Rethinking Our Delivery

By Mark A. Taylor

It is nearly impossible to go anywhere or do anything these days unaccompanied by a soundtrack. Sometimes I wish they’d just turn off the music.

I mean, I don’t really need to hear the latest hit blaring out of a two-inch speaker at the pump where I get gas.

More often than not, I’d rather just talk to my meal mates than try to shout over the rhythm and bass blaring from the restaurant sound system.

And I suspect the upbeat tempos I hear in most grocery and department stores have been scientifically proven to prompt more sales.

But I’ve decided this is a losing battle. Our culture seems compelled to add musical accompaniment to every activity. An August National Public Radio segment, “Your Songs for the Delivery Room,” convinced me I’m just out-of-sync.

The network’s All Things Considered had asked listeners to tell about the music they listened to while they gave birth. Evidently, in the 30-plus years since my kids were born, a “delivery playlist” has become a requirement.

For sure, some of the responses made me smile. A top choice was “Push It,” a pulsing tune from a hip-hop group called Salt-N-Pepa. Others chose “I Want to Be Sedated” by The Ramones, “King of Pain” by The Police, or “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.

Maura Welch of Manhattan, Kansas, said the “rousing and joyful overture” to the opera Carmen was playing just as her son was born. She also remembers a day two years later when the same music was playing and the toddler remarked, “I don’t really like that song. It always gives me a headache.”

I’m with ya, buddy. Even though I love music, much of the racket assailing my eardrums whenever I leave the house makes my head ache too. And all of this led me to think again about the role of music in our churches.

Never mind the arguments about what kind of music we should be using. Instead, I’m wondering why we must always use any music at all. Why not try a worship service with no music for a change? Or, in any service, why not introduce periods of silence following a Scripture reading—for personal reflection and application? How would we grab attention and prompt thought with quiet instead of the sound system’s assault?

Maybe we’re just being culturally sensitive to turn on the music every time people gather for worship. Why shouldn’t church be like every other venue they visit? A good question, which leads to a second: Why shouldn’t we—at least sometimes—make worship compelling because it’s unlike anything else the world throws at us?

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6 Comments

  1. October 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    The “music” heard in many of our congregations nowadays seems to be patterned after a youthful world. In a former day, we sang grand hymns and gospel songs which had meaningful words and messages. And the accompaniment was just that–accompaniment. No drums. No trumpets. A piano, not amplified greatly. Or an organ not played at full blast. No wonder we who lived in a better world than today’s long for less noise in our assemblies. Pianos can be pounded or they can be played. There is a difference! People can sing or they can yell. There is a difference. Vocal harmony is pleasant to hear. Can it be heard when a band is blaring? Not usually.

  2. October 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I definitely find music being overused in our services. It has gotten to the point that worship is synonymous of music. It is time to teach that worship is so much more.

  3. mike
    October 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Like baptism in the salvation process, music is no more or less essential than any other aspect of worship. Why must we get into ANOTHER debate?

  4. October 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I couldn’t agree more with Mark Taylor’s thesis here. Why do we think we must make the church seem just like our culture?

    But I think you will find that most people are not aware enough of their culture to even know what you are talking about.

  5. October 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Yes, come on Mike. The ifs, ands, and wherefores of music—whether live or recorded during the worship service, MUST draw us into a mode of worship. If it does not accomplish this, then there is definitely no need for it—especially during worship time when we are praising God in song, in prayer, during the sermon, and most of all—during our partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

    God gives grace to the humble, and that includes while we atune our hearts and minds toward the cross and to the Lord Jesus Christ. In all things—in what we think, by what we say, and through our actions–it is imperative that Christ be glorified. Plus, this is how the world knows we are indeed Jesus’ disciples, by our love for one another . . . 24/7. So I venture to say that music, even during the work week, can be a positive spiritual influence or it may not. Therefore, we must pay strict attention to what goes into our minds and hearts—whether it is music, TV, radio, CDs, or whatever media we’re momentarily listening to. So let us be aware, dear brothers and sisters, of what we listen to and HOW we listen to it . . .

  6. October 12, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I find myself in perfect harmony with Mark on this matter. I have attended services, both instrumental and a cappella, where there was not a single moment of silence in the entire service. “Be still and know that I am God” seems to be foreign to the thinking of those planning and leading such services. The one time that silence would seem most appropriate (Communion) is taken up with more music (instrumental or vocal). I believe it was Tony Campolo who said, “Shut up before the Lord thy God!” Surely we can do that once in awhile.

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