WORSHIP EVALUATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Music leaders, evaluate your streaming services later & catch inconsistencies.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:

I evaluated a client’s traditional service, but the pre-recorded exit music was techno rock. Status quo members feel at least an inconsistency, if not an insensitivity.

Technicians often choose the music played as people exit or when streaming the music played after the service concludes. But, technicians need to be on the same page as the worship leaders tasked with connecting with different cultures.

#MultiCultural #SundayChurchHacks

HIP-HOP & An interview w/ Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters: The church should embrace hip-hop

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This week I am addressing a group of African and African-American pastors/bishops at their national conference. One of the topics is the influence of hip-hop and how African immigrants and African-Americans disagree on its use. Here’s a helpful interview with an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who leads one of the healthiest congregations in Texas

Article by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, May 30, 2017

I really believe that hip-hop serves as a vital theological conversation partner for our present-day work. Hip-hop is without peer in terms of its cultural influence.

It is a global phenomenon, and there is an entire canon, an entire text, that the church has yet to explore. It really speaks to me like the narratives in Old Testament history that speak of communities under oppression facing marginalization and trying to identify where God is at work to liberate them in the midst of their struggle.

So when I hear Tupac, I hear St. Paul, and I also hear St. Augustine, as they struggle with issues of soteriology.

Q: Some church leaders may think of hip-hop as a way to connect to youth. But it sounds like you are talking about something deeper than that.

We can no longer talk about hip-hop solely as a youth movement, because hip-hop as a cultural artifact is now coming up on its 44th anniversary, from August of 1973(link is external). Some of the founders of the hip-hop movement themselves are approaching mid-60s or early 70s.

So we’re really talking about something that is far deeper than just young people in high school.

We’re talking about how generations interact with the world. It has articulated their hopes and dreams as well as their pain and despair.

In many ways, the church in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the westernmost portions, is dying. But I still believe that there are persons who long for community. They long for deeper faith and spirituality.

I think we have to shift our way, our mode, of connecting with individuals.

I think, biblically, of the apostle Paul in Acts when he goes to Athens and goes to the [Areopagus], and in that space, speaking to Stoics and Epicureans, he speaks to the unknown God. And as he begins to preach in that space, he does not draw his authority from the Torah.

He draws his authority from Athenian poetry, and he uses their conceptions of God as a means of presenting the Christ to them.

I believe we have the same opportunity in terms of engaging hip-hop, using that as a cultural artifact to bridge the gap between the culture and the church.

So we can provide a greater conception of who God is and of who God has called us to be.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/michael-w-waters-church-should-embrace-hip-hop?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC & The founder of Christian rock music would’ve hated what it’s become …

by Ryan Vlastelica, AVclub.com, 3/19/18.

Who was Larry Norman? He’s one of the fathers of spiritual rock music, “the Forrest Gump of evangelical Christianity”—which puts him on the front lines of America’s culture wars, though on whose side it’s hard to say—and the subject of Gregory Alan Thornbury’s fantastic new biography, Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? The book, titled after one of Norman’s best-known songs, draws extensively on Norman’s personal archives, where he was thoughtful and introspective about his beliefs, work, and doubts, giving Thornbury’s work a level of insight and intimacy that’s all too rare among recently published artist biographies. When it comes to telling the story of an artist, what makes a good biography is not the fame or even the talent of the book’s subject, but the complexity of the figure and how that manifests itself through their life and work. Norman’s story has this in abundance. Why Should The Devil also serves as a primer on Christian rock, a critical analysis of the genre, and a compact history of Christianity in the latter half of last century, a period where Jesus went from a counterculture hero to all outcasts to a cynically deployed tool of the religious right.

Today, Christian rock is closer to sub-emo and ska in the extent to which it is maligned by mainstream critics, a statement Norman himself would’ve likely agreed with. (He died in 2008). He was a man of faith but also an artist of integrity, who wanted to push music forward and saw no reason why spiritual music couldn’t challenge audiences and rock at the same time. He played on the same bills as The Who, the Doors, and Janis Joplin, and later jammed with members of the Sex Pistols, and appeared onstage with Pixies frontman Black Francis. Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney were fans; U2 and Gun N’ Roses both cited him as an influence.

There are a number of fascinating through-lines in the book, each of which arise organically from the material and are explored in depth by multiple articulate perspectives; this isn’t a book of cheap shots.

One theme centers on religious pop art in general, and whether it should be accessible enough for secular audiences or geared toward the converted, and if so, whether it should challenge or celebrate one’s faith. On top of that, there’s an analysis of faith-based art on artistic grounds, with the argument it lacks the kind of inspiration or technical skill that would make it of interest to those who appreciate craftsmanship but aren’t there for the sermon…

Norman, who pushed the envelope both artistically and thematically, is at the heart of these debates. He wanted it both ways, Thornbury writes: “He wanted to rock and he wanted to talk about Jesus, he wanted to follow Jesus and to offend other followers of Jesus, for people to enjoy his music but also be discomfited by it.” Of course this pleased no one; he was “too edgy for the Jesus people and too religious for the run-of-the mill rock fans.” Christian stores didn’t stock his records and secular ones didn’t know how to categorize him. (“‘Christian psychedelic’ was hardly a category.”)

Read more at … https://www.avclub.com/the-founder-of-christian-rock-music-wouldve-hated-what-1823533655

MUSICAL PREFERENCES & They May Crystallize Around Age 23.5 According to Research (A Leadership Exercise)

Every culture is made up of behaviors, ideas and products (Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”1. One of the most powerful and cohesion-generating products is music and the celebration that accompanies it.

Holbrook and Schindler’s research suggests that a musical preference begins to crystallize in the early 20s and hardens throughout the rest of a person’s life.

This is important to know when attempting to understand worship wars. Rather than trying to attract people to into adopting music from a different culture, it might be more helpful to find touchstones and points of agreement between the music of their youth and the music of your youth.

So if you’re trying to reach out to another musical generation, begin by studying the music of that generation’s 20something years.

Try this leadership exercise to see if this research can be confirmed with your team members.

A. Ask your team members to share the year in which they were born.  If do not want to do so, graciously excuse them from the exercise. Try to get at least two or three participants.  Write down their birth year next to their name.

B. Next, ask your leaders to name their favorite musical groups and/or singers. Write these down next to their name. Each person should select three or four examples.

C. With your team (or later on your own if you prefer) go online and locate in which years  those musical groups were the most popular.

D. Then correlate the year range of artist popularity with the period in time when the team member was in their 20s.

E.  Finally, ask yourself, “Was there a correlation?”

There seems to be so, about 60 to 70% of the time. This is enough to say that Holbrook and Schindler’s research may be partially reliable and valid. But of course, more research is needed. That’s why I ask my students to undertake this leadership exercise. It can add to their experience and to their  emerging theses (a thesis is basically a scholarly hunch 🙂 And at the very least, it can make them more sensitive to the musical products that are prefrered by members of their teams.

1. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976), p. 25.

2. M. B. Holbrook & R. M. Schindler, “Some exploratory findings on the development of musical tastes,” Journal of Consumer Research, (1989) 16(1), p. 122.

WORSHIP & How Missionaries Approach Musical Styles

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D., 11/12/15.

“It is a tough job being a missionary, fraught with opportunities to fail and fall.  But, it must be done.”

A student once asked a very common and poignant question, stating “It does seem that about every six to ten years the contemporary music scene changes. Although I was a classical musician (yes, even in high school), I can recall as what was “in” changed from rock to rap to metal to grunge to alternative, with more variations than I can even find to name within the iTunes library. If we are going to try to accommodate culture in terms of musical styles, we will be constantly renewing our liturgy. We will never be able to keep up with the marketplace pace of change for what’s popular. The question becomes should we?  Do we really need to try to compete with society (as a way to transform it) or do we need to imitate it and redefine the terms (like early Catholic Christianity subsuming pagan festivals and “Christianizing” them)? I don’t have the answer, but as a musician I still struggle with this area – I guess I’ll always really appreciate things written before 1900 more, even my spouse’s beloved Gaither songs.”

I answered thus.

Hello;

You make some good (and common) critiques when you said, “If we are going to try to accommodate culture in terms of musical styles, we will be constantly renewing our liturgy. We will never be able to keep up with the marketplace pace of change for what’s popular. The question becomes should we? (Next) do we really need to try to compete with society (as a way to transform it) or do we need to imitate it and redefine the terms (like early Catholic Christianity subsuming pagan festivals and “Christianizing” them)?”

I agree with you.  And, I want to delve into this a bit further.  To address your first question, “We will never be able to keep up with the marketplace pace of change for what’s popular. The question becomes should we?”  Let me say I think we must translate our message, not because of the marketplace, but because of culture changes.  The young people that relate to rap are a culture, as are the Goths that might prefer Metal.  The marketplace helps create them, just the way that the market for cows among the Neuer People in Africa make them a distinct culture.  Market pressures lead people to want to have enough money to feed their family and to live comfortably.  These market pressures come from what Abraham Maslow described as a pyramid of needs.  I don’t think we can change the affect of the marketplace in aspects where it is designed to help people live healthier and more comfortable lives.

But, we can see that each culture emerging because of marketplace forces, whether cow herders in Africa (Neuer) or head-bangers in Denver (Scum of the Earth Church), that both have emerged as a separate culture in response to marketplace forces.  And thus we must foster culturally sensitive missionaries who will translate the Good News into this culture.  Now, the properly trained and motivated missionary will not fall into the sin of that culture, but will “sift” that culture (do you remember who said that?) for the transformation of the whole.

Thus, I think this addresses your second question, “Do we really need to try to compete with society (as a way to transform it) or do we need to imitate it and redefine the terms (like early Catholic Christianity subsuming pagan festivals and “Christianizing” them)?”  A well trained and called missionary would never imitate the sinful practices of a culture, but through dialogue and explanation lead to the culture to understand how Christ is superior to their former beliefs.  In some ways the Catholic Church has done a great job of taking care of basic needs of disenfranchised people.  But also, the Catholic Church and Evangelicals have sometimes failed when we went too far and compromised some of the teachings of Christ out of supposed sensitivity to that culture. Thus, sifting is a difficult and ongoing task.

It is a tough job being a missionary, fraught with opportunities to fail and fall.  But, it must be done.