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SLICE on Music, Talent and Who Should REALLY Lead Worship in Church

Scott on February 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I couldn’t sleep last night and so I decided to cruise around the internet and see what was happening. I first went over to WOOT.com, but I wasn’t really interested in a RECARO Combo Convertible Child Car Seat for $99. Next stop was Joe Martino’s blog Searching the Sunsets. Of particular interest there were these two posts: Was Jesus Tempted to Sin? -and- Conflict Resolution: The Passive Aggressive Person Taking a Shot Across a Bow Near You. Next up was The Onion. I highly recommend their insightful piece Liberals Horrified By Lack Of Inexperience Among Obama Appointees.

After my visit to The Onion, I figured no late-night romp through the world wide web would be complete without a visit to the preeminent watchblog site of this or any era – Slice of Laodicea. No sooner did my URL field register the glowing, holy radiance that is SLICE than what to my wondering eyes should appear but Ingrid (in rare form) boldly stepping forth to beat one of her favorite dead horses: church music. Ah, yes, few topics will bring out Ingrid’s superiority-laden, nose-turned-to-the-air pontification than will the topic of music in the church. In fact, who could forget these other SLICE gems (courtesy of Ingrid):

Music is Never Neutral

Wanted: An Old Fashioned Church

(PAUSE #1 – I actually intended to link to a few other Ingrid posts about music in the church, but guess what? All the other posts are gone! It seems as though, in typical Ingrid fashion, she has removed any blog posting at Slice that is more than several months old. I tell you, it never ceases to amaze me the number of ways she finds to try and erase her past. I do have a post that I did a couple years ago that was based on one of the now-nonexistent SLICE proclamations about music- SLICE on Worship)

This time around, in order to justify the ritualized beating of a deceased horse, Ingrid begins by linking to this piece over at Christianity Today by John Stackhouse.  Stackhouse’s CT article makes some good points regarding worship music in the contemporary church. I would recommend it as a gentle reminder to anyone involved in leading worship at any church, be it contemporary or traditional.

(PAUSE #2 – Oddly enough, based on her past comments I am pretty sure that Ingrid feels Christianity Today is trash both in the literal and spiritual senses of the word. This being the case, it’s amusing that when CT gives her an opportunity to vault onto one of her favorite soap boxes, she will treat them as a credible source to be trusted and listened to, while at any OTHER time she believes CT should be thrown on the trash heap of evangelical apostasy.)

The problem appears when Ingrid takes the valid points that the CT article lays out and then uses them to launch off into her own, unique, Ingrid-esque brand of snarky, sarcastic, judgmental rant. She begins with the statement –

“Volume, many church bands believe, will make up for the fact that the “singers” are actually tone deaf.”

Tone deaf,” Ingrid?  Hmmm.  No judgment passing there.  ALL of them? I love the smell of universal “allness statements” in the morning. Ingrid, do you really believe that all worship singers in contemporary church worship bands are “tone deaf,” or are you just using hyperbole to make a point?

Ingrid continues

“Churches are now reported to be full of “life” if the state-of-the-art sound systems can make attendees actually “feel” the music, like you would in a club.”

“Like you would in a club,” Ingrid? Wow. No judgment there, either. What is funny about this is that in INGRID’S mind, the use of contemporary instrumentation, contemporary styling and, yes, volume, all equate to a “club” scene. I don’t know if Ingrid would know a club scene if it snuck up behind her and bit her in her holier-than-thou-oh-so-proper backside. In fact, most of the worship people I know (and I know quite a few) have never actually BEEN to a club of the kind Ingrid seems to be imagining.

And then Ingrid really gets going –

“I’m all for lay participation in church music. I am not for lay participation in church music when the parties involved have not been gifted with musical talent.”

Oh, where to begin with this. Well, let’s start here – As with many things in the world of the Christian faith, Ingrid seems to feel the need to set herself up as the arbiter of all things worthwhile, in this case musical talent. The key to unraveling Ingrid’s thought is this – “have not been gifted with musical talent.” Notice the word GIFTED. Ingrid has moved beyond her typical habit of passing judgment on churches that she has never visited and is now judging the musical talent/ability/gifting of people she has never met. Make no mistake about it. Even though Ingrid herself might come by this post and leave a comment decrying what I have said and claiming that I put words in her mouth, it doesn’t take much to imagine that when she talks about “the parties involved” not being gifted with musical talent, what she means is HER KIND of musical talent, as in talent that she approves of. Individuals gifted in playing the violin, oboe, flute, trumpet and other such instruments have “talent.” Individuals who play the electric guitar, electric bass (preferably slap bass), a drum kit or who scratch on a dj’s turn table are no/low talent hacks out to glorify themselves.

For example, based on her past writings I am relatively certain that Ingrid would approve of a piece of organ music done as an offertory during a church service; but move that same organ piece over to a band arrangement with an electric guitar playing the lead melody and a dj scratching the rhythms in the background, and she would denounce it as being worldly, of-the-devil, man-centered and evil.

See how that works?

Ingrid plows ahead and tries to justify her snarkfest by likening “untalented” lay musicians in church to giving a church’s finances over to someone who cannot even add.

“Imagine someone being allowed to handle the church books when they are actually innumerate.  Think of someone who is so severely dysfunctional in math that he can’t even add a column.”

Is it possible that Ingrid is so out of it that she doesn’t see that these two situations are completely different, or is it possible that her seemingly genetic predisposition towards pharisaism makes it impossible for her to see when she has taken her judgments too far? As if to demonstrate how blind she is to the spiritual irrationality of her rant, Ingrid sarcastically declares

“Yes, yes, but he is SINCERE! God is looking at the heart, after all. Who are you to get snobbish about who can serve in this church? As if God cares!” Well, when the IRS and creditors come calling because of financial irregularities, just remember that line about sincerity.”

Does she NOT realize that the Lord NEVER declared that we should praise Him with mathematics (though I certainly believe that is possible); but He does declare that praises can be/should be lifted up in song/singing? Granted, not everyone can sing well; BUT everyone can sing. Contrary to what Ingrid might like to believe, the Bible doesn’t restrict the use of singing to those who demonstrate a certain level of talent. And quite honestly, Ingrid can’t be so blind, ignorant or dumb to ignore the fact that “talent” is subjective. A classically trained vocalist might have talent when singing a classic/traditional hymn like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” but that same person might not be able to pull off “I Was Blind” by Delirious. Some prefer a voice like Sandy Patti or Steve Green, while others prefer something closer to Bebo Norman, TobyMac or Dave Crowder.

Oh, yea, about the Bible talking about singing as part of how we relate to God, let’s try these:

Psalm 47:6 – Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises

Psalm 96:2 – Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.

Psalm – 104:33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

Psalm – 146:2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

Ephesians 5:19 – Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Hmmm. No mention of math. Strange. I wonder why.

I could go on. Ingrid does a whole riff on “special music” that is really sad. What is most sad is that her little rant gives some insight into just how mean and judgmental she seems to be as a Christian. Obviously there are people who want to sing that can’t. Just watch American Idol. And there are times when those people who can’t sing, or who can’t sing very well, are allowed up front to do something special. Typically they are doing it for the right reasons. They aren’t up there for their glory. They are doing it because they want to try something different to please their Father. They are like a child who is doing one of those “look what I can do” things in front of a parent. They just want to give the parent something, so they draw a picture or do a dance or sing a song, all for the enjoyment of mom and/or dad.

I’ve sat through a whole bunch of those “special music” moments in churches over the years. Does Ingrid think that the Lord is any LESS pleased with someone trying to sing “Love in Any Language” and doing it badly than He is with a classically trained soprano doing the same song? Or maybe I should ask it this way – Does Ingrid honestly believe that our Lord is MORE pleased with the classically trained soprano than he is with the low talent child of faith who just wants to do something special for Him?

I remember years ago being at a youth summer camp and the band I was with was asked to play for a bunch of “special numbers” throughout the week. One girl wanted to sing Amy Grant’s “Father’s Eyes,” and this girl was not very good at all really. We (those of us in the band) were afraid of how the other high schoolers would react. We imagined laughter and finger pointing, and to be sure during and after her song there might have been a little bit of that going on with a few kids. But when the last note of that song was over what we were shocked by was the LOVE that most of the camp sent this girl’s way. This girl sung with her eyes closed most of the time and was really singing to the Lord, and it showed even through the flat notes and the messed-up lines. And her love for the Father shined like a light for every other high school student to see and appreciate. Most applauded her bravery. Some cried at what they saw in this girl’s life that they wanted. The majority were touched on some level by what this girl shared through that song a song that was NOT very good by any standard, and certainly would not have measured up to Ingrid’s expectations. Under Ingrid’s grand master plan of righteous talent, this girl wouldn’t have EVER been allowed to be up on stage to sing. Luckily, the LORD is in charge of things and HE uses even the most humble, flawed jars of clay to contain His grace and to share that grace and love with the world.

Hopefully someday Ingrid won’t be in charge of the heavenly choir. I’m thinking her auditions would be almost impossible to get through. Maybe she should be the next celebrity judge on American Idol. She should call Simon Cowell.

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