(A VISION FOR CHRISTIAN SONG, by Ken Bible; p.16)
But there are negative effects. We further addict our congregations to high-energy emotional
appeals. We feed them salt, increasing their thirst for emotional stimulation and entertainment.
More and more, entertainment values saturate our expectations and our judgments of quality.
“Good” Christian music is music that excites and impresses us, whether or not it improves our
lives and draws us closer to the Living God.
With this increased desire for music that emotionally stimulates us, some themes--critically
important themes--are minimized in our songs because they don’t readily lend themselves to
musical thrills. Topics like holy living, prayer, perseverance, and self-sacrifice tend to be edged
out of our church music. I’ve spent over 30 years in church music publishing, and I can assure
you that this is true.
For hymns, the problem grows worse because of a blurring of the line between performance
music and congregational music. Choirs, ensembles, and soloists believe that their music has to
generate enough emotional energy to jump the gap to static listeners and stir them to emotional
involvement. And remember, these are listeners numbed by constant, high-energy sensory
appeals all around them.
Whether performance music actually needs such emotional levels, congregational music should
not need them. The emotional dynamic is completely different. Hymns don’t have to jump a gap
from performer to listener. They don’t need to stir static listeners to involvement. In
congregational singing, performers and listeners are one and the same. As they sing, they are
already physically involved in the music. With performance music, the congregation has to be
jump-started into involvement. In congregational singing, they are already involved. No jump-
start is needed. That involvement advantage, along with simpler tunes, should free hymns to
focus on meatier words.