Posted by Craig Borlase on 30 May 2014

I was sitting in on a meeting the other day when someone committed the kind of mistake that made a few of us scramble to suppress our inward gasp.

“The thing is,” said the person, “I just don’t like the songs that you’re choosing. They don’t work for me. The leave me feeling cold, so that when the preacher gets up I’m not feeling primed.”

Everyone was altogether far too polite to say what we were thinking, yet I’m sure we were all running through the same silent response in our heads…

Worship’s not about pleasing you. And it’s not about warming you up. And it’s certainly not about serving up the right kind of music to tweak your emotional sensors and leave you feeling giddy. 

We didn’t say it because we didn’t want to embarrass the person. But I wonder whether there was another reason. Could it be that we didn’t push back against the critic because in part we agreed with them?

After all, do any worship leaders lead in a musical style that they really do find alien and cold?

Do any musicians play the polar opposite of what moves them?

Of course there are times when we drop some of our artistic standards for the sake of helping people engage, but how far do we ever really wander from our own musical (AKA emotional) preferences?

The beauty and power of music is intrinsically linked to its ability to touch and modify our emotions. And that’s as true for a room full of hymn-belting ageing traditionalists as it is for the youth with their hair and their volume and their massive crowds.  

Music moves us, just as it was meant to. 

But the moving isn’t the end in itself. Or, put it another way, it has to move us somewhere, towards Someone. 

And here’s the rub: while we have been busy over the last decade-and-a-bit learning how to make worship sound a little bit more contemporary, there’s a chance that we’ve forgotten the second half of the mission.

We’ve settled for leaving people feeling stirred, when perhaps we should have been pushing for something more. What about leaving them feeling disturbed? What about leaving them angry? What about grieving? Challenged? Inspired? Changed?

It’s an open secret among us that we run the risk of just being entertainers with holy lyrics. Perhaps it’s time that we aimed for something more. Maybe then we won’t feel so awkward the next time we’re in a meeting and someone tells us how uninspiring they find our songs. 

 

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