Your World as I See it: Surplus to Requirement

Editors Note: This is the second in a new series in the impromptus section. I am calling it Your World as I See it by Astor Clement. Similar to Doug Wilsons No Quarter November, I will, under the pseudonym, be offering my unvarnished opinions at will. As to that nome de plume, if you are a child of the 90’s the Jim Varney reference will be clear.

Sunday I was assigned to click through the slides on Pro-Presenter for our church service. And when I arrived there was no computer. The graphics card had given up the ghost, as a result the media team leader was scrambling to get his laptop to work with the projectors. One for the front and one in the back. The front one was working but the music guy was in a near panic because we could not get the back one working. What I had long suspected, turned out to be true. Neither he nor the praise team knew the words to any of the songs he had chosen. Several thoughts occurred to me. First of all being the question of why was this person employed by the church if he could not be bothered to be familiar with the one thing that is his primary job description? The praise team, being all volunteers, and pathologically late to any rehearsal, I could sort of understand. But this is supposed to be his job. Not to mention that the songs are so monotonously repetitive and repeated every three weeks or so in a circular fashion, even I have them down pat by now. Secondly, this would not be a problem if only we had some form of technology that did not require, electricity, programs, or graphics cards. Something that any member of the church could pick up and reliably use to give worship to God… Oh right, a hymnal. Those things without the toned down doctrine of sin to our brokenness, opting instead for all of that good theology.

Instead what do we have, someone too cool for school. Specifically, theology, or any music more complex than four chords. But worse than that is what was revealed by the failure of the computer. The rehearsal is not about learning the songs they are supposed to be leading the congregation in. That can simply be read from the screen in the back. Instead it is about the performance. It is about hitting the right beats to swell the emotions. It is about vocal talent, knowing where to preform those not on the screen, not for the congregation, solos, riffs, scatting, and holy sounding oooo’s ahhh’s, whoah’s, and Oh’s. It is about performance and entertainment, that looks like worship, but manifestly is not. Because without all the helps, the show would grind to a halt. As proof I point to the fact that it entered no one’s head that if we told the praise team, and the band they were off this week and just had the pianist play songs and the music guy stood up there to lead, everything would have been fine and God wold be glorified.  But in their minds worship can not happen without them, without the show they put on. 

In the film Fierce Creatures, John Cleese’s protagonist Rollo, is tasked with making a rural zoo profitable. He does this by insisting, to the chagrin of the current keepers, that the zoo will only house the more interesting blood thirsty “fierce creatures.” Naturally there is pushback with the zookeepers trying to convince Rollo that their current animals are fierce, such as trying to rename mere cats the piranha of the desert. Rollo sees through this ruse stating, “They are in fact cute, cuddly, and surplus to requirement!” This is a prefect summation of the modern church’s approach to worship music, and as Rollo insisted about the creatures that failed to meet the criteria, it should be put down.

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