Monday, March 4, 2019

Corporate Worship in the Youtube Era: A Brief Evaluation

"As a minister of music at a local church it's been interesting (and largely edifying) to watch the rise of the YouTube hymn/worship song culture. There’s so much to be thankful for, as we live in a time of many new songs that are theologically solid and beautifully written. It’s easy to fill an afternoon-long playlist with solid, Christ-exalting new songs. Full stop.

But I suspect that through these music videos of congregational singing, we are perpetuating the idea that physical expression while singing is necessary. I think younger believers who watch these videos, edifying as the songs may be, are establishing "visual emotionalism" as normative, and something they must work up in themselves in order for their worship to be "authentic."

Physical expression norms have changed over the past twenty years, too. It used to be both hands in the air, but this demonstrative posture seems to be slowly replaced with a more introspective one: eyes closed, head tilted slightly back or to one side, maybe a little swaying back and forth.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with such a posture, if it is coming from a heart filled with God’s Word and overflowing with gospel thankfulness. I just fear that we are trading one set of cultural norms for another, and in the process, unwittingly implying that this is what believers "ought" to do.

An unfair charge, you say? Then show me the YouTube videos that include people of all ages worshiping together, youth and grey hairs side by side, some of them showing little or no visible emotion. These videos do not exist. Declaring God’s greatness in the local assembly is one thing; declaring it for a music video is something altogether different. Yet I see exactly this diversity of age and expression every Sunday in my church. Should I begin ranking my fellow believers’ authenticity by what I can externally perceive? Can I see the heart? What does humble, submissive faith “look” like?

I love many of these videos, and we sing the best of these new songs they’re setting forth at Grace Immanuel Bible Church. What I don’t want however is a church music culture that is shaped by YouTube videos, or a generation of young believers whose congregational singing is weighed down by the burden of cultural norms. When you come to church, pray, hear God’s Word, submit to God, and just focus on singing. All these other things will work themselves out."

Article written by Pastor Dan Kreider.  Dan offers many free helps to music ministers and praise team members on his ministry website-