Friday, May 09, 2008

What's Wrong with Bands?

The band at Summit this year was disappointing. They’re supposed to be leading worship. Most years it’s incredible to hear hundreds or thousands of teenagers and their leaders praising God from the foundation of truth they’ve studied and experienced. This year the band was loud, including bass that tried to throb my heart out and notes that hurt my ears. But what's worse, I couldn’t hear people singing. I could occasionally hear the band shouting out lyrics. There was smoke and strobe lights. Some songs they chose were lyrically deeper and good worship songs, but others were sadly man-centered.

Worship songs should be about God, not about us. If it mentions our love for God, that should be a response, not the point. I don’t want to sing about my love being loud. Shouting at me is not pleasant. Screaming at God – as a kind of professed worship – is inappropriate. I don't want to be in a room full of people yelling at God.

When the lyrics were good, the soundtrack was often inconsistent. One song’s chorus says, “Oh no, You never let go through the calm and through the storm.” This is a costly confession and submission to God’s goodness when life is good and when it’s bad. You have to think about storms. Listening to the lyrics, I would naturally be on my knees - not that I often do kneel, but that's my fault. But the impulse of the music was to energetically jump up and down with a strong beat, as though excited. Doesn’t that bother anyone else?

Smoke, strobe lights, loud bass, and all around loud atmosphere are a recipe for headaches. This alienates the older leaders (or people like me who are not already deaf by self-imposed torture). And older leaders are important to Awana, something that sets the club apart from typical youth groups. Surely they could have turned down the volume and prepared music that is undeniably worshipful.

Danny Oertli was in charge of the band. He’s a Colorado native with a great testimony. When he plays songs by himself on his guitar and sings, it is beautiful and pleasant, and worshipful. I believe he has strong faith and a desire to please God. When I first heard him lead worship, we got to join him in all of that, participating in lifting praises to God as a group. I wonder though if being part of a band that plays for youth doesn’t gradually lead one deeper and deeper into the rock style.

Outside the ballroom where the band was, my mom met a woman who was very sad. Her daughter began listening to Christian rock, which led her without much resistance into secular rock and hard rock, until the secular and anti-God sounds led her into a lifestyle of rebellion. Is there a connection? I for one can never tell whether the tone of the “music” makes me feel angry or if conscientious objection births legitimate anger.

I wonder if the masses of youth who want to “worship” to such harsh and imposing bands are not doing something like cutting. Do they need the atmosphere to stimulate reactions and a simulated worship, an excitement that makes them jump up and down? Are they so numb that they need dangerously loud sounds to even wake them? Is the glorious truth of God's character and grace and activity in their lives insufficient?

Summit used to be the place where those committed to knowing the Bible gathered to challenge each other and encourage each other. It was a place of reward and community. You get that to which you appeal, and the loud, imitation-secular so-called Christian music attracts kids who don’t want to press toward the mark on their own; they want the mark to come to them, the work to be done for them.

Am I saying no one was worshiping? No. Was I? No. I was praying, but not praising. Sometimes I even left the room. But I know some kids from our group were affected. They were paying attention to the lyrics, and identifying with their truth from experience. Couldn’t worship be better? Truer? More sincere? More about God? More grass-roots?

To God be all glory.

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