Church Music in an American Idol World

by vernsanders on April 17, 2009

Some thoughts from my friend Steve Amerson, in his latest newsletter…

Church Music in an American Idol World

A few months back, I sang at my home church.  With so
much time spe
nt on the road, I’m always thankful when I can offer my service there.

I recognize that God has given me an instrument and I try to use it for His glory.  Part of that “giftingSteve singChurch is good breath control with the ability to sustain a note for a pretty long time.  My former pastor said I could “hold a note longer than a bank.”  But when I sing high or powerfully or sustain a note, it’s not about trying to impress.  It’s about wanting to inspire.  It comes from a desire to offer my best to God and encourage others to do the same with whatever their gifting might be.

While sustaining a note in the middle of my song, some in the congregation began to applaud.  In my mind, I began to wonder “what is this about?”  Were the people impressed, inspired or just conditioned by what they see in the world to applaud?  It’s pretty typical these days for the audience to break out into applause when a singer does some lick or holds a note for a bit.   I guess it’s a way of showing approval, but most of the time the applause seems contrived.  I’m wondering if the “Applause” sign has been flashed.

Our family enjoys watching American Idol, but I’m impressed by little that I see on the show and inspired by even less.  Occasionally, there will be a singer whom I believe has real talent, but much of the time it’s not about talent but who has the package (looks, style, performance savvy) to be successful in this culture.  Simon Cowell is pretty clear about that in his blunt and straightforward remarks.  He’s not afraid to say that someone is a good singer but not marketable in today’s marketplace.  I appreciate his honesty.

With the success of this show and others like it, I suspect that they are influencing those in the church as to how to respond.  Those in the pews could have a tendency to mirror what they see on television.  I also suspect that some feel the need to applaud to keep the soloist from having their feelings hurt.  Any soloist who needs applause when singing in church shouldn’t be on the platform.

Part of the responsibility of those in church leadership is to help teach the body of Christ how to respond appropriately to every situation.  There are times in worship when it would be a travesty for the congregation to sit in silence when they should be boisterous in their response.  The same could be said for a congregation that gives mindless applause when stillness would be appropriate.  Those in church leadership should not be afraid to teach the congregation how to respond in various situations and train those who participate on the platform how and why they offer their gifts.  Those in the pew must hear the voice of God and respond appropriately.

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