages of 30 and 50. It options the type of hovering, inspiring rock that most individuals would affiliate with U2 and traditional bands from the Eighties. Then the “Seven” service cranks issues up one other notch, with what Crandall described as a “darkish” and “moody” mixture of postmodern music for the younger.
The underside line: Church leaders use totally different know-how to create totally different music for various generations who select to attend totally different companies.
The music unites and the music divides. The problem for church management, Crandall mentioned, is to unite these flocks round a typical imaginative and prescient when doing evangelism and missions – primarily by 18-person cell teams that concentrate on fellowship and prayer. Then there are these “federal” occasions that happen a number of occasions a yr.
There are nonetheless Protestant and even Roman Catholic church buildings which are making an attempt to create “blended” worship companies that enchantment to all ages on the similar time. “Blended” is the time period used to explain a mixture of conventional hymns and rock music, switching forwards and backwards between a pipe organ and people electrical guitars.
Their intentions are good, mentioned Crandall, however the outcomes are assured to offend folks whose musical tastes are merely not appropriate. Thus, he believes that “blended” companies drive folks away moderately than pulling them collectively.
“That is actuality,” he mentioned. “All the pieces is concerning the music. Whenever you go to the mall, you possibly can even inform what sort of individuals are speculated to be procuring within the totally different shops simply by listening to the music that’s enjoying. Are you able to think about children wanting to buy in a retailer that’s enjoying the music that their mother and father hearken to? No approach.”
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Enjoy this bonus podcast and have a protected Labor Day.
FIRST IMAGE: Illustration with the “Happy Birthday, FM Radio!” function on the web site of the KATZ Radio Group.