What would I add to Pentecostal music and song today?
A church musician since 1966, I love music and song, especially as a corporate response to the goodness and presence of God. What would I add to music and song in church today? Two things: diversity and the congregation.
1. Diversity and variety
The most predictable aspect of contemporary church services is the song and music: A single style, music paradigm, topic choice, articulation of meaning, programme format, selection of instruments, and mode of presentation. Especially for those who value their minds and have a wider outlook on life, this can get old very quickly. It ignores the full scope and power of music.
Introducing diversity implies:
Singing with confidence all types and style of songs. Without condescension if they are “old” songs, and without changing them to fit new sensitivities. Many songs don’t need a bridge or creative drumming. And shouldn’t be reduced to two chords only….
Re-emphasising melody over beat, while utilising all types of instruments. The return of brass, woodwind and strings would be natural and easy, and the keyboard could be played like a piano again. Here’s an example of the impact of mass brass (400 instruments) on a contemporary crowd.
Creative use of percussion and volume. Andre Rieu is a useful example of diversity and versatility in the public use of music. Here he uses melody and volume (with a touch of class and good taste, too) to assure the new Dutch royal couple they will Never Walk Alone.
Singing the songs of the season. Postmodernism may be a-historical, and every Sunday the same – but Christianity is historical, celebrating the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Day of Pentecost. Sing about it!
Using diverse people with diverse instruments and voices on diverse occasions. Focus on melody can encourage the use of solos, duets, groups, choirs, and musical numbers. Imagine a lovely young thirteen year old Elim girl walking onto the stage at Elim Leaders Summit or The Gathering like this...
Expressing a variety of themes. Melodious music in particular has the potential to express emotion based on our existential experience. Here’s an example of a broken and restored minister (Jimmy Swaggart) singing a song written by another broken and restored minister (Ira Stanphill)
The persuasive impact of Just as I Am at the Billy Graham crusades is well-known. Watch Cliff Barrows describe it...
Accommodating all generations, again confidently and without apology. Much of the current paradigm exhibits the tastes of Gen X. Perhaps Gens Y and Z are increasingly absent from our churches because we fail to recognise this?
2. The Congregation
The most neglected folk in the contemporary church are the people themselves. The prevalent liturgical model is “performance”, where very few voices are heard. A more appealing alternative model is “play”, which invites everyone onto the playing field.
Adding the congregation to the mix implies utilising melodies and lyrics that enable the average crowd to give full-throated expression to their praise, worship, testimony, brokenness, need and hurts, and to minister to those around them. It implies changing the sound balance so that the voice of the crowd becomes as significant (or more so) than the voices and sounds of those on stage.
It could obviate those moments when the people have long since disengaged, while the singers and musicians maintain an oblivious “holy” silence or interminable “worship stance.” It would entrust the direction and leadership of the gathering to the Spirit-filled people of God, as a priesthood and prophet-hood of all believers. Musicians would be servants, not priests.
I have a dream…
Question: What would you add to Pentecostal music and song today? Leave a comment below.