The Cost of Creativity?

Like many people, I'm dismayed by a lot of what passes for worship music these days. Not because some of it is repetitive (ever read Psalm 136?). Not because some of it is theologically questionable (ever sing "I Come to the Garden Alone?"). Not because some of it is just overly sentimental ("Away in a Manger?" Hello?).

But I'm also tired of the clockwork criticism--even ridicule--of what some call contemporary worship music. Because the wild swings in quality from vapid to profound, from questionable to rock solid, seem to me to be simply the cost of creativity.

What, should the church sing only music that has been around since the 1950s? Should musicians and songwriters have stopped creating? Or should they confine themselves to certain time signatures or poetic forms?

Sure, Charles Wesley wrote timeless hymns such as "A Charge to Keep I Have" and "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" and "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing." But he wrote hundreds of others that are never sung today. We forget (if we ever knew) that the same decade that produced Handel's Messiah also produced--well, we don't even know, because the majority of the music written in the 1740s is lost or forgotten today, isn't it? And, more recently, Bill and Gloria Gaither earned well-deserved accolades for their contribution to Christian music in the late twentieth century, but they also wrote a few I hope never to sing, ever again.

If the church is going to continue creating--and encouraging creativity--in music and more, then we probably shouldn't tar and feather those who don't bat 1.000 (to mix metaphors shamelessly). Bad art often accompanies good--even great--art. If we expect perfection from songwriters and worship leaders, we will discourage or drive away the next Wesley...or Gaither.

So let's take it easy on the creatives who are trying to give the church new songs to sing, and let the cream rise to the top and endure the test of time, as has happened with those whose works we applaud today (primarily because their "clunkers" have been deservedly forgotten).

(photo by Charles Taylor via

No comments:

Post a Comment