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?


marlene said...

You know what? That pastor is wrong. It is the Word that reaches the people for Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can place any kind of music you want around the message of Christ crucified, but if the message isn't Christ the music is just that - music.
By the way, I don't like reggae, hip hop, heavy metal or rap. I would never enter this person's church and I'd like to thank him for the heads up for where not to go when I am in Chicago this summer.
The sad thing is, if things should continue with this "we must please the culture" thing there will be a great many people like myself who may become unchurched and then how is the Roger Johnson ever going to get me back.

Pastor John Rickert said...

The Lord be with you
Hi Chris,
With your passion for historic hymnody, perhaps you can help me. I have often heard it said that the historic Lutheran hymns have made real differences in the lives of the saints. I can find stories from ages past, but precious few from people who are alive today. I am trying to collect such stories. For example, a fellow pastor just told me this past week that the hymn "Hark, the Voice of Jesus Crying" played a significant roll in directing him towards the holy ministry. I've always "known" that this hymn helped men decide to enter the ministry, but this is the first man to actually tell me. I feel collecting such stories is worthwhile, in part because it counters the claim that the day our hymns had value in winning and shaping souls is past. If you, or any of your readers, have any stories about how our Lutheran Hymns have made a positive difference in their spiritual walk, please send them to me. I have a blog ( and I will put a post on it so people can leave their hymn stories in a comment on the post.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert