Friday, February 18, 2011

Artistic Integrity in the Church

I've been thinking more recently about the arts in the church, for better and worse. This stems from the release of the new Hillsong United album, titled "Aftermath." It is, by far, their most artistically interesting album ever. It is highly nuanced and dynamic. As you could probably guess, I love it.

However, if there will be a criticism of Hillsong for this, it would be that its music is not accessible to local congregations. That is to say, the church is going to have to get used to it, or not worship with it at all.

My opinion is that works of art like this, by the church and for the church, are to be celebrated. Sadly, most of today's worship music has devolved into simple, obvious, predictable arrangements. The Church at large loves it, because it's catchy, and easy to remember and adapt locally. Personally, I am more and more feeling stale from this tired formulaic approach to worship music. It's making it difficult for me to enjoy many worship releases these days. This latest Hillsong release is a breath of fresh air.

I am in the midst of writing music for a solo worship album, and I'll be using this Hillsong release as an influence. I could [and have] written some boring, obvious progressions and arrangements, but that's not what I want to do. It's not excellent. It's not bringing my best effort. And I want to do all things with excellence, as a reflection of the glory and beauty of God, and as worship to God.

I celebrate more creative, nuanced versions of spiritual art. These things have an artistic integrity that most modern worship music seems to lack.

I long for such artistic integrity in my own work.


Anonymous said...

What constitutes "excellence" is relative, thus measured differently for every individual. I do believe God wants our best, but not to the point that our worship, for example, is not genuine and heartfelt. I believe God is much more interested in what comes from our heart in worship than He is with the relative excellence we display.
Growing up, the songs we sang were complex with 4 part harmonies and could be intimidating even confusing to unchurched people. Now, as you mentioned in your blog, we have evolved or devolved into a more simplistic form of worship music. I believe there is a place for this type of worship, and I personally enjoy it. I also believe there is a place to strive for excellence in our worship music, especially in your case Terry, since God has gifted you in this area. I hope you can temper your lack of enthusiasm for the current worship trend with the fact that it is reaching the hearts of so many people and that you are leading them to a genuine place of worship, many of them for the first time ever.
Hold your personal standard for excellence as high as the talent God has blessed you with, which I believe to be very high. Be patient with the rest of us as you lead us corporately, while challenging us not to always settle for the status quo.


Terry said...

This is great advice, Clay...I appreciate your thoughts. You nailed it by saying that we should each hold our own personal standard for excellence high. To me, that means that I bring my best artistic skill when I craft songs, and arrangements, and worship sets. There is no excuse to get lazy or repetitive or stale; that's not bringing God my personal best.

It's interesting, because today is a great example...a few of these songs are so simplistic, but today our worship time was great [in my heart it was, too]. So I am encouraged that even in simplicity, God's Spirit moves powerfully among us.

I just don't want to get to a place of settling for a mediocre effort for God, even if that mediocrity will be approved by people. I must bring my own best [my excellence] to God, and allow him to use it.

Your comments are EXTREMELY helpful to me, Clay...thanks for commenting.