I guess ‘liturgical’ is the new word for ‘Christian’ when used in a musical context. As in, ‘liturgical post-grunge’ or ‘liturgical post-electronica’. I have been hearing this lately, and in the spirit of staying with the times, I have decided that this site will heretofore be known as ‘Guitar for Liturgical Post-Indie-Prog-Rock’.

Adding ‘post’, of course, is an added bonus, as it has been for the last fifteen years.

For those of you interested in continuing to be on the cutting edge of what we must now refer to as liturgical brit-rock in order to be on said cutting edge, I humbly submit these for your consideration for next summer’s worship conference branding:

  • ecclesiastical
  • post-baroque
  • prog-folk
  • liturgi-core
  • pauline emo
  • unsigned Byzantine post-hymns
  • intercession with artistry
  • Gregorian hip-hop
  • celebratory post-mass
  • Euro-thrash (to the tune of O Happy Day)
  • post-industrial benediction
  • madrigal goth-clowning
  • post-Manilow
  • canonical
  • medieval troubadour rap
  • renaissance-istic German-post-funk calypso breeze with an augmented 9th chord

I will be expecting a royalty check at the publishing of the June 2011 CCM.


82 thoughts on “Liturgical

  1. Anything to get post Manilow, or post Vinyard would be good.

    I’ve actually been playing at a Lutheran church which is more liturgical (even in contemporary worship) than my home church. I’ve started to enjoy that style of worship.

  2. alright, hijack time.
    @karl and anyone else. i plan on buying a tube amp somewhat soon and i was wondering if anyone had any good suggestions. my price range is 300-400. and of course i love used gear. it tends to be a lot cheaper

  3. Nater2, for the love of God, wait until there are least 25 comments on a new post before hijacking — that’s my practice anyway 🙂

    Now “Gregorian hip-hop”: I always get non sequitur and oxymoron mixed up, but then I remember than non-sequitur means one thing doesn’t follow another ( “because I woke up with a headache, a volcano will erupt today” ). So Gregorian hip-hop would be an oxymoron like “pretty ugly.”
    I had a good chat with my Senior Pastor Friday about worship. Essentially he wanted to tell me directly, “play what you like.” Now when I first started leading he said ” don’t stampede the sheep” ( which I took as no heavy metal) and “play stuff that welcomes everyone” ( which I took as impossible ). He plays from a list of 50 older praise songs and feels very strongly that it’s best if the congregation already knows the songs and doesn’t have to look at the projected lyrics. I responded, “in 1992 they didn’t know song X either.” Anyway if I’m now being left to my own preferences I’ll have to come up with a “liturgical” name for a set like 1) Jesus is just alright – Doobies 2) Sweet Home Alabama 3) The old rugged cross 4) Streets with no name 5) Zepplin’s When the levy breaks. Let’s see: Contemporary Christian Liturgical Swamp Rock?

  4. I like Liturgi-core. That one’ s my favorite.
    There is always going to be resistance to new music. People get emotionally attached to certain songs because of significant events in their lives. If ‘Just as I am” was playing when they went down to the front on their first alter call then ‘the magic’ doesn’t happen unless “just as I am” is played.
    While it is true that people can enter in to worship when they know the words by heart, they can just as easily sing the songs they know without any appreciation for the words. The music can trigger a specific memory response in the limbic system which in turn allows a pre-learned emotional response so that they feel good. They can then associate that feeling to a sense of connection to God without any actual change in their lives.
    You could further extrapolate that to say that you a doing your congregation a disservice by only playing the same songs as it does not allow them the opportunity to build new emotional memories/experiences with worship and thereby actually stunts their growth. (ok, that might be stretching it a bit)
    New songs have always been a part of a new movement of God. Ask your pastor if he would like to stay where God has already been or would he like to go where God is going? Lol.
    Change is good. Change for the sake of change is not.

  5. I don’t think God is coming or going, though we may be. 🙂 Different generations gravitate to, usually, what they liked as they came of age. In our Pastor’s case I think he plays what he does partly because he likes praise songs from 10-20 years ago, plus a few hymns, partly because by his own admission he can’t play the more contemporary stuff with a light rock feel and partly because he’s busy and does a lot of speaking engagements in other states and countries so doesn’t have the time or motivation to keep learning new songs. I lead every other week and may be presenting too many new songs, but I try to keep it under control.
    We have the single-blended-service thing, but if we were a little larger I really believe multiple services with different worship styles is the way to go ( the sermons might or might not be the same )

  6. Liturgy- a set form of ceremony or worship.

    “I’ve actually been playing at a Lutheran church which is more liturgical (even in contemporary worship) than my home church. I’ve started to enjoy that style of worship.”


  7. ZachariahG–it’s the new thing. Watch. 😉 hehe

    Sam–yes!! That was awesome!

    James Orr–there’s just gotta be some band, somewhere, that describes themselves as that. hehe 😉

    Craig–very interesting. More of a standardized service?

    Nater2–I have to say Frenzel, or Blues Junior. And, as luck would have it, I happen to be selling my Frenzel. 😉 What in particular are you looking for in the tube amp?

    Randy–‘Contemporary Christian Liturgical Swamp Rock’. Brilliant.

    Mark Colvin–beautiful. Love what you said about change. Couldn’t say it any better.

    And liturgi-core is sooo gonna be the new thing. 😉

    Randy–ya, it’s that fine line between not doing everything we want but also allowing our own personality to come through, and between loving the congregation enough to take them with us while we worship but not bowing so much that it gets stagnant. Ah, the life of a worship leader. 🙂

    Webster’s–that may be the Webster’s definition of ‘liturgical’, but in practice, many people take it to mean a more traditional and planned out flow of service. I’m guessing this is what Craig meant. 🙂

    Mark H–lol Thanks, brother. The sad thing is, I didn’t make up ‘liturgical.’ I’ve actually heard bands describing themselves as that. hehehe

  8. Staying with the idea of worship styles/labels: I had an interesting discussion with one of our ushers yesterday. I was asking him about possibly filling in on the sound board. He’s quite the audiophile, loves instrumental jazz and comes to church primarily for the sermon. He does prefer the newer songs I use, but generally doesn’t have much use for worship music — because it’s not jazz I guess. So why do we use the styles we use? I guess we’re going with the major trends — I think it’s safe to say that more people like pop in all it’s variations than instrumental jazz. So do you play music 80% might appreciate or music only 5% would appreciate. Unless you’re going to have 10 services with different styles, you’re never going to make everybody happy.

    Of course, it’s supposed to be about worshiping God, not just snapping your fingers to your favorite secular music. You go to the nearest arena for that. On a similar note, I asked my Pastor the other day, in the discussion of doing older versus newer songs: “if people haven’t heard some contemporary standards ( CCLI top 50 ), why not?” If we’re devoting nearly half of our services to “worship,” why don’t we teach it’s importance? We ask people to study the bible during the week. End of rant.

  9. # Euro-thrash (to the tune of O Happy Day)
    # post-industrial benediction
    # madrigal goth-clowning

    We need more of these styles in church.

    Actually on a more serious note, why does has worship music stopped sounding good like this: and ended up sounding very generic and boring like this: . this is okay but the words were written years ago! Something is wrong.

    • there are still a lot of great songs out there. unfortunately, they don’t sound as “modern” as the current chart-toppers 🙁

      speaking of which, Darrell Evan’s last album was a very good one …

  10. I hope you’re being sarcastic James… Holy Holy Holy is a better song with a better and more interesting arrangement that Trading Sorrows in my opinion. Despite the fact that it is DREADFULLY slow and sappy, it isn’t as generock as the other one… I still think Hillsong United and Jesus Culture are the two groups that have nailed this generation out of the park.

  11. I agree with you Ben, although I do like playing Trading My Sorrows occasionally just because it’s fun. And affirmative on Hillsong and Jesus Culture. But again, in our situation, precious few in our congregation have heard of Jesus Culture and not many more of Hillsong per se, although they know a few of the songs since we do them.

    The reality, it seems, is that most parishioners not on the worship team prefer other music Monday – Saturday.

  12. Im going to put this down to musical differences.

    I really don’t like Holy Holy. It starts off with the U2 keyboard drone thingy which seems to be in every single worship song nowadays – it’s not a very innovative way to start a song. Then slowly the dotted eighth strat comes in with some generic overdrive for the chorus, followed by another U2-like riff and some delayed ambient stuff. It’s really doing my head in hearing this on every song! Grr.

  13. It is musical difference… that’s the beauty and the curse of music 🙂 Everyone has their own specific taste. I guess if my congregation played music even REMOTELY as good as both of your selections than I would be tired of droning keys and dotted eigths but since I get “It’s All About You” Michael Bolton style every sunday I would still KILL and prefer droning keys and dotted eighths 🙂

  14. HAHAHAHAHA!! That is awesome! “And I’m gonna love you…. the bessss (he always forgets the t) that…. the besss that I caaaaaaaan”

  15. I thought it was something like that, but wondered if there was yet another bit of “urban lingo” I haven’t kept up on.

  16. Probably safe to say that we all have differing opinions on what sounds good. Provided none of those opinions go against U2 (current album excluded) 😉 . hehe Maybe that’s why it’s a good idea to do such a cross-section of different songs in our worship sets, to try to hit everyone’s different tastes.

    Myself personally, I’m not a huge fan of the ‘pasted smile’ worship songs that used to be so popular, but I am starting to tire just a bit of the ‘trying-so-hard-to-be-epic’ worship songs that are currently popular. However, as obviously people like both of them, we should probably try to incorporate both into at least some of our worship sets per month. 🙂 There’s my two cents.

    Oh, and Dan, ‘Hootie up the solo’ is the best thing ever. And no, I would have no idea how to do that.

  17. I think I “Hootie’d Up” once or twice on non-purpose. Our Spanish congregation wasn’t sure what was going on at the time.

    Thats perhaps the best new phrase ever. So instead of saying “we’re an ecclesiastical rockin church” we can just say “here, we hootie up with Jesus.”
    I think both will mean the same to the average ‘layman’.

  18. What I want to know is ‘what self-appointed’ committee dreams up these goofie music style classifications? (LOL!)

    I personally think all these ‘designations’ aren’t necessary. It’s been my experience over the past 30 years to observe that the one affirmation you can consistently make about most musical styles used for worship by churches is that those styles will fall within the domain of whatever is currently ‘popular’ (regardless of the additional labels someone feels obliged to further qualify the music). And… what is “popular” does vary by the region of the country in which you find yourself. And… (don’t just love all these “and’s”? — lol!), it’s also not unusual for some popular music styles to temporally persist along-side of emerging styles.

    Over the years at CACC, we’ve not wasted much energy attempting to classify our musical styles for worship. We aspire to communicate in the common language of our culture, recognizing that it’s constantly evolving.

    That’s my “two cents” on this topic — LOL! 🙂

  19. “communicate in the common language of our culture” Yes that does evolve over time, and varies by country, community etc. There is no absolute common musical language but it’s probably not jazz or classical in most U.S. cities/towns today. I guess an analogy would be that car manufacturers don’t build many cars that would attract people over 7 feet tall.

  20. Randy, that’s a good thought… I especially like the ‘car manufacturers not building many cars that would attract people over 7 foot tall’.

    We have a few folks who really like country music or jazz. We have a couple that are into blues or black gospel. We probably utilize those genres with a frequency proportionate to the percentage of folks to whom that appeals. But even for the songs we do utilize in those genres, it’s not because we’re trying to ‘keep score’. It’s because that song in a particular genre seems to be able to help us fulfill our overall purpose. Our criteria for any song we use in worship is:

    – Is it ‘sing-able’ by the average person in our congregation?

    – Is it Biblically true?

    – Does it lead our folks to ‘engage’ in worship? — A new song has about 3 chances with us to resonate with our folks. If we see the song isn’t engaging them in worship, we’ll ‘put it down’ (to use the veterinary venacular — lol!), even if it is ‘fun to play’ (including some that as a musician, I’m sad to see were retired, but an action I fully support).

    Something we inculcate with all of our worship team members is that none of what we do is about them, nor is it about playing cool music. Nothing else matters except helping the majority of our congregation realize the moment in God’s presence on Sunday morning. (Everything else is just ‘details’ towards that specific end.) If fulfilling this objective doesn’t meet their expectatations, they can always play for a local band in the area clubs and coffee houses (and I’m not being ‘ornery about that’ — while I can ‘rock’ with the best of them, I grew up on rockabilly, which I rarely get to play in a worship context. I almost chose to hook up with country artist Lacy J. Dalton’s brothers last year, who asked me to audition to play guitar for them — sounded like fun, but my dear wife reminded my that I’m already “strapped for time” — LOL!).

  21. Great stuff! I agree, it’s about engaging people, not about what we want. 🙂

    (Sorry, I typed a big ol’ comment, and then my internet lost it. And I’m too lazy now. hehe)

  22. Great thoughts Mike. My pastor told me recently to play what I enjoy. He seems to think that if the worship team ( leader in particular) is really worshipping and praising it will draw the congregation along. I know, there are more than enough different theories on all of this. Does the congregation have any responsibility whatsoever to keep up on music? I’m beginning to think I have no answers. I considered resigning and trying find a secular band. Making decisions during the summer “doldrums” when attendance and team participation are down is probably a bad idea. 🙂

    Generally I think the music I enjoy playing in church does overlap with most of the congregation’s tastes, and it’s fairly “mainstream” and singable by most so if a person is inclined to praise and worship, I don’t see my choices as an obstacle.
    This Sunday it’s Pre-service: Testify to Love, then Humble Thyself/Awesome God, a gospel/bluesy sounding song called “If that don’t make you want to go to heaven,” Jesus Culture’s Your Love Never Fails, MercyMe’s God with Us, Revelation Song and Bebo Norman’s Great Light of the World.

  23. Sure, now the version I first heard was pretty ‘bluegrass’ — performed by the Isaacs. My version is more heavy-guitar-based and if I had two guitars would really lend itself to some bluesy fills. (I play it starting on Am with capo 2) Urban congregations might chuckle at this one, but we’re “hick” enough to get away with it here in Cool, CA. Even if you don’t like the song, the lead singer is very easy on the eyes 🙂

  24. For all of you who are lamenting churches that don’t keep up with the times, it can go the other way too. This sunday we did “This love” by planetshakers and guess who completely flubbed the solo in the middle? That’s right. Me. “It’s time to get your praise on” was followed by a flurry of wrong notes followed by an awkward silence as I tried to join in again at the next phase and finished with my finger slipping off the strings as I tried to hold the last note. Mmm, very worshipful and not at all distracting! I practiced long and hard to get this solo down for the previous two weeks and completely crashed and burnt. Karl, I thought about making the train wreck sign afterwards it was that bad. Thankfully no one has posted it on youtube yet. I’m very greatful to be doing modern stuff but wow, at least we were all able to laugh it off. I’m glad that God was able enjoy our worship, even if it meant I ended up red-faced.

  25. lol I feel for ya, brother. Although, I have to admit that it’s nice to know I’m not the only one out there killing solo’s. hehehe Train wreck sounds and all! 🙂

  26. we played “I Am Free” yesterday morning, and the first service i just kept thinking “wait, this isn’t in E?!?” mind you, my band has played “I Am Free”, in D, at least once a month for the last 2 years.

  27. How about screwing up the order of your song sheets and not noticing till a few lines into it? That was how my Sunday went this week. Good times.

  28. Ok, I’m late to the party, so probably no one ‘cept maybe Karl will even notice this …

    I love what you guys have been saying and totally agree with 98% of it; but to add another twist to the discussion–

    Our idea of what’s “popular” is actually kind of non-sensical, because what’s popular is church culture bears little resemblance to what’s popular in the outside world. We internally create our own trends within church culture. Agree/disagree?

    (And if you disagree, find me a secular song that sounds anything like the standard Hillsong-y epic drone+ that’s been popular within the past say 2 years.)

    As long as we’re chasing what’s “popular” and familiar to congregations, we have officially thrown in the towel when it comes to *creating* culture and are permanently resigned to imitating it instead– which frankly compared to church history is a big step backwards. We should constantly challenge ourselves to *create* culture that the world finds appealing (as opposed to adapting what the world finds appealing to church use) as part of being salt and light. Agree/disagree?

  29. The problem with “creating”, at least for me, is that it’s such a brutal process. There are usually several bad results for every good one and that can be really distracting in a worship setting. I think that’s probably why it always seems like churches are on the tail end of pop-culture. People are already used to it and it’s more comfortable there.

  30. Rapha, I think you lost me on that one. I can say that I constantly struggle with what music to use in church. In our church, there is a reality that I suppose I should ignore — that is, who is paying the freight to keep the lights on. Ok, the correct answer is God since everything we have and may or may not give to the church comes from Him. But do we tend to pay more attention to the “worship preferences” of those who are giving?

    In an ideal world, no. What if your church has very few new believers and only a fairly small number of visitors week-to-week? Do you focus everything on the new believers/visitors as opposed to older Christians? Ideally the mature ones will tolerate music that isn’t their choice but may serve better for others. We’re pretty fortunate in that regard.

    Now I’ve heard of churches that come up with a vision and go with it whatever the consequences. I think Bayside in Granite Bay near Sacramento may be one of those. Essentially you decide you’re target audience is non-believers and a younger group so your worship team sounds like Lincoln Brewster ( he’s a pastor there ). If someone asks for older, slower tunes or hymns you politely tell them where the churches that do that are located, but it’s not our vision. Obviously being large and well-supported makes it easier to do that.

  31. KennyG–lol Yep!! Over here, over here!! haha

    Rapha–awesome stuff! Some great points, and I’ll throw in my views on the topics 🙂

    I actually don’t mind checking out what is popular, as long as it is coupled with what is ‘good.’ I don’t mind listening to a great Coldplay song and watching it connect with people and then going, ‘Wow, it’d be great to connect with people in that way, I wonder what they did, and how I can learn from it.’ It is walking that fine line between being humble enough to learn from what’s popular, but also not just chasing our tails trying to copy.

    And just personally, I’m not sure where I fall on the whole ‘the church should be creating culture like it did 500 years ago’ argument, because part of the reason the church was creating culture was because they had loads of money from selling indulgences, and then put that money into incredibly beautiful, but also incredibly expensive cathedrals. Same thing with music. Bach created culture with church music, largely because the church commissioned him with a price higher than he could get anywhere else. And still, a lot of those early church pieces that we consider very cultured, were recycled tunes the composers had already used elsewhere, or had heard at the local bar. So, not sure where I fall, but those are a couple angles to that argument that I think are sometimes overlooked. Not to mention the political power the church held as it was making most of those cultural advances.

    And as for Hillsong’s current ‘epic drone then build’ sound, I think Hillsong’s whole style can be found in these songs, which were released in ’02 and ’03. Granted, they are all done much better (in my hopefully very, very humble opinion), but you can hear pretty clearly where Hillsong derived their style. And it’s about 7-8 years late…which is actually pretty good for church musicians, myself definitely included. hehe And there’s nothing wrong with doing a style that’s 7-8 years old, or even 40 years old…but as the conversation is about being ‘cutting edge’ or not, then we might have to conclude on the ‘not’ part:

    Sigur Ros (2002):

    Death Cab for Cutie (2003):

    U2 (2002):

    Coldplay (2002):

  32. Oops, saw a couple posts, late. Awesome points!

    KennyG–wow, good stuff. Yes, sometimes it’s better to hang back by a few years, and not risk the damage that can be done trying to break new ground. Sometimes that’s best for the majority of the congregation in question.

    Randy–I agree, it gets dicey since we always have money involved. What if your church feels called to reach new believers, but your church also knows you won’t be able to have electricity if you do that? Maybe everyone’s hearts should already be on the new believers, so more mature believers by definition shouldn’t be caring about what they like and don’t like, but only about what new believers and non-believers like and don’t like? But then we’ve lost the celebratory worship that is commanded of believers to do congregationally……. Very interesting stuff. There’s a balance somewhere, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that no one, anywhere, has quite found it yet….hehehehe

  33. Rapha, great thoughts… I’ve read similar sentiments about the need for the church to return to being a ‘creator and purveyor of culture’ in some of Francis Schaffer’s books, as well as Kerry Livgren’s book, “Seeds of Change”. You’re in good company! And you’re right… At one point in human history, most of the great works of art (music, paintings, sculpture, etc.) found their inspiration in the majesty of the Divine.

    Unfortunately, the general disposition of man to acknowledge the Creator’s claim over the ‘created thing’ has changed… While some folks in the arts still find inspiration in the ‘good things’ of life (love, innocence, compassion, mercy, grace, …), several seek inspiration in the sordid, in the depths of despair, fear, …

    It’s probably not fair to say that the Church no longer ‘creates culture’ — I believe that it still does. We have our ‘fair share’ of contemporary artists who reflect the person and majestry of God in their work, many of whom have received acclaim comparable to some of the ‘heavy hitters’ like Bach, et. al. (not that any of those guys care about the ‘acclaim’ aspect).

    I’ve been to Sydney AU on business a few times… I’ve hung out with the Hillsong folks and talked with them about their perspectives on worship. I’ll never forget a chat I had with Ian Fisher, one of their staff musicians (bass guitar) who told me, “In the music we write, we’re writing first and foremost for our community of believers with respect to the composite place at which we find ourselves in our spiritual journey. If the music God’s granted us is beneficial to other believers around the world, that’s fine. But if we never did another CD or DVD project, it wouldn’t matter — that’s not what animates our attempts to speak of the majesty of God through the arts.”

    The style of Hillsong music doesn’t surprise me… We’re all influenced by what we’ve experienced (which is why some of us speak about our passion for the blues, jazz, country, metal, …). I’ve noticed that some of the ‘pop’ music I heard “down under” tended to favor that Celtic rock feel, so, no, the “dotted 1/8th” foundation doesn’t surprise more, nor do the ‘epic drone’ songs.

    In my earlier comments, I’m not suggesting we chase “what’s” popular… Neither would I suggest that we not do what we can to create and shape culture. However, there are far more ways to shape culture than just “let’s come up with our own ‘sound’ of music that no one else is doing so we can claim we’re not being ‘popular’ (a.k.a. ‘conformists’)…” I believe the greatest way the church can shape culture is by ‘going out to the community at large to serve’. Our congregation partners with a number of secular and other denominational groups to serve other people with no expectation of an ROI. Just one of many examples: We built an huge handicapped-accessible community playground with a large picnic pavilion, restrooms, etc. — for the people of the Harrisburg area (what’s really cool is to see how packed that place is on Sunday morning with folks who can’t get over that a church would do something like that for them without strings attached). As a result our outreach ministries, I better appreciate the description in the Book of Acts of the early church when as a result of their demonstrating grace to other people, they found favor with the community of people at large, including many who probably held most religious groups in low regard.

    If you ask us ‘why’ we use what music we do it’s because we don’t have the luxury of vocational worship leaders; everyone’s a volunteer and has to work a ‘day job’ (lol!). Granted, I’ve collaborated on a project with one of our lay leaders of original material, but at the end of the day, I don’t have any illusions of grandeur; I’m still a product of the music I’ve experienced, so I’m not going to “blaze any new frontiers” in the arts world. However, even that statement isn’t entirely true…

    While I don’t expect to receive any acclaim as an ‘artist’ (all it will take is one trip to Nashville to cure anyone of that — lol!), I do have ample opportunities to ‘create culture’, even when all I”m doing is playing a coffee house with 3 to 5 people listening. If just one person leaves that moment feeling uplifted and encouraged by the little moment of beauty I’m able to create for them, borne from an appreciation of a God who’s been gracious to me, I’ve done what I could to help ‘create and shape culture’.

    That’s my $0.02 for this (a few more ‘cents’ and I might be able to buy a cup of coffee at MickeyD’s — lol!).

    Rapha, again, thanks for encouraging us all to consider not to lose sight of our role as both ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world! 🙂

  34. Kenny- Agreed. I do want to point out that I’m not saying every church should be creating their own music, just the Church in general (as opposed to finding musical ideas in secular culture that are popular and fitting “worship” lyrics to it).

    Randy- I’m not going to lie. I live in an ideal world– in the sense that I’m still young and determined (naive?) enough to believe that if I/we do what’s we believe is right, regardless of how impractical/stupid it may seem, God will honor that and see us through. Note that it’s easy for me to say that given that I’m not employed by a church. 🙂 Re: visitors/older (mature?) believers — what is your church’s “front door” for non-believers/visitors? Or, what is the purpose of your Sunday morning service? I ask because most American churches do use their Sunday services at least partial for evangelism (e.g. it’s normal for a church member to invite a non-believing friend to a Sunday morning service and that’s the first contact that person has with the church). If this is not the case, a Sunday morning service could be primarily a fellowship/encouraging thing, then the following doesn’t apply. 🙂 Also, the music being right for the mature believer and for the visiting unbeliever doesn’t have to always be an either/or thing, but it can be, and you seemed to treat it as such in what you said, so I’ll respond in a similar way (remembering that even if it is an either/or thing, it can be 80%/20%, 09%/10% … it’s fluid). In a service where unbelieving people are expected/hoped to be there, I think I’m well within what’s expected of a Christian to question the spiritual maturity of any believer, regardless of age/”maturity”, who puts their preferences over what would be most effective at reaching the (potential) non-believer in the seat next to him/her. After all, the Shepherd left his 99 sheep in search of the 1, and celebrated over finding the one despite the fact that he could have stayed put and celebrated with his 99! The Father used gave the fattened calf and a new robe to the prodigal son in celebration, and rebuked the older brother for not sharing his joy! I believe firmly that this should be the definition of church, not the exception! If making those kinds of changes cause people to leave the church, so be it, and if so many people leave that the church has to close its doors, we should rejoice at the opportunity to serve with renewed focus and purpose in another building with the true, missional body of Christ!

    … now having said that:

    1) Take it all worth a grain of salt, since as I said, I don’t have my livelihood on the line. As Karl said, it all gets hairy when money is involved, which is why I sometimes think the Mormons got it right when they have only lay people leading/working at each stake.

    2) I think there is plenty of room for services, events, call it whatever you want, whose purpose it to encourage the already believing body of Christ, and that service/event may be the Sunday morning service– as long as people are being reached some other way. 🙂

    3) As Karl said, no one here (certainly not me!) has the perfect balance/solution, but I think it’s worth talking/thinking about.

    Karl- Excellent points with the financial/political situation at the time in the Middle Ages … those weren’t exactly the glory years for the Church, were they? And the epic drone songs all being a few years old more confirms my point than refutes it. 🙂 But, I realize it’s hard to be original, and I know from talking to you, and agree, it’s easy to fall to the other extreme and use that awesome song you wrote just because you’re “creating culture” when it’s awful. 🙂

    Mike– Just because I brought up the idea doesn’t mean it’s remotely original with me! Please, don’t include me in that kind of company, it’ll only make me feel tiny and pathetic. 🙂 I think you hit something important, and that’s knowing ‘why’ we use music the way we do, regardless of what the ‘why’ is or what the end result is, and then testing that ‘why’ with what God/God’s Word has to say about it. 🙂

  35. Not trying to be the one who talks loudest/most in order to get heard, but I do want to throw in my $.02 of what I think is a way to try and “create” that we can all handle to varying degrees– and that is to make the songs that we play our own.

    Very few can write a song that’s worth playing in church, but most of us are able to take a song that’s out there and make it ours. Make your own solo. Cut here, expand there. Change tempo, change instrumentation. That’s one area I do have experience in because last time I was the primary worship leader at a church, it was a small one and our band (myself certainly included!) was a little short on talent. So we had to take liberties with songs instead of playing them like you hear on the radio. Cut this solo (90% of them were beyond our meager abilities), change this intro, use this chord instead because this new one works and I don’t know how to play the “proper” one very well … after a short time I came to be proud of the fact that we had to make all those little changes– because we were focused on making sure what we played worked well for us as the worship musicians and worked well for the congregation, even if it wasn’t what was on the CD. And ultimately, that’s what’s most important, right?

  36. wow. what a great discussion!

    Rapha, you are young but you are wise. Stay humble, my friend.

    We should “cater”, first and foremost, to the community that we are in. If what encourages the community of believers to praise God even more, whether it be pop, jazz, celtic, rock, , then we should strive to provide that …

  37. Great thoughts. Reminds me of why we serve in these ministries. Oh, and I’m a volunteer too — if there’s to be a reward in this life it’s seeing smiling worshippers. Each church has to decide if it’s going to be “seeker-sensitive” or focus on believers or do some sort of outreach other than on Sunday. I do feel that our “mature” folks are very tolerant when I bring in newer music ( especially something on the “rockin” side ), in an attempt to possibly connect with visitors of unsaved folks. Is that effective? Time will tell I guess. Some would say that people will come to church when life and/or the Lord’s hand drives them to it. In which case you might conclude there isn’t much need to cater to them musically.

  38. KennyG–mine too!! Great taste, bro. hehe 😉

    Mike Oliver–beautiful stuff, brother. I especially love what you said about creating culture going way beyond just art, and going into how we treat each other, serve each other, and love the community. Bravo, my friend! 🙂

    Rapha–great insights! Love what you said about making sure we use the example in Jesus’ parables and take care of people who haven’t come to know Him yet.

    As far as the making music our own, I definitely agree. Making a certain song we didn’t write work for our particular congregation is definitely important. I would maybe add too, that then we have to be careful that when we do it, we are doing it for the congregation and not just because we’ve fallen in love with ‘how awesome’ we make the songs. And I’m speaking from personal experience there, as one who used to change all of Chris Tomlin’s guitarist’s solos to ‘better’ ones, only to realize years later that they were…uh…not. lol 🙂

    And as for my music links proving your ‘non-originality of worship music’ points further, ah!! I get it now. That’s what I thought you were saying, but then I read your next paragraph as saying that there was nothing in the secular world that sounded like Hillsong…that Hillsong was completely original. Which didn’t sound like you at all, (hehe), but I figured, ‘Hey, I’ll bite.’ So I just re-read your original post, and I see what you meant in that paragraph now. hehe Much more sense! 🙂 But it did give me an excuse to post some lovely music, including U2.

    Rhoy–I totally agree!! Style is what people want, not us. hehe Mostly. 😉 And if our ‘community’ happens to consist of mostly non-believers, I think we have a responsibility to cater to that as well…lyrically and message-wise. That doesn’t apply to me, or I’m guessing most of us here…but may apply to the church-planter in a deep urban area.

    But maybe it should apply to all of us, myself included? Hmmm… 😉 Sorry, this is a good discussion, and I’m just trying to keep it going. hehe

    Randy–whoa! Now we’re almost touching on Calvinism versus Arminianism a bit. hehehe Does what we do matter for those who haven’t come to know God yet, or does God just orchestrate everything? But even if it doesn’t matter, do we still reach out because He commanded us to? But why would He command us to if it doesn’t? 🙂

    (And by the way, I don’t pretend to have the answers to all that, and I’m a little wary of anyone who does. 🙂 )

  39. I think leadership at my church considers ‘seeker-sensitive’ a bad word, implying the church is turning itself on it’s ear to offer Latte’s, multi-media, rock ‘n roll etc and sometimes a watering down of the Biblical message.
    I’m more open to reaching out to visitors and taking some steps ( I won’t call it marketing ) to accomplish that. As I see our old crowd slowly dying off, that becomes even more critical.

  40. I’ve never really understood the resistance to current trends by the church in general. Especially in the creative arts-type ministries. In my opinion, ” Latte’s, multi-media, rock ‘n roll etc” isn’t “seeker-sensitive” at all. They’re current (well, current-ish at least…).

    I’m also very open to adding more modern elements to a worship service. Not just to reach out to “seekers” and visitors but to reach people like myself. I don’t ever recall reading where we are supposed to only do things that we’re comfortable with. In fact, I’d say that most of the biblical examples we have show us we’re supposed to be doing the opposite. I think the trick is finding the balance between tradition and cultural relevance.

  41. In conservative churches like mine, we definitely don’t want the message watered down — for example either never mentioning or ignoring what one must do to be saved and the eternal consequences of not being saved.

    I think you can do things to reach out to visitors, whatever that might be, without watering down the message, but we do occasionally run into people who, when pressed, would admit that “I like the church as it is and I know everybody and I don’t really want it to grow.” With that attitude, one could easily feel that any changes to accomodate visitors were negative.

  42. Ya, there’s definitely a difference between loving people enough to want them to feel comfortable with a good latte, and watering down tough passages in the Bible. I agree, we shouldn’t do that.

    However, I’m all for seeing all the new folks in your congregation, and deciding that maybe we should talk about salvation for a few months before we enter the series on Revelation. 🙂

  43. I kind of want to get back to the “calvinism-esque” convo 🙂 While I hold fast to almost all of Calvinism, we still have a personal responsibility to the great commission whether abroad or in our home town. What if… now this is a big what if… the one way that we can get someone to come into a church and hear the gospel is by playing generational relevent music? Yes, we cannot save anyone (in my opinion and doctrinal beliefs… sorry Armenianists…) God does the saving, but that doesn’t mean that we just sit back and do nothing right?

    • Yes, it is only by grace through faith in Christ can one be saved. But we cannot ignore the great commission found @ Matthew 28:18-20.

      And what about Romans 10, specifically verse 10:14

      14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

  44. This is why I love this blog… such an awesome site where brothers and sisters in Christ can come together and talk theology and refine each other…

  45. I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here. What is generational relevant music? Which generation? The highschoolers in our church, the twentysomethings, middle agers, seniors?
    If we’re talking music relevant to those who may visit our church, I suppose the question still has to be asked.

  46. Randy and Kenny– I think when it comes to this sort of thing you have to define your terms. “Seeker-sensitive,” for example, at face value means sensitive to people that are seeking (right?). But to many it’s a particular movement exemplified by Saddleback with its own list of implied styles, philosophies, etc. We could easily play the same game with other Christian buzzwords like “postmodern” “emerging” “ecumenical”, even (apparently) “liturgical” (see? it’s all connected to the original post, I swear)!

    Ben G- I’ve actually been giving that very question some thought lately, and I can’t say I have any good ideas when it comes to where the line is exactly … but I do think that it’s natural for churches over time to fall into becoming an insider’s club without constant, purposeful teaching to the contrary– and that once they do the term “church” almost becomes inaccurate. 🙂

    Randy- This question is why Saddleback has for their staff/vision purposes “Saddleback Sam” and “Saddleback Sally”– specific people representing the target audience of the church. As in age, interests, likely profession, family composition … my understanding is that they even have pictures of how they are likely to dress, etc. Disclaimers: 1) The above is one of those “i heard” things … I don’t remember exactly who told me … it may have been a Saddleback staff member but I’m unsure enough that I don’t even want to specify who. But I’m confident that this at least was definitely true at some point. Geez, that’s a lot of back-peddling, but I’m pretty sure. 2) I will withhold judgement entirely of whether or not this is a good thing, just a possible way of going about it.

  47. You know what Randy, you are completely correct. I come from a church that ignore’s anyone’s interest who are under 40 so I came to this discussion wanting younger music. My bad 🙂

  48. @Rapha – Yeah, I usually don’t take the term “seeker-sensitive” as a literal description but as a reference to the Saddleback-y church model.

  49. Very interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives.
    I don’t know but i’m assuming that most of you are either west coast or southern east coast?
    I’m a worship leader in upstate NY, in a very small town. We do mostly passion/hillsong style worship. Now, in our area (I think because of the second great awakening) everyone, saved and unsaved, has an expectation of what church should be like. So when new, completely unchurched, people visit; it takes them awhile to get over that fact that we don’t do hymns. Their expectation is based on 150 years of Lutheran and Methodist expectation. Its kind of amazing. Even teens who come into our student ministry can’t believe we have an electric guitar in church. People like it, but it takes them a minute to see that this can be church as well.
    Just an interesting observation of mine about our region.

    By the way, as a pastor in a small country town i feel very disconnected and “behind the times” on occasion. This blog is very helpful for me just to get a glimpse of what’s going on in the church worship music world, gear and otherwise.

    so thanks!

  50. Re: “generationally relevant music” I’ve even heard Paul Baloche use that term. Now I presume what he’s talking about is the larger movement from the really traditional church that did only hymns, to something newer. Back in the day when people only lived to 35, I suppose there was only one adult generation so there wouldn’t be any confusion about which generation.

    Fortunately there is a certain amount of agreement on musical tastes even across generations. We have many folks from 15 to 65 who either like or at least can tolerate Tomlin, Baloche, MercyMe, Brewster etc. in church.

    But there are 2 other issues I see, and I’m not sure much can be done about either one. For those who like jazz, opera, extreme heavy metal or other musical styles that you wouldn’t call “popular” I’m not sure much can be done for them in church other than forming their own church. It’s about facilitating praise and worship with musical forms that if not loved, at least don’t get in the way of worship.

    I’m not suggesting we go back to hymns, but I’m wondering if in the past when churches all played what was viewed as “church music” things were easier. That is, when what you heard in church you would almost never hear anything remotely similar anywhere else. If such a time existed, no one would go to church expecting to hear the musical style they normally preferred outside of church.

    As far as young folks wanting their own church band, or wanting primarily “young” musicians on the team or wanting youth worship nights, coffee houses, etc etc etc. Part of me says “whatever works for them.” Part of me says, does that mean at 27 you’re fired or kicked out. Or is it 28? Is this the teenage anti-adult syndrome that young adults have failed to outgrow? Now if the “oldsters” in the church or on the music team are insisting on all old music, that’s one thing. If not?

    This isn’t overt in most cases I’ve observed, but it’s there.

    • Randy,

      Like Solomon said in Ecclessiastes, “There’s nothing new under the sun…”. From what I’ve read about some of the old hymn writers, the church has historically struggled with worship.

      There’s a good book I’ve read called, “Then Sings My Soul.” It’s a collection of 150 well known hymns with a one page history of each.

      I particularly enjoy the story about Issac Watts, who wrote the song, “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”. Here’s a little of Issac’s story:

      “As Isaac Watts quietly pastored Mark Lane Chapel in London, the growing popularity of his hymns was causing a tempest. “Christian congregations have shut out divinely inspired Psalms,” one man complained, “and taken in Watts’ flights of fancy.” The issue of singing hymns versus Psalms split churches, including the one in Bedford, England, once pastored by John Bunyan.

      The controversy jumped the Atlantic. In May, 1789, Rev. Adam Rankin told the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, meeting in Philadelphia: ‘I have ridden horseback all the way from my home in Kentucky to ask this body to refuse the great and pernicious error of adopting the use of Isaac Watts’ hymns in public worship in preference to the Psalms of David.'”

      So… no, things were not any easier in the past. For more information about Issac Watts (especially since he seems to have wrestled with comparable issues in his time), see:

      (just a few of several ‘links’ about this fellow ‘worship leader’ from another time).


  51. Well what I was talking about specifically was having music that is strictly piano and drums and now allowing guitars to even be heard. Playing songs that are old and outdated (you can FEEL the 80’s in them 🙂 ) and telling the younger generation that our songs aren’t good enough for regular church… it gets a bit annoying and legalistic to me. Personally I would LOVE to have those who are my elders in church listen to the same music, hang out at coffee shops, and the like with the younger generation. I’m 26 and I don’t see myself ever not hanging out with the young guns in church.

    • This isn’t always necessarily an ‘age’ issue; it may be more of a ‘comfort’ issue. I’m 52 years old and serve as both a band leader and lead guitarist for our congregation. I’m also one of 3 elders who are routinely involved with an inter-generational worship team, the members of which range from 17 to 62 years of age. We like to “pull out the stops” and celebrate to the Lord as evidenced here (and yeah, I’m playing in this clip):

      When I say I believe this to be a ‘comfort’ issue, I’m referring to that ‘warm and fuzzy feeling we get’ when we hear music that takes us back to a comforting moment in our lives. For example, whenever I’m visiting a more traditional church and I hear the ‘Doxology’ sung to the accompaniment of just a pipe organ, I mentally flash back to when I was 8 years old at the First Baptist church with my grandparents and my parents. That was a ‘comforting’ time in my life…

      I’ve discovered that the ‘comfort issue’ is not solely the domain of ‘older folks’. We had a couple in their early 30’s leave our fellowship 8 years ago when our music continued evolving with more of a harder edge (Desparation Band, Reliant-K, Green Day — yeah, I know they don’t do worship music, but we’ve found a couple of their songs ‘useful’).

      For someone suffering from the ‘comfort issue’, the root cause is their failure to recognize that worship isn’t about them and what they find comfortable — worship is for Someone else… It’s about singing a “new song” to the Lord.

      Does our congregation use songs from the history of the church? Sure… However, we almost always re-interpret them, but not because we’re trying to ‘modernize them’. We’re using one of several means of offering this older song to the Lord as a ‘new song’, the authenticity of which is flowing from our hearts (as opposed to “Oh, this song takes me back when I was a little kid…”). If I’m taking a “stroll down memory lane” during the offering of “Doxology” to the Lord, my ‘heart’ isn’t engaged in worship. It’s focused on what feels good to ‘me’.

      That’s one of the reasons why when we do reuse an older song from the history of the church, we caution our vocalists, “Don’t fall into the trap of ‘hymn-sing’ (where you’re on auto-pilot, singing this like you did when you were a kid…).” If they’re on ‘auto-pilot’, they’re most likely not cognizant of what’s be said about or to the Lord.


  52. I think we seem to be all on the same page as far as Calvinism goes…that no, we cannot save anybody, but we still have a responsibility to love people enough to tell them about God. And as far as if it actually matters in the gran scheme of things…as in, besides our responsibility, would they be saved even if we hadn’t been obedient and told them…I’m not sure we’ll ever wrap our heads around that until we are dead and outside of time as God is.

    For the generationally relevant, I think it definitely depends on your congregation. If your congregation is 80, and you’re trying to introduce the Arcade Fire style, it’s probably not going to go over very well. But if your congregation is 25, and you have a pastor still clinging to that ‘the songs that reached me when I first became a Christian are the only ones that are truly life-changing’, then that’s a problem too. 🙂 My take.

  53. I’m 62, lead worship with an electric, play lots of Hillsong, Tomlin, etc but kind of doubt our young adults really want to hang out with me, but that’s understandable. I wish I could find more more musicians among our youth.

  54. The problem, if you want to call it that, is congregations generally consist of many different ages groups, backgrounds. We just do the best we can with an eye on the Lord — I think He’ll be good with that.

  55. Mike Oliver–great point on the ‘comfort level.’ I’m of the same mind, that we all experience this to some degree, no matter what the age group. I also agree that worship should be about something more than our own comfort. But at the same time, I think we need to love people enough to reach them where they’re at, and then teach them what worship is truly about. Which of course, it doesn’t look like your church has a problem with if you’re playing Green Day. 🙂

    On the other hand, we ca also over-think these things, too. Sometimes I feel like I’m agonizing over whether to do the hymn or the Tomlin song; and in reality both our going to glorify God, so why not do the one the congregation connects with more? Or do them both. Or write a medley for them, and then I can write about it on my blog and show my friends how cool I am. hehe Wait…I might have been kind of thinking out loud there. 😉

    Randy–ah ya, good point. In which case, it’s probably good to do a nice cross-section of different styles. Or, that’s also one of the reasons that I think U2’s style is so big with churches is because it’s a very easy to like, or at least easy to not completely dislike, style. So it works for a large cross-section of folks. 🙂

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