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Blog // Sounds
January 24, 2006

Support Your Church Musicians: Part Two

Musicians can be a fascinating bridge to the culture of our times, if we listen to them. They are often early adopters of musical trends, willing experts on musicology and posess an inside understanding of the nature of the music industry. I especially find classical musicans fascinating because they remind me that much of our […]

Musicians can be a fascinating bridge to the culture of our times, if we listen to them. They are often early adopters of musical trends, willing experts on musicology and posess an inside understanding of the nature of the music industry. I especially find classical musicans fascinating because they remind me that much of our society’s cultural life is not enthral to the either the top40 and mass media industry that supports it.

However, most church musicians practice their ministry under intense pressure and severe scrutiny. The role of music within the life of the church is often a contested subject. Wwithout desiring it, musicians by virtue of their role are drawn into a debate that brings together divergent views of the nature of worship, the culture of church and the missiological relationship between church and the rest of society. It’s for this reason that some innocently aesthetic judgements that musicians may make (to play a certain chord here, or use a certain sound there) are often interpreted by congregants and church leaders as having some deeper significance.

Moreover, many church musicians labour under the false dichotomy of playing versus performing. If there is one thing I would like to encourage church-goers to ponder it is this; music is always performance – always. It takes work to bring a piece of music to life, regardless of context. If folks have an issue with pride, or showmanship, then they should focus on those things specifically, but the dichotomy of performance versus service is a false one.

In my view there are three very practical ways church can support and free their musicians. First they can liberate them from false dichotomies and unwarranted debate. This involves accepting that the conceptual issues around music are not clear cut and are seldom universally agreed upon. Second, the church can liberate the musicians creatively, which will often mean accepting and encouraging the musicians to find creative outlets outside the four walls of the church in order to grow and be satisfied artistically. Thirdly, the church can liberate the musicans to speak to the church from their unique cultural location within society. A smart church would treat its musicians as a cultural asset and tap them for information on cultural trends and fashions (especially as many musicians are either early-adopters, or niche/genre experts, or sometimes both).

Of course, along with all this, the church could seriously rethink the centrality of music in our understanding of worship, seriously rethink the impulse to make our worship attractional and seriously rethink the need to centrally regulate creativity within the church. Maybe those are topics for future blogposts.

[tags] Worship, Church Music, Theology and Culture, Emerging Church, Missiology [/tags]

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