Brittany Henry | Worship Leader & Free Lance Writer | @BHMtweetz
The church must learn to enjoy more than what popular Christian culture feeds it. The church should choose to expand its musical palate so to speak.
There is a prevailing ideology that says, “only things that sound like Phil Wickham and Chris Tomlin are worshipful.” Even worse, this way of thinking suggests the kind of songs they write and sing are the only ones fit for congregational worship.
Some stations are notorious for neglecting to play music from different cultures. If you think there are no other culturally different yet appropriate music for their stations in existence you are sadly mistaken. There are. They just don’t play much of it, if any, often.
“If you, like me, have paid even a small amount of attention to who is writing the evangelical church’s song, you will have noticed that it is mostly white men. My recent study of Christian Copyright Licensing International’s Top 25 charts from the past 30 years revealed that the majority of songs sung by the American evangelical church today are written by collaborations among men. Big names produce top songs, which are marketed by publishing companies to make a large impact. The Billboard Top Christian Songwriter charts reflect this: names of white men routinely make the list, with a small number of women and people of colour appearing alongside them. In a blog post for the Center for Congregational song, David Bjorlin argues that consumerism has marked congregational song: only two companies, Capitol and Bethel, are responsible for administering the majority of the CCLI Top 100 lists. Congregational song is curated to promote only certain voices.” THE OVERLOOKED AUTHORSHIP OF “WAY MAKER” BY SINACH
Sure, things are getting better but there is still a lot of work to be done. Especially when it comes to the integration of every tribe, nation, and tongue in our worship services.
As a black female alto voice, it is almost nearly impossible for me to sound like a white man with a high voice (Kristian Stanfill. Phil Wickham. No shade intended.) And why would I want too? I’m fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose only I can fulfill.
I enjoy using songs by white male artists on occasion. I don’t sound exactly like them though and I purposefully do not practice to sound exactly like them. I make it my own.
Isn’t that the beauty of unity in the Body? That we are all different yet loving the same God. So, why is there not more creativity in our worship with music?
People from all different creeds and cultures coming together as one doesn’t mean obliterating individuality and uniqueness. There is something unique about each individual that the Body needs and this naturally breeds creativity in the beauty of holiness.
When we deprive our congregations of that we stifle growth. Some don’t realize that keeping the church from “changing” is essentially keeping it from growing and I don’t mean growing in numbers.
Sure, all change is not good and we should absolutely guard against ungodly secular changes. However, it is important that we understand that not all music outside of the societal Christan norm is less godly than white popular Christian music.
Furthermore, suggesting the body is not capable of learning or is somehow not capable of worshipping differently is just an excuse. The congregation can do anything we in excellence lead them to do. They can learn the words, they can learn to clap, they can learn how to respond to intimate moments as one body without feeling awkward.
Every church has its own culture and preferences and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if your preferences generally exclude songs written or performed by persons who are not white, they might be unknowingly biased.
Yes, everyone likes different things but it’s important that we as the body of Christ make an effort to include worship music by different cultures in our lives. This is a choice and it means making a conscious effort because the mainstream Christian culture isn’t always going to promote it.
I believe many church leaders would say they are not opposed to diversity in their worship services. However, they don’t integrate any diversity into the service and push out anyone who tries to do so.
“We are so comfortable with our own voice that our worship rarely brings in music from other cultures,” said The Center for Congregational song, guest blogger Anneli Loepp Thiessen.
“Now, we need a language that is not our own. We need the voice of a woman in Nigeria who is able to talk about a miracle-working God in a way that we will not.”
Let’s not wait for another emergent situation to move beyond the popular Christian culture of the day, to start expanding our musical palates and integrating diverse worship language into our services.
We needed “Waymaker” long before the pandemic hit and we will need more songs like it long after it’s over.
Brittany Henry is a worship leader and freelance writer who lives in Fredericksburg Virginia with her husband and two daughters. To learn more about her ministry please visit BrittanyHenryMinistries.org