Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hillsong United: Worship Music for the Future?, pt. 1

It’s a seeming tumultuous time for music in modern history, both for the music industry (as disc and download sales continue to decline) and the philosophical evolution of the arts (as it still processes postmodernism’s explosive impact and commercialism’s epidemic). Many worshippers in American churches, likewise, have followed the consumerism of music in their weekly Sunday services, choosing for themselves from a great variety of “worship styles.” The invisible lines of division created by the “Worship Wars” still exist, pulling communities apart. Contemporary Christian worship may have become its own invested sub-genre within the past few years, but it’s continually losing its appeal to new generations, and as much as I personally enjoy the music of Indelible Grace, I doubt its approach has the allure and substance to fare in such a diverse jungle of a musical world.

How Christian musicians, pastors and all those concerned about the above could, should or likely will respond to such problems can be the topic for a thesis that I’m probably too unqualified and lazy to write, and I also see, right now, no ultimate solution. I do take a lot of comfort, however, in the works of some self-dubbed “guys and a girl from Australia,” known as Hillsong United.

Before I talk about Hillsong United, I need to introduce my former self. If there ever was a snobby cynic to draw the sword against contemporary worship, that was me five years ago. I was a conservatory student studying music composition, and I had a hobby of leading myself in worship in front of and my guitar (many floor-mates often joined me). I couldn’t have cared less about contemporary worship, as it generally seemed to have 1) low musical standards (pop rock that still hadn’t moved on from the 80’s), its boy-band-like vocals (otherwise it would have appealed to more guys), teeny-bop lyrics (far from the theological richness and poetry of hymns and spiritual songs), and the one-track emotional theme (happiness and praise, even if in denial of burdens, etc.). Keep in mind that while, now, I regularly and sincerely worship at “contemporary” services, the aforementioned are criticisms that I haven’t redacted. In college, I was seeking a higher stand for worship in musical excellence, lyrical and poetic truth, and in the conversation one has with God during the experience.

My stubborn and stark stance on this issue was a topic of debate between my girlfriend (now my wife) and I. I couldn’t bring myself to the same point as (insert author here), as my studies in church music history revealed similar musical and philosophical flaws in hymnody. Studying world music and the philosophy of the arts developed in me a miniature vision for a type of worshipful unity of believers achieved by celebrated and true excellence and diversity in the worship arts. For this vision, I found a little bit more interest and a lot more capability from the “contemporary” or “blended” crowd, of course, when they were willing to bravely deviate from the above consumerist compromise.

So why would I, seeking to holistically worship with musically holistic means, like a mediator dove in the line of fire, so wholeheartedly recommend Hillsong United?

The attempted answer is in pt. 2.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Prelude and Invocation

Hello all readers,

My name is James. I have the great privilege of serving Sheboygan eFree and the rest of Sheboygan County as the church's Pastor of Worship and the Arts. As I launch this blog, I will soon be living in the Sheboygan area with my wife and two daughters.

This blog will serve a few purposes that I have in mind. The primary function is to be an outlet for my meditations and writings. I like to think, and sometimes my thinking is a bit random, so the topics may be a bit diverse. There will be a strong theme, however, in the integration of God, culture and the arts. This blog is appropriately titles "notes, overtones, and resolutions," not only for its musical double entendre, but also for three corresponding reasons:

notes - I may be a leader, but I am also a student . . . in God's lifelong curriculum toward holiness and righteousness. This blog is not so much to be seen as an imparting of wisdom, inspiration and academics from a retired veteran of worship leaders. Rather, it's to be seen as a journal of someone sharing your journey. This isn't necessarily what I would submit for the final exam in life. It's just notes.

overtones - I'm not an overly talented or very passionate research writer. Nor would I enjoy using allotments in cyberspace to tell you elaborate and menial details of my day using few capital letters, punctuation, complete words or sentences. I may have an occasional opinion, but it's delivered with tact and spunk, and it will never be unbiblical.

resolutions - The basic end to all my thoughts, as perhaps earlier implied, is a resolve and a step forward in the journey of holiness and righteousness, giving glory to God. This is done, whether in sadness or joy, in an act of poetic and sincere praise.

Hence, the hybrid of a psalmist and a columnist.

I'm starting this blog's chapter and coverage of this journey by posting some oldies (I don't want to call them "goodies" just yet). There will be some new additions soon (e.g. a Facebook page, a playlist, etc.), but please continue to read my notes, overtones and resolutions.