Music is always changing. We know that. It doesn’t tend to change as quickly within the walls of the local church. We all know that as well. It is not an easy task to get people to continue moving forward. Right now we are in the midst of this push back towards the power synth sounds of the 80s. I personally wasn’t a huge fan the first time, so I’ve been personally struggling with this shift for a little while. I saw it as early as 2009 with the release of The Power of One by Israel Houghton. The opening of that song was strong and I immediately thought, “Is this where we are going now?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that album. That’s not what I’m saying. I just remember thinking that we might be heading straight back to the heavy synth sounds and I didn’t know what I thought. Then it kept going. Planetshakers, then Jesus Culture. More and more groups started grabbing onto this sound. Then Hillsong United came out with Aftermath and then Zion. I wasn’t happy with either because the initial sounds weren’t doing it for me. It wasn’t until I went back to a few of these with a more open mind and started to realize that there was some good music in there that I was completely overlooking because of personal taste.
I share this because I know that I’m not the only one who may have felt some of these initial thoughts. And if I am the only one, then I’ll accept that too (not really, someone out there is lying). As a worship pastor, part of my job is keeping up with where music is and where it is going. The second part of that is always challenging. In most local churches this is generally difficult for whomever is making the musical choices. You have to pick music for a large, picky, diverse group of people, and that is never easy. You’ve got people who like it loud, people who like it soft. People who like the newest song on the CCM station that’s not really a good song for corporate worship but they want you to sing it anyway. There’s the group of people who think that we need more hymns. There are ones who think the drums are always too loud and those who wish that your voice was not so loud in the mix (I have a big mouth. Sorry!). I could go on and on, but you get the point. I used to struggle a lot more with the idea of what to do to make the most people happy. I realized after a few years that if I kept that mindset I’d go crazy and blow stuff up. I’d probably also still be doing hymns from a pipe organ.
What I had to learn, and what a we have to keep in mind is that musical styles change just like clothing styles (I seriously saw a dude rocking the bibs with one strap unhooked the other day. I’m excited and slightly scared about that one coming back). One thing that continues to stay the same is the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stay consistent with WHAT being said as opposed to HOW it’s being said. I’ve taken the approach of let the Gospel go forth. How is not determined by me. That allows me to personally begin to enjoy albums like Hillsong Young and Free. Or at least be able to listen deeper, to the words more than just the strong keyboards at the beginning.
How do you handle the ever changing musical styles around you?