Are you afraid that your church will sound different to others? Are the songs you singing following global patterns or the heart-beat of God for your community? Here are some questions I’v been asking myself recently:
- Should all churches worship sound the same?
- Should the music I play and the songs I write sound the same as those currently ‘at the top’ of the industry?
- Have I failed if my ‘sound’ won’t fit neatly into a box or genre description?
- Should my church try to copy or imitate other ‘successful’ churches (usually the big ones!) with the instruments we play, the songs we sing, and by how we ‘do’ worship?
- Are we really worshipping God at all if all we are doing is imitation and all we are becoming is a clone of someone else (when we should be being transformed into the likeness of Christ)?
This has been a thought that I have long wrestled with, and am still continuing to try and find balance. However more and more I believe God is revealing to me the importance of real, authentic worship. It is a sound that is unique, yet collective at the same time.
The Sound of Local Church
I am passionate about local church. Church that is embedded within its community. It is involved in the world around it, it is reaching out and being Christ. But it is also a community of believers that is separate and apart from the corruption and sinfulness of the world in which it lives and serves. A local church that is made of living stones, of individuals whose lives are linked and knit together by their love of Jesus and their love for each other.
The church is The body of Christ on the Earth. It is by our togetherness and our otherness that we are able to express the love of God to the world and to our communities.
[bctt tweet=” It is by our togetherness and our otherness that we are able to express the love of God to the world and to our communities.” username=”mattmcchlery”]
I wanted to make this ‘togetherness’ idea clear and I want to set it in opposition to the idea of self-centred individualism that permeates Western society and culture today. Being part of The body of Christ is essential, however I believe we should not all be the same.
Useful Resource or Blind Consumerism?
As well as individualism, another ideology that saturates Western culture is that of consumerism. The finding of one’s value and significance through the consuming of goods – the collection of things. One defines success and failure by how much money / influence / fame / church members / albums sold / facebook friends one has obtained. These worldviews are wrong as they do not agree with what the Bible teaches us (see Graham Cray: Disciples & Citizens 2007).
I don’t know about you, but I find increasingly an undercurrent within the worship music industry that is urging us to ‘be popular’: Why don’t you play this new song at your church? All the other cool churches are singing it? It was written by a really cool worship leader. If you play it, you will be cool too! – OK, so the song may actually be catchy, it may also contain Biblical truth. It might have a good structure to it. I may even give you goose-bumps when you hear it. But have you asked yourself: Will this song fit well with my congregation? Does this song ‘fill a need’ in the worship cannon of our church? Should I be singing this song at my particular church? We should not conform for conformity’s sake. We should not sing that song just because it is popular (consumerism). We should pray and think about it. If it is right for your church to sing it, then go for it! But if not, don’t feel pressured into thinking that you should!
[bctt tweet=”Will this song fit well with my congregation? Does this song ‘fill a need’ in the worship cannon of our church? Should I be singing this song at my particular church? We should not conform for conformity’s sake. We should not sing that song just because it is popular #worship #music” username=”mattmcchlery”]
Now I’m not saying that Christian record companies are bad or evil. They actually do a fantastic job in curculating some amazingly annointed worship songs around the world that help local churches ‘connect’ with the wider body of Christ and with the broader and more general themes of what God is doing on the Earth. What I am saying, however, is that we should not simply be satisfied with this macro view or expression of worship / music. Yes, God does work on the large scale, but he is equally concerned with the small scale things – your individual walk with Him, what your specific church is doing in that unique place where He has placed it.
Your Church’s Sound
Has your church found it’s own sound? Have you discovered that which makes you uniquely you? This can be extended to your individual life as well – have you found your own unique walk with Jesus, are you singing your own unique songs of worship to Him (or any other expression of worship that is uniquely yours – painting, dance etc)?
Don’t feel bound by the pressures to be or sound like everyone else. Yes, ok, so the song you are learning for church sounds different on the CD to the way you play it in church. Does that make the way you do it wrong? – No of course not! The song is simply a vehicle for your heart expression of worship and thanksgiving to God. if your heart is right, then the song will be too. If your heart is wrong, then no matter how perfectly you play or sing the song – then you have a problem!
I am on this journey too – of weighing what will add to my sound as an individual, and what will add to the sound of my local church. Yes, taking some of the global songs is a good idea – but should not be the only idea! I am very passionate about the voice and sound of the local church that I believe has been slient for far too long. You need to take hold of the idea that your local church has it’s own unique sound to add to the plethora of sounds giving worship to almighty God. If your church is not making it’s own sound, something is missing.
Please, please, please sing songs written in-house. Only you know where you’ve come from, where you are and where you are going. So only you can put into words and express these things to God. encourage members of your congregation and music team to get together to write new songs of worship.
Do not be satisfied with being a clone, have the courage to make your own sound of worship!
Share your Thoughts and Experiences
I would love to hear from you – what has worked and what has not. Please use the comments section below.