Friday, May 15, 2009

Musical Disproportionality

Dr. David Nelson (NOT pictured above), senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an excellent post regarding the disproportionate use of music in many church gatherings today. Dr. Nelson was my professor while at seminary, and I can speak of his expertise. Along with being dean, he also regularly leads the singing during chapel at SEBTS.

Dr. Nelson accurately describes a trend that is affecting many of our churches today - both too much music and poor quality of music (Eric speaking here - the above photo happens to show one of those songs that has little depth and is often sung about 47 times before the congregation/audience gets a break).

Several key points stand out from the article. Nelson says:

"I do think we face some serious problems related to the use of music in corporate worship, though, and one serious issue is that music has a disproportionate place in our corporate assemblies. That is, we often emphasize the music over more equally important elements and expressions of worship. So, we have a problem with respect to the quantity of music we use, and then, we also have a problem with the quality of music we use."

"With respect to quantity, I worry that we sing too much these days. Frankly, it’s wearing me out. It is as if we have to employ music in almost every aspect of the service. I’ll not be surprised if we soon start using background music to accompany sermons (and I’ll not be surprised if I learn this is already happening and I just don’t know about it). We sing and sing and sing and sing and sing. I find myself, in so many of the places I go (and I do travel a good bit in Baptist & Evangelical land) just praying that the music will come to a close. And we so seldom read from the Scriptures, or pray in anything but a cursory fashion, or recite a statement of faith or confession, or observe the ordinances."

"So, both with respect to lyrics and music, too much music employed in worship today is theologically deficient, formulaic, and banal. Much of this wouldn’t even make the stage at Disney World, to be completely honest. We use the term 'artificial' to refer to something that is not 'natural' or that is an imitation of what is real. I fear that too much of the music we use in worship these days is just that."

"Here is a little test for a congregation to consider, to examine the extent to which we may suffer from the malady of musical disproportionality. Be honest about this. If forced to decide between keeping music in the worship service or keeping baptism and the Lord’s Supper, what would the people choose? I fear that in many of our congregations that decision would easily go in favor of the music, and the ordinances would be dispensed with summarily."

To read the entire post, click here.

I have a few questions: Why do we sing so much? Why do we sing while leaving out other important aspects of gathering and worshiping together? Why do we often choose songs with such an inadequate message about God?

What can/should we do to change this?


Alan Knox said...

Different people choose songs and lead singing each week for us. For tomorrow, Jason sent out an email saying he is not choosing any songs. Instead, he's asked the church to come tomorrow with a song prepared - something that God has used in their lives this week. I'm looking forward to it.


Eric said...


I'll be interested to hear how that goes this week.

Alan Knox said...

It went very well. The great thing was that several people shared why they wanted to sing certain songs and God had been using those songs in their lives the week before.