On Taped Music, "Musical Integrity," and Worship Teams

For this issue the questions and answers for Q&A come from the report "Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture" by the worship committee of the Christian Reformed Church. Although the report, which is to , be presented at Synod 1997, is addressed in the first place to CRC congregations, churches from other denominations will have the same or similar questions. And, we trust, will benefit from the answers. The report will be published separately in an expanded study/discussion booklet as Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture (available September, 1997, from CRC Publications).

Q. Why do people get so bothered when we use I taped background music to accompany our "soloists? Our church doesn't have very good piano players. It seems like a good alternative.

A. This question raises a broader issue: the use of spiritual gifts. One can oppose taped background Imusic because it sounds contrived or because it plays into the "bigger than life" syndrome. Or one can support taped background music because it gives the soloist flawless accompaniment and adds emotional impact to the solo. But those arguments are peripheral to a much larger issue, namely, what do we believe about spiritual gifts?

Healthy worship renewal takes seriously the spiritual gifts God has given his people for use in worship. If we believe that God has given spiritual gifts for leadership in worship, that suggests the following principle or guideline regarding electronic substitutes in worship: we will seek to discover, cultivate, and use the gifts of God's people who are present in worship rather than relying on electronic substitutes. Churches that are following this principle are discovering gifts they never realized were present in their congregations. It's hard work, but it will pay off in the end.

(We must recognize that the line between these two choices is fuzzier than it might first appear. How should we categorize the person playing the synthesizer with preprogrammed background chords?)

Q. Our church is considering the formation of a worship team, a team of four to eight people " who will lead some of the singing in worship. Is this a good idea?

A. Worship teams can be very helpful in worship, particularly when you are trying to teach the lcongregation new songs. Confident leadership from the worship team gives the congregation guidance and confidence.

Some churches that have a big band and a worship team that lead an extended set of songs at the beginning of the service have discovered that the congregation is not singing or not singing very well. Several factors may be at work here: (a) the congregation includes many unchurched people who are not used to singing; (b) the volume of the accompaniment (often a band) and singers (usually miked) is so overpowering that people can't hear themselves sing, and so they quit singing; (c) the singing goes on too long, and people get tired and quit. A good test of congregational singing is what happens when the accompaniment and leadership drop out. The congregation, not the leaders, should be carrying the congregational song.

Most worship teams that we are familiar with are sensitive to these concerns and see themselves not as performers but as leaders of the congregation.

Q. As we use a greater variety of songs in our worship, some of the music types in our church say that a service must have musical integrity. By that they mean we should do only one type of music in a given service. So if we want to do gospel music, the whole service should be gospel. But we should not sing contemporary and gospel and traditional in the same service. What about that?

A. Alt's good to ask the question of integrity: What is the thread that holds the service together? What gives it unity? One way to answer that question as it relates to music is to say, as you suggest in your question, that all the music of a particular service should be of the same musical genre (gospel, traditional, praise and worship). Congregations tend to go this route when they are quite unfamiliar with a new genre of music. It seems too dissonant and jerky to move from "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" to "Jerusalem the Golden."

But when a congregation becomes more comfortable with new songs, it moves more easily between genres of music. At that point it is helpful to see an alternative for defining integrity of a service. Instead of defining the integrity of a service by musical genre, we suggest you define the integrity (unity, cohesive-ness) in terms of the theme of a particular service (thematically, both "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" and "Jerusalem the Golden" fit a service dealing with the comfort of Christ's return).

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ANY QUESTIONS?

We hope you find Q&A stimulating. We also hope that you'll join in the dialogue. Send your questions about worship to Reformed Worship Q&A by mail (2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand

Rapids, Ml 49560), fax (616-246-0834), or e-mail (rw@crcpublications.org)

Harry Boonstra (hboonstr@calvin.edu) is former theological editor of RW and emeritus theological librarian of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.