Saturday, January 23, 2016
The Business of Worship Music - Leonard Vander Zee in The Banner
Contemporary Christian musicians are not any more immune to the lure of money than you or I are. And they can make lots more by writing songs that are like the ones in the top 25, with similar emotive words and chord changes. The logic of all this is that the songs will begin to sound strangely similar. From there it spreads to Christian music and hymnal publishers.
I fear the same thing may be happening in many local churches. There’s a strong urge to model our worship on what we see as successful and what we hear on Christian radio. As a result, what many congregations sing in worship is overly influenced by a business model rather than what’s theologically rich and spiritually healthy for the life and worship of the congregation.
I’m not saying that all the songs and artists in the top echelons of the CCLI world are shallow or imitative. But I’ve heard from talented songwriters who produce theologically robust and musically inventive music that there is enormous pressure from publishers and distributors to go with what sells. And the results are plain to see.
So what’s the answer? We first need to acknowledge the problem, and it’s not trivial. There’s an old saying that Christians absorb more theology from what they sing than from most other sources. If that’s the case, then, considering the CCLI top 25, we’ll soon be in a theological desert.
Once we recognize the problem, pastors and music leaders in congregations need to be much more careful about what their congregations are singing. It may take some work, but I know of contemporary-Christian-music-singing churches who carefully plan worship music with musical and theological sensitivity. The material is out there, and sometimes it comes right from budding artists in their own congregations.
The full article is available here