Where is the song, story-teller in the church? In our main services and gatherings? By song, story-teller I mean the writer who tells a personal story, a glimpse, or snapshot of a moment in his, or her, faith journey.
In an effort to have only audience participation in worship have we laid aside the story-telling voice of the story telling artist of song? Have we thrown the baby out with the bath-water?
If we are in the age of story-telling, where are the song-writer, artist story-tellers? I realize they exist (Andrew Petersen, Jason Grey, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc.), but many churches in our "worship-only church culture" avoid story-telling songs like a plague, and certainly would not encourage any of its resident composer artists to write or perform such a personal offering. That would be drawing attention to one's self, rather than God.
Because of past, and understandable, abuse a prevalence or preference has emerged that all music in our corporate services, worthy of consideration, needs to be audience participation. By audience participation, I mean the desire for everyone to be simultaneously singing, clapping, or dancing, and etc.
We've made worship one thing and one thing only: full on participation as expressed through one or more externally defined, vertically focused, demonstrative action.
Even that gets complicated in some of our churches where style preferences cause us with a critical spirit to evaluate the worth of an artist, or worship set, by the vertical focus of a song and whether or not it has the right balance of free form so there can be "true" intimacy with God. God is the God of form (look at creation) and freedom (feel the wind blow). For example, by in large, engineers love form and artists love freedom. Both are needed in our culture, the church and our world. Both are of God, so cut the criticism!
For sure, a focused definition of worship is ascribing homage, honor, or worth to God. But there is a larger Biblical and historical view of worship that includes not only the vertical, or upward, focus of worship but the horizontal man to man expression of worship, praise, acts of service, and evangelism.
Perhaps being still and knowing God, means listening—listening to a story in song—coming to know God in a more intimate way because of someone's experience, or faith journey. In the process we have our grace, mercy, love vista broaden beyond its current boundaries. One of the wonderful ways to break the barrier between performer and audience is the use of a story-telling song that resonates with the hearer. This kind of musical offering opens the imagination of the heart to the stealth actions of the Spirit.
As my pastor, Dale Oquist, says, "Hearing an artist share their story through song is an act of worship, both for the performer and the audience." It is about what God has done.
Next, let me introduce you to a trio of "church" artists sharing some of their stories lyrically in song, as well as encouragement to help your young artists start telling their stories.