What's on the Web
For dozens of generations, hymns have been the mainstay of worship music. Christians have praised with them, prayed with them . . . and played with them. Good pastoral musicians have always played around with hymn arrangements, seeking creative expression and the best liturgical effect. And of course, texts and tunes are made to mix and match.
The disciples asked Jesus a simple question: “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). He gave them, in response, the Lord’s Prayer. Today’s wired Christian might ask that same question not only of Jesus, but also of Jeeves, an electronic concierge/search engine located at www.askjeeves.com. What he or she gets in response will show that in the daunting task of putting words of prayer on the lips of God’s people, good help is hard to find. Hard, but not impossible.
When deciding which sung prayers to put on the lips of God’s people each Sunday morning, worship leaders today have more choices than ever. Well over 200,000 songs are now available in print alone. But we’re entering a post-Gutenberg age; the Internet has become a significant source for worship music.
The Internet was first touted to the general public as an extraordinary information-sharing tool: a resource to help like-minded people exchange knowledge, encouragement, and inspiration. But today what people share, as often as anything else, is credit card numbers. Everyone, it seems, is out to make a buck—even in the world of worship. There are dozens of sites on the web that offer worship resources—drama, music, liturgy, technical advice, even sermons—for a price.
The marriage of rock music and church music has often been, well, rocky. Just think of the Catholic priest in the 1960s who changed the lyrics of Beatles songs to reflect a Christian message. Unfortunately, songs like “I Want to Hold His Hand” did little more than show that the church was desperate to try anything to reach young people.
I remember being envious once, in pre-Web days, of a pastor friend who was showing me the Bible software he had just purchased. He could look up any passage in an instant, search for multiple uses of a particular word, even pull up two different Bible translations side by side on his computer. The tables were turned recently when I told him of two popular websites that offered all those Bible study tools and more—for free.
Listening to music on the Internet has become commonplace. These days, lots of folks are using Napster to download MP3 files from rock bands like Limp Bizkit. But others are logging on with a more devotional motive: to listen to and learn about psalms and hymns.
The Cyber Hymnal
Anyone who has been to the Church of Reconciliation in the small French village of Taizé and worshiped there with Christians from all over the world, knows what an unforgettable experience it is. But translating extraordinary worship experiences to our own communities and congregations is notoriously difficult.