Great Critique of the Crowder Worship Conference

Zac HicksHistory of Worship and Church Music, Worship Theology & Thought1 Comment

In his Christianity Today article, arts pastor W. David O. Taylor shares his insights from his time as a presenter and participator in Crowder’s Fantastical Church Music Conference.  (I keep posting about this conference because I believe it’s a significant marker in modern church music history.)

Here’s some dialogue with a few quotes from the article:

You know you are at a worship conference sponsored by David Crowder when a fog machine kicks in and gobo lights wash the stage in color while the Welcome Wagon sings an exquisitely spare version of “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed.” It makes you wonder what the Moravian James Montgomery (1771-1854), author of the hymn, would have thought.

Love it.  Gobos + Montgomery = my cup of ancient-modern tea.  (How’s that for consumeristic?)

The bounty of “I live for you” and “I’m gonna give my praise to you” songs kept reminding me that me, myself and I were engaged in something terribly important right then. After a while, as my grandma might say, I plum wore out. I got tired of me. But for those of us who allergically react to the wealth of I-songs, we need to remember that the Psalter includes a surplus of first-person singular prayers.

Amen.  But Taylor also provides a good counterpoint to keep the I-pendulum from swinging too far:

The British theologian David Ford explains the Psalter’s dynamic well. He observes, “The Psalmist’s ‘I’ accommodates a vast congregation of individuals and groups down the centuries around the world today.

The “I” in worship must still (and, biblically, was always intended to) be a corporate “I.”  That’s worth chewing on.

In an e-mail prior to the conference, Crowder shared with me a concern about rock music. He asked, “Is the pop-rock song ‘disposable’, as many suggest, and if so, what does that mean about basing our congregational singing on such a thing?” One might ask the same thing about the pop-rock musician. Does the stage-centric, unidirectional, heroic-leader, “passive”-audience, shout-fest, heart-on-the-sleeves culture of pop-rock music militate against healthy worship practices? Maybe. But not necessarily.

I agree.  Too many critics of modern worship believe these things are necessary evils rather than potential evils.  Heart, heart, heart.  It’s encouraging to me that Crowder is thinking deeply enough about the nature of pop music to ask the question he asks.  Kenneth Myers would be proud…though still unappreciative of Crowder’s art. 😉

If you throw a David Crowder into the Louie Giglio mix, you get the latest iteration of evangelical history: Wesley and Wesley, Moody and Sankey, Graham and Barrows, Giglio and Crowder. You get a classic pattern of preacher and musician, working together to bring the church to a renewed encounter with the living God.

Brilliant observation.  And this, folks, is why knowing history is so valuable.  There is nothing new under the sun, and perhaps the “old” ways aren’t as outdated and irrelevant as we thought, huh?  This may be a stretch, though, given that almost nothing Crowder has produced post-Illuminate is congregational material. It’s not a criticism of what Crowder has done.  It’s just an observation.  Sankey and Barrows may have been performers in their own right, but they are known for their contribution to hymnody, not solo material.  Crowder’s on the path of being remembered as a contributor to the latter, not the former.  (For what it’s worth, the Giglio-Tomlin pairing more closely parallels the historical recapitulation, but Tomlin wasn’t at this conference.)

The temptation at a conference like this is to be cynical and judgmental. Cynicism says these people are phony. Judgmentalism says these people are doing it wrongly. But I beg to differ. I found a lot of songwriters who humbly seek to provide the church with good worship music.

Would that more modern worship critics arrive here.  So much of what fuels the church disunity on these issues is the absence of a generosity of spirit.

One Comment on “Great Critique of the Crowder Worship Conference”

  1. Thanks for the kind interaction, Zac. I've been meaning to write to you personally to connect, especially after my wing-dinger comment in my blog. I wanted you to know then and still now that I genuinely appreciate what you're doing in your blog. Well done, brotherman. Well done. I imagine our paths may cross soon. I sure hope so, because we'll have much to talk about.

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