Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Hits Keep Coming

This weeks Witness, May 2009.  Here is a letter from a pastor.  He is part of the problem:

"I was quite surprised that the March Lutheran Witness cover pictured a young musician in front of a traditional pipe organ.  I really didn't see anything in the issue about producing young keyboardists, drummers, reggae, and hip hop artists for today's church, let alone tomorrow's.  Classical organ has been great for a long time, but it's no lover reaching people for Jesus Christ where I live and worship.  Roger Johnson, Jehovah-El Buen Pastor Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill."

In case you are wondering, I got his email (ain't google wonderful) and sent a response to his letter.

Let's address this issue because it is becoming a prevalent attitude among a poorly trained pastorate with a complete lack of understanding about church music.

1.  The attitude is arrogant.  Pastors with "the music here isn't reaching people" attitude assume that the problem is not them.  That's nuts!  It's almost always them.  I can't tell you how many awful sermons I have had to sit through from pastors who then turn around and say "we need a new direction in the music here. What would that look like?"  We do?  What need direction is your message!  Here's a quote from one of my favorite movies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  This is where Steve Martin has had enough of John Candy's lame stories.  Everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate between things that are funny, or slightly amusing. You’re a miracle. Your stories have none of that! They’re not even amusing accidentally! You know when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea: have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener! 

2.  It's ignorant.  The types of music described in his letter are wonderful.  I enjoy them.  There really isn't a type of music I don't listen to.  In addition, I have been in the professional music world recording and performing this type of music for many, many years.  But let's be clear.  This music is for entertainment.  Not art.  In other words, it main job (be it religious or secular) is to turn a profit.  I'm not an American Idol watcher, but I have seen Simon Cowell in his criticisms.  He is not looking for the best music, the best message, the best possible musician...he is looking for a marketable package.  That what this music is about.  There are no old, fat pop stars (well, maybe a few....)  Is that what we want for our church?  Temporary music with a temporary message that bows to the almighty dollar not the Almighty God?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Praise Publishing

Ran across a dilemma the other day concerning the music in our church, and wanted to throw it out there for discussion.  
As you may or may not know, the LCMS Commission on Worship decided to review the praise songs most commonly used in the church and stamp with their seal of approval 100 with acceptable lyrics.

But in considering these tunes in a vacuum, an interesting problem arises.  One of the major publisher's represented on the list is Hillsong Music, a church with its own publishing arm in Australia.  Some of the people represented by Hillsong are Reuben Morgan, Darlene Zschech, etc.  Where is this going?  The annual Hillsong Conference
welcomes Joel and Victoria Osteen as their special guests.  I don't think that I have to do much to explain that the Osteen's don't (or shouldn't) have much in common with LCMS theology.  So when we "approve" music like "My Redeemer Lives, Reuben Morgan", or "Shout to the Lord, Darlene Zschech", do we not also give approval to the publishing house that produces it?  We certainly do with our wallets.  Most CCM music is purchased with licensing sites such as CCLI, and those publishers are paid whenever we use that music.  
This is another consequence (I'm sure unintended) of working with publishing houses for whom we are unaware of theological standards.  Another example is the trouble that arose because of this years youth gathering in Texas when a Non-Lutheran "song leader" was asked to lead worship.  

Now... I'm willing to debate this in good faith.  If a LDS composer creates a choir anthem based on a hymn text that we in the LCMS use, is it acceptable for worship? (This is an actual example - not a hypothetical). 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.