In response to my post on the merits and downfalls of rock music or dance music in worship ("Worship: does style matter?"), my friend Ben Porter wrote me an incredibly insightful and helpful email. I wanted to share it with all of you:
I think I understand the thrust of your [post]. I definitely think that idolizing a rock star is just not appropriate in a church setting. However, some of your points lie in a gray area.
Most rock concerts are very different from modern churches, because you don’t just sit there passively. You talk, you sing the lyrics, you dance….The way people just sit and stare is more comparable to watching TV than attending a rock show.
As to the seats and attention that are directed to the stage, that has more to do with the pastor than the music. People’s attention were already directed to a stage focal point before a rock band was very allowed in the church. Even the stage and the lighting in many churches are usually out of practicality. People can’t see the speaker as well if they have to look around other people’s heads. Now, I do agree that the newer ‘rock churches’ are much too close to a rock concert. Lots of the churches are now doing rock concert lighting, and that I don’t agree with, really.
I see what you mean about dance clubs, however many popular dance clubs draw in large crowds by promoting big name DJs. In these clubs, the DJ booth is very visible, often lit, and people generally face the DJ for a lot of the time. Some dance clubs get so packed, there is very little room to dance. (exclude Fort Wayne, of course) I think dance music can be as equally engaging as rock music. There are so many variations of dance that it’s really hard to pin it down. I mean polka music is traditionally dance music, and then there’s booty, and then techno…..
I personally think that both mainstream rock concerts and club scenes have both wandered from their historical roots and have lost a lot of their meaning. Both music and dance have traditionally been social events meant to interact with other humans and pass on the oral and musical traditions to the next generation. Now, they’re a way of getting away from every day life by being bombarded by lights and sound.
I think to change the church’s approach to idolizing pop figures is gonna have to start from the heart. Until then, crank it up, let’s rock 🙂
Well said, BP.
This is very interesting to me as a dancer, and because of how I feel about worship.
My feelings about these things have been changing as we live up here in the mountains. A lot of times friends will come up to work all day and help us with some big project (like build a retaining wall). At the end of the night exhausted we sit around a fire outside, and Rob pulls out his guitar. Someone gets something that can pass for a drum. We just sing. I could probably get up and dance if I had the energy, but I don’t. Something about the hard day and the quiet night it just feels like this raw kind of worship – so bare of US even. It’s something I imagine people didn’t used to think about (I’ve been listening to a lot of Little House on the Prairie lately, which seems fitting), we’re just thankful the day is over, and for what we accomplished, and we worship.
What I’m saying is that I used to be all for the big show. I love the band, and the music, and a really good, tight, worship team. But now it seems very strange to me almost. But I don’t know how to reconcile that to how I feel about dance.
I dance all the time just by myself in my dance room. Sometimes to burn off energy, sometimes to choreograph something. Sometimes I think I’ve put together something really interesting, moving even, and I want to share it with some people. This is what I see happen with my husband when he writes a song. I just keep wondering if worship were more of an intimate thing, and original – people sharing their original works, if church and worship would take a different shape. Go a different route and it would make this conversation not even necessary.
It’s what I see people love so much about Rend The Heavens showing up at church and playing their own stuff. The type of music or style doesn’t matter – because it’s from their heart. It makes the regular worship team feel like a cover band. (ouch!)
I guess I’m saying if the worship team was not covering songs, and instead playing their own stuff, would we even ask this? Or is it because it does feel like they are trying to be like the rock band whose song they are playing? I say that because if someone I loved was going to play a song they wrote for us at church Sunday, I would want to see them, even if I was singing with and worshiping with them. Wouldn’t you?
Benjamin Sternke says
Those are great thoughts, Kris. I like the idea of worship as gift-giving. This Sunday night we’re having something we do occasionally called “NewSong Cafe”, where people bring songs they’ve written (worship and otherwise), and the rest of us listen and celebrate the gift with them. Out of anything we do on a Sunday night, it continues to be one of the most well-attended. There’s something deeply spiritual about this kind of “gift-giving” worship where we all celebrate the gift of worship that someone brings.
This is how a dance presentation or a “non-congregational” song can be an act of worship. There are times I’ve been “transported” into the presence of God simply by watching someone dance, hearing someone sing, seeing a painting or drawing, or watching a movie.
We’ve caught glimpses of this kind of thing every once in awhile, but it would be wonderful to figure out how to do it on a regular basis.