I was browsing over at the Gospel Coalition, a website for which I sometimes write Biblical Studies book reviews. I’m generally really skeptical about and critical of Contemporary Christian music, including some of my own songs and recordings :), but I listened to a few of these songs from their new release called Songs for the Book of Luke and they struck me as sounding really authentic, powerful, and theologically-robust. There are short samples and some videos on their blog on this project which was essentially a record composed by worship leaders in local churches across the USA. I love the heart and attitude of Ben Peay, Mike Cosper, and all of those involved. I find it to be refreshing and sincere. Also, I really dig that this is collaborative effort, that it is not out to make super stars of contemporary Christian subculture, but is rather an offering of worship for the Church from the heart of the Church to the glory of God through the Church.
This is really super encouraging to come across as I enter a season in which I am transitioning back (Lord willing) into some sort of active role leading in the Church, hopefully consisting in part of a re-boot of my own musical heart, which I had laid aside for a season in Scotland while doing doctoral work. I never, however, stopped writing, and in fact, the period of separation, for me, represented a period of death, rebirth, and resurrection of all things musical. The result is a purer desire to create, a deeper love and desire to worship musically (and non-musically), and a helpful time of reflection on the nature, role, and purpose of music itself in the local Church. So, I’m refreshed, excited, and renewed. Even more so when I see that hundreds of people are doing similar things, with a similar heart, and with diligence, prayer, and creative power together for the sake of the Gospel and with the joy that comes from worshiping God the Father, through and by the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior, Lord, and King, living by the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of at least three series that I’ll be beginning, after I arise with Tara from the full time break from learning how to change diapers and not get peed on by newborn son Liam (quite a task!), will be focusing on music and the Church. What I’ll be discussing is essentially the move away from a paradigm of Top 40 Style ‘Cut and Paste’ musical experiences and repertoire toward an indigenous, contextual training, composing, and recording of locally flavored missional musical expressions of the Gospel. I’ve been reflecting on this, and conversing with pastor friends for the past couple of years. I feel like I’ve reached some major conclusions as a result of this for myself which will be really helpful for me personally as a musical worshiper of God as I go forward. It is so cool to know now that I’m in such good company with the sort of thing I’m hearing on this Luke record.
One thing to tackle is how these new compositions can be adapted and used, perhaps even rearranged and reinterpreted to be sensitive and authentic to particular congregations in differing cultures and social settings than the one’s in which, by which, and for which they were composed. The goal really needs to be not to recapitulate the old model of 20-30 mega-hits, as good as they are, which then become the staples of every evangelical church, creating a homogeneous musical experience. We need to discover together how to faithfully exegete our communities and to let the sound we make and the songs we sing arise from within the ethos of the people, time and place in which we serve, rather than being superimposed over us from without as an all-purpose evangelical musical product. We need the sound we make to be in the key of the contextualized Christ in the koinonia of our own unique Gospel communities, and not in the key of M (manipulation). We need to cease being captives to the Contemporary Christian product and its subsequent grid of assured spiritual results and feelings, and to be freed to create, sing, and exist in the freedom of the Gospel and in the sound it makes in our own local contexts while learning how to authentically incorporate the songs and sounds of other tribes, communities, nations, and tongues in ways that are reflective, honest and complimentary to our mission and ethos. We need to better discern and apply the best of contemporary Christian music without being manipulated, governed, and defined by it as a Power.
Again, all of that is peripheral for now. These guys have done a great work. I’ll surely be picking it up, and incorporating some of the selections to worship in the future. It deserves your attention and it will certainly be a blessing to you. Good work folks!