Have you ever taken the time to interpret a cultural text? Most of the time I simply drift along in the cultural currents of our day. But every once in a while I stop and analyze why I live the way I live; why I do the things I do, say the things I say, eat the things I eat, etc.

Last year, I took a course in seminary called Cultural Hermeneutics. Our final assignment was to choose a narrow cultural phenomenon and interpret it; specifically, assess the world behind the text (where did it come from?), the world of the text (what is it?), and the world in front of the text (where is it going?). We could choose anything (approved by Dr. Vanhoozer, of course). My classmates chose topics ranging from grocery shopping to Apple computers. I chose to write on the modern cultural phenomenon of Contemporary Praise and Worship.

This series of blog entries will consist of several long posts (my term paper was about twenty pages long), but since most of us participate in this type of worship activity (CP&W) on a regular basis, it might be worth taking some time and think about just what it is we do and why we do it. So, here are my thoughts. I will be very eager to hear yours. Feel free to disagree.

Introduction

Over the past ten years the intrinsic value of my vocational skills has spontaneously increased to the point of affording me the prestigious market label, “hot commodity.” There are few essential positions in my line of work more important, apparently, than what I can fill. I humbly base this assertion on the nature and number of job offers presented to me of late. No, I’m not a genius stock analyst, or anything of the financially like. I’m not a real estate guru, able to predict the specific location of the next commercial boom. Nor am I a rising star in the world of popular entertainment. What I am is hope, an assumed promise that when I come aboard, company growth will quickly follow, consumers will be filled with pleasure, and life as a struggling corporate entity will come to an end. Yes, I am a worship leader, and the demand is high for good worship music in the Contemporary Church.

There is a standard of musical professionalism that small struggling churches seek to attain and that thriving megachurches must maintain. This standard drives many pastors and church leaders into thinking it is necessary to have good music in order to grow as a church. Unfortunately, this is true to a certain degree, for we as churchgoers in America have bought into many selfish cultural lies that have turned our desires, even spiritual desires, away from God and toward ourselves. If the church wants to win the competition for our time, they must supply what we want. We want to be entertained, and there is no better way to draw a church crowd than to have a band of perfectly gelled musicians performing the most popular Contemporary Christian Music of the day. Within this genre, though, there is a category of music, which in its short history has become CCM’s most widely listened to and recorded style. The amount of revenue this new style has brought to the industry is incalculable. It seems like everyone is investing in it, both recording artists and consumers. The Contemporary Church cannot survive without it. This new category of music is Contemporary Praise and Worship, and it has changed the definition of worship among evangelicals. (next post)

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