Thursday, January 15, 2009

The 100 Songs: Wax on the Slippery Slope

The Commission on Worship of the LCMS has released a list of 100 "contemporary songs" that LCMS congregations can use for "contemporary worship" if they so desire.

This list was created in response to the last Convention's resolution "[t]o Provide Guidance and Direction for Use of Diverse/Contemporary Worship Resources."

Strangely, this caveat is included in the their press release:

The songs listed in the chart have not been subjected to the same in-depth process that selected hymns receive before being included in a synodically approved hymnal. The rapidly changing scene of Christian contemporary music requires constant attention to evaluate emerging songs in a timely manner.
Why not? Making the excuse that the "contemporary scene" moves too fast to evaluate these songs is bogus. They've had a year and half to look at 100 songs. Second, if contemporary worship is just as valid and appropriate for the Divine Service as its practitioners say it is, why wouldn't those songs be evaluated to the same in-depth standard? This paragraph gives the impression that contemporary worship doesn't care about synodical approval, that they are going to do their thing keeping up with the scene (or the Joneses).

The press release also included the following paragraphs:
It is imperative to note that songs are not hymns.

The words of songs frequently convey simple scriptural thoughts that are wedded to stirring rhythmic melodies. Multiple songs can be sequenced in a medley to draw together several ideas and may be connected with scripture readings, liturgical responses, extemporaneous prayer, praise, and witnessing. Recording artists and song writers collaborate with lyricists, musicians, and publishers to hone their craft audibly first, seeking to inspire individuals, assemblies, audiences, and worship communities.

Hymn texts, in their role in Lutheran worship provide sequences of poetic stanzas that expound on the life of Christ and the life of the Church. The life cycle of a hymn potentially spans centuries. The life cycle of a song spans weeks, months, perhaps years.
In other words, they realize these songs are not about teaching the faith, are not focused on transmitting doctrine, about providing a lasting generational foundation to the faith, but are on par with silly pop songs that give you a movement of some kind and then forgotten. Or when they are remembered, they're like listening to Duran Duran when you mentally go back in time remembering your thoughts and feelings of long ago.

I wanted to ask the question: if people realize what these songs are about, then why are they using them? But I know the answer. For them, church is an experience among many experiences. It is something to consume. It is a taste, a style, an affectation. The songs and readings and sermon and so forth are crafted together to provide something for the audience to consume. It may be a spiritualized consumption of the experience, but it is consumerism anyway. It is an experience they are offering.

It is not the eternal truth.

It is not the rock.

It is not the pillar of truth.

It is not the body of Christ.

And this is my denomintion.

Lord have mercy...


  1. -C said...

    I have an acute understanding of this pain. And while it's not the sort of pain which incites anger for me anymore, it is the sort of pain which still makes me profoundly sad.

    Lord, have mercy indeed.

  2. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Actually, the honest and bluntness somewhat surprises me.

    Plus - it gives me the perfect out. We sing hymns from the hymnal - not other sorts of songs. Woot!

  3. Anonymous said...

    Turn the amps to 11.

    Dude, it is all about worship. Rock on. Jesus is just alright with me.


  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Hey there, all you middle men
    Throw away your fancy clothes
    And while you're out there sittin' on a fence
    So get off your [expletive deleted] and come down here
    'Cause rock 'n' roll ain't no riddle man
    To me it makes good, good sense

    Heavy decibels are playing on my guitar
    We got vibrations coming up from the floor
    We're just listening to the rock that's giving too much noise
    Are you deaf, you wanna hear some more

    We're just talkin' about the future
    Forget about the past
    It'll always be with us
    It's never gonna die, never gonna die

    Rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution
    Rock 'n' roll ain't gonna die
    Rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution
    Rock 'n' roll it will survive...


  5. Anonymous said...

    Leave it to AC/DC to capture the ideology of progress. Was Bon Scott or Johnson the prophet of the LCMS? We should give due credit, after all. You may have to report this to CCLI.

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    The song is credited to the band, and recorded with Johnson, though it was just a few months after Bon Scott died. Who knows who wrote the words...though the song seems to speak eerily of contemporary worship.