Guide to Standardized Contemporary Christian Worship

What the potatoes happened to contemporary Christian worship?! To really emphasize my befuddlement, I should probably add a few more question marks and exclamation points. (Xavier Breth, Tung-In-Cheek Editor: You probably shouldn’t.)



In case you were wondering why Tung-In-Cheek came sailing out of the blue with this crazy blog post, I’ll explain myself: Thanksgiving break was last week. Now for many folks, Thanksgiving break means a trip to the store for cranberry sauce and the constant worry of “What do we do when the extended family starts ‘mildly debating’ the election around the table?” (Xavier: Easy. Play this song.) For me, it meant a plane flight home, comfortable meals with my awesome family, and an extra treat: participating in traditional Christian worship with a full orchestra and four-part harmonies at my home church.

That’s when a question occurred to me: “Why do I so enjoy worship with classic hymns and a choir?” After all, I’m a young person, right? Aren’t I supposed to prefer a more modern style of music anyway? (Xavier: Stereotyping to the max, I see.)

Answer: Because contemporary worship music seems to have dropped the ball (in my super-duper humble opinion).  (Xavier: If only you could see how unimpressed I am right now.) Don’t get me wrong; I attend services at churches near campus that can do some pretty neat things with a guitar, a drum kit, and a worship team. But contemporary music seems to have become rather repetitive and predictable, even though it was supposed to be fresh, exciting, and bold. (Xavier: I’m pretty sure you’re describing a Butterfingers candy bar.) To illustrate what I mean, I’ve helpfully whipped up a Standardized and Maybe a Bit Stereotypical Guide to Leading Contemporary Christian Worship.

·      First, you need to pick the songs. This is easy. Look up contemporary worship songs on the Internet and pick a handful. The more similar the lyrics look, the better. Make sure the chorus is short and snappy. You’ll see why this is important during worship time. Oh, if the chords are exactly the same, that’s great! After all, you don’t want to make life complicated for the folks playing the instruments.

·      Select a team of people to lead worship. A couple folks for guitar, someone to play drums, another for the keyboard, and of course, you can lead vocals! Make sure everyone coordinates outfits, y’know, make a statement! (Xavier: But a statement of what…?)

·      Now, you should try to get some flashy lights for the stage. If you can’t get those, don’t sweat it: What’s really important is the blob of sparkling translucent circles that slowly float across the screen behind the lyrics. I think the proper term for those things is “bokeh.” Bet you didn’t know that! Feel smarter?

·      Make sure that you’ve coordinated with the soundbooth operators beforehand.  They need to turn the gain down on the microphones. Otherwise, when you are onstage, pretending that your mic is a scoop of Marble Slab goodness on a waffle cone, it’ll pick up EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything—even your slightest breaths), and you don’t want to whack folks’ ears with them decibels.




Of course not! Kick everything all the way up. If the soundboard has a DEFCON 2 setting, use it. (Xavier: I’m pretty sure Christian worship isn’t connected to nuclear war.)


That’s it! Once the congregation is standing and the music kicks in, it’s all on you and your fellow vocalists to make this worship song happen. Here’s what you need to do to pull it off: Follow the tried-and-true “Seven-Eleven” pattern. Seven-word sentence choruses are great. Repeat that chorus as many times as you like! Eleven times or so is good. The real trick here is to up the intensity. To do that, you need to sing louder and squeeze your eyes tighter. Oh, and exhale loudly. Especially whenever you sing the letter “H,” since it lends itself naturally to that sort of thing. No letter “H”? No problem. Add an “H” to other vowels. So instead of singing “I will love You forever,” sing “Hhh-I will love You forever.” And just like that, you’re kicking it with the best of them. Keep going; you should be done with this song in about 7-9 minutes. Who cares if the sheet music fits on half of an index card? (Xavier: You should keep your blog posts about as long as that. The world would be a happier place.)

Pretty accurate, right? Okay, perhaps it’s an exaggeration. (Xavier: YA THINK?!)  But you get my point: for contemporary Christian music, you can find half a dozen songs that sound the same. Nowadays, every artist wants to crank out 37 new songs each week. The lyrics all use the same words, and the instrumental backing is so darn similar to the previous song. To make it worse, when leading worship, people repeat the same line a zillion times. And exhale.

Basically, what I’m saying is: Come on, contemporary Christian worship! Cut out the repetitive stuff. Be detailed, rich, and powerful. Get it together; I believe that you can do it!