Should we give people what they want or what they need?
Charles Colson with Anne Morse | posted 4/01/2006 12:00AM
When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We'd been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called "Draw Me Close to You," which has zero theological content and could just as easily be sung in any nightclub. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed. "Let's sing that again, shall we?" he asked. "No!" I shouted, loudly enough to send heads all around me spinning while my wife, Patty, cringed.
I admit I prefer traditional hymns, but even so, I'm convinced that much of the music being written for the church today reflects an unfortunate trend—slipping across the line from worship to entertainment. Evangelicals are in danger of amusing ourselves to death, to borrow the title of the classic Neil Postman book.
I most certainly wish I could have been there when Chuck shouted “No!" There have been times and places at church when I almost cracked, but never quite. The most protest I have ever been able to muster is simply to stop singing and try to endure until the end – here with a bit different meaning than in scripture.
My most annoying little picture of something like this is the song leader who feels compelled to shout before every line, “Now sing . . .” and he then quotes the first few words of the line. Of course, all the lines are always projected onto the omnipresent screen that has mostly replaced the cross as the symbol of the Christian faith today. So the song leader is not conveying any information by shouting out the first few words of each line. He is just trying to pump up the crowd. In some versions of this, it appears that the song leader is the opening act, intended to ‘warm up’ the audience before the main show, which is, of course, the sermon.
In more cases than I care to contemplate, the church has become a show. And the show must go on, because that’s entertainment!