Once upon a time a group of families met to sing songs of worship to God. They all squished into a nice, clean, warm, bright room with wooden arches and padded pews where one could see and hear everyone, including the piano and/or organ and everyone sang melodies and harmony out of a hymnal.
A few decades later a group of people met in a rather large, dark, warehouse with bright multi-colored stage lights, words on a giant screen, led by a loud rock band.
People who grew up having the first experience were troubled by the shift.
On the other hand, this is hardly the first shift. God’s people have met to worship in tents in the dessert, in grand temples, in small synagogues, out in the open air on mountains, by rivers, … all over the world. Centuries earlier some gathered in underground tunnels where people were often buried, called catacombs to worship God, with no instruments. In every language from bombastic modern Italian to the ancient guttural Hebrew. Accompaniment of the singing voices has been with everything from no instruments, to large pipe organs, to full orchestras, to ancient ram’s horns and drums, and many more. Sometimes the worship is solemn and respectful and even has extended periods of corporate silence. Sometimes the worship has been a real party with tambourines and dancing to celebrate God’s victories.
Is worship about a place?
Or a musical style or instrumentation?
Or a language?
Or the decorations, lighting, …?
Or is it about the content of the songs, the attitude of people’s hearts, a true, honest, deep, intimate, respectful relationship with the one and only true living three in One God and His children?
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the move to our new facility …
+room for more people to be added
-harder to hear each other
+better than fluorescent light “warehouse” feel, in my opinion
+cozy and less distracting than bright room, helps people to not feel too self conscious
-harder to see each other
Lights on Platform:
+You can see the leaders who are encouraging people to sing
-increased risk of people thinking it’s a concert, not a worship service
+easier to really sing really loud without fear of sticking out
-harder to hear the crowd around you
Words on Giant Screen
+much easier to read and better than plastic overhead by far
-people don’t memorize songs as much, must learn harmonies by ear
Newer Songs have shorter phrases with more syncopation, more repetition
+short phrases with repetition makes it easier to learn and participate, more meditative, easier to add own improvised parts, more relevant to today’s musical language
-long phrases are more helpful for more complex communication
Instrumental Sections (like piano/keyboard/guitar intros/outros/solos)
+Give time for people to meditate instead of just rushing through
+Express some emotion and beauty that the average Joe singer just can’t
-Can cause some to switch to spectator mode
Ultimately we need to make sure we are keeping the main thing, the main thing … the style of music, the decorations, the instrumentation, the lighting … these are not the main things. Our attitude towards the Lord is!
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