Navigating Change In Worship

I was sharing with our amazing worship team (yes I am biased) recently and so thought I would share some of those thoughts here.

We live in such a time of change. Innovation and advance are happening faster than ever. Communication is instant globally and every day new opportunities are available.

So often it feels like change is the only constant in our lives! Much of that change has been driven by technology. This incessant change does not avoid the world of worship music.

The modern worship movement itself is only around 70 years old. Yes there has always innovation in worship, but in the last 70 years it has sped up! It was driven by creative people who had a heart to worship using the technology and instruments that were popular at the time. The music in the church started to match more and more the music outside the church. From singing simple choruses to full songs with a pop-like structure. Acoustic guitars, bass guitars, drums and even electric guitars began appearing in churches throughout the world! The church organ was under threat!

As in wider society, much of the change has been driven by technology. Even in the last decade there have been big changes. For one thing there has never been so much worship music available from so many sources. The music has become more diverse and as a result I suggest more creative. In a desire to express ourselves to God we seek new language for old truths and we discover new sounds that convey our emotions.

As far as technology goes, in the last decade some of the change has included the widespread usage of in-ear monitoring, backing tracks and click tracks. Not to mention the visual presentation, lighting and motion graphics to accompany a worship service.

Some of you reading this love change. Almost for changes sake! You like to try new things, you love the latest gadget, last weeks new music is boring you already.

For others this change has the potential to bring anxiety.

Here are three things I think change does in us, sometimes all at once!

Change threatens

If we are honest change threatens us at times. It particularly threatens those who have invested in a previous change. Those who perhaps discovered their gifting in a previous season, or who were particularly skilled at a previous style. No-one wants to get good at something only to find it changes! If we are not careful change threatens us because it asks questions of our identity. Will we manage the next change? If we don’t make the leap into the new will we be unable to be used by God?

New technology and technique has a habit of threatening at first. Nearly everyone objects to the latest gadget or trend at first. The truth is though that very few technological changes are actually evil or as negative as we first feel. Technology is just a tool after all. How it is used determines its worth. I have read many debates on Christian websites about smoke machines and click tracks!

Change inspires

Change viewed through the right lens reveals beauty. After all we serve an infinite God whose beauty knows no end. In every new thing (that is not inherently immoral!) there is the possibly of discovering something beautiful. New things also have a way of helping us discover the new in us. They let us see a new perspective or reveal a creativity we hadn’t imagined. Change is birthed in creativity. We are made in the image of a creator God right?

Change reveals

However you react to change, it reveals something about you. Normally your initial reaction reveals something important about you. Either positive, negative or neutral. It reveals where you feel threatened? What inspires you? Where is there insecurity? For those who recognise their reaction, understand it and process it there is peace. Often change simply reveals what we value most. We can learn something about ourselves if we pay attention.

The challenge

Now with the pace of life there is always the challenge of knowing what change to embrace and what to let pass you by. We mustn’t feel that with each change or new thing we are to fully subscribe – the thought is exhausting! As leaders we need to discern the right changes at the right time. I’ll let you know when I figure that one out!

Change is hear to stay in the world of worship. New songs galore, new technology innovations and new techniques no doubt await us. My heart is to embrace the good and the God in what is happening across the globe. For me a willingness to understand and process the new is a sign I am willing to continue to grow. Whilst so much changes around me I pray that much changes within me.

For I am about to do something new. Isaiah 43:19


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