Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Organ and the Band, The Lion and the Lamb

I once interviewed at a church where they had just purchased a very expensive church organ. I was asked how I could incorporate this organ into contemporary worship. I said that it wouldn't work, that worship bands only have organs in them if they have a Hammond B-3 or something like it, and that the style of music played on church organs doesn't fit with a worship band setting, and vice versa.

I didn't get the job.

Understand this: my two concerns here were quality and reality. Anywhere else in the world, you don't have big pipe organs playing with rock bands (well, maybe in The Transiberian Orchestra, but..). Church seems to be a place where normal rules don't apply, where organs go with rock bands, where the lion lays down with the lamb, where broken things that you don't want have great value.

Anyway, I've been to several churches that attempt this and fail miserably. Either one, separately and done well, is edifying and excellent. They are not, however, the chocolate and peanut butter of church music. They are the butterscotch and salmon of church music. And that's okay.

I've been surprised by how many people complain that their church doesn't do anything for them, doesn't meet their needs, doesn't feel like their church. I heard from some older folks that the churches they attend only cater to the youth (Junior and Senior high), or from 40-50 year olds that all their churches do is offer programs for young families. I can understand this: when I attended church while single and out of college (and, as a pastor on staff), I felt out of place in class discussion and social times because it all revolved around married couples, because our attendance was comprised of mostly married couples. When I was married but had no kids, I felt that I had nothing to add much of the time because schedules and conversations dealt with those married couples' children. So, I did what I could to join the discussion: I talked about my dogs, the closest thing my wife and I had to kids.

Now, my wife and I are in the majority. We're married. We've got a kid. I lead worship, so the music represents at least some of what I like, stylistically. A lot of what our church does is for us and our period of life. In the years to come, however, it will change. What will we do then? Will we complain that there is nothing for us? Will we leave and attend a church that panders to us? I'm hoping that we won't, even if, like the organ and the band, we might be in different worlds. We'll both still be used by God, in the same place.

Age groups in churches are like the organ and the worship band. There may be some intermingling, but by and large, they are separate, but still both a part of what churches can offer. In our case, the band gets more play than the organ does. In twenty years, when worship music changes and the style is something that is different from what I'm used to, I hope I'll adapt to it. And, maybe we'll do it all, from organ to drums to DJ to...who knows what? The style serves the goal, not the other way 'round.

I've been encouraged by conversations with a few older folks throughout my ministry experience that have reiterated what I learned when I was single (and childless) while attending church: that church is not for getting served, but serving. Now, we talk a lot about this in churches, and it sounds like we believe it, but when change comes to our churches, and it's inconveinent to us or not to our liking, we sometimes balk and verbally stomp our feet, throw a little tantrum and quietly steam over not getting what we want. It's to the credit of those older folks that they undersatnd what I learned early on in ministry, that the son of Man didn't come to be serve, but to serve, and He is our example.

Let me tell you that I practice what I preach here. I've led many traditional worship services, and worshipped in them. It's not my preference of style, but worship is not for me or about me. Conversly, I have no problem with leading worship the way I do: it's what I'm gifted to do, and it's been relevant to a majority of the people at the churches I've worked. When worship style has to change to be relevant, I'll do my best to change with it. When there was no college age/single program at my first church, I started one, and then started one at the second church that I was at. I'm not trying to brag here. This is what happened, and it's not bragging if it's true:) Possibly, as I age, if there is a void in minstry to the more senior individuals in my church, I'll spearhead a ministry that meets those needs, too.

Don't forget that smaller churches can't do everything, and decisions are made usually by what is best for the majority. I have no problem with this. If you're in the minority at your church (and age, family situation, etc., places you there), maybe you're the one who could minister best to that smaller group that you fit into. If you're at a church and you see its programming passing you by, or you've not aged into it yet, maybe it's time for you to work. Maybe it's time for you to give, and not expect to be catered to. Maybe you should fill the void instead of filling the pew. One thing that you shouldn't do is nothing. Don't just sit in your barcalounger, expecting the church to do all this stuff for you. That's not what church it supposed to do. As a pastor, that's not my job, to make sure that you are happy and fulfilled. I couldn't do that, anyway. My job is to creative an enviroment where you can grow, where Jesus makes you feel fulfilled, not where I can hold your hand with every spiritual step you take. Sure, I'm called to serve you, but you are called to serve me, too.


Ritchie said...

Emerson Lake & Palmer incorporated pipe organ into their "Pictures at an Exhibition" album, which was an incredible live interpretation of Mussorgsky's classical piece. If you've never heard it, it's something to hehold (behear?).
I can understand, though, how most people that attend church would not be interested in hearing pipe organ.
Still, I can't help but wonder if the sound of "contemporary worship" could forever be redefined with one uncommonly uncool worship leader incorporating a little pipe organ.
Anyway, great post!

Jillian said...

Worship band + pipe organ = epic fail

and besides, in my experience, the groups that appreciate and are moved by each tend not to overlap very well.

Just try dragging most people under 40 to a church that uses all organ music or most people over 70 to a church that rocks a band. While there are exceptions in each group it does not work well.

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