Where Has All the Singing Gone?: The Bifrostian Vision

Zac HicksUncategorized4 Comments

Isaac Wardell and Bifrost Arts offer a great reflection here.  In true Bifrostian fashion, the video is simple and artistic, with a strong and unique message.  Wardell speaks of Bifrost’s own counter-cultural moves of in-home, in-art-gallery, in-church “hymn sings,” where the goal is to enjoy the beauty of singing together in worship of God.  The vision cast in this video corroborates the mounting evidence that the tide is turning with younger Christians who are exchanging hype for history, lights for liturgy, passivity for participation, and hits for hymns. 

Choice quotes:

It seems like we’re listening to more music than we ever have…but, we’re making music together less and less.  We’re singing together less and less… 

When I walk into churches, I notice a disturbing trend, that people are singing less and less in congregations.  While our music production values may be getting better, while many of us have churches that spend a lot of time thinking about the quality of the performance of our music, congregational voices seem to be fading into the background… 

More and more it seems like people show up to church and they expect to have a worship experience delivered to them rather than people showing up excited to sing together… 

I think it’s important that we urge our congregants not to think of our worship services as a concert hall, as a time that we come to receive something; but to think of our worship services as a banquet hall where we come to participate in something together.

Bifrost Arts represents perhaps the “radical reformation” strand of the hymns movement in modern worship reformation, reforming not only text (through re-engaging old hymns), but music.  The indie, quirky, elegant, pop-orchestral, Sufjan Stevens-esque musical style is different and refreshing.  Folks like myself are on the other end of the spectrum, seeking similar reformation through building bridges by engaging the most widely expressed musical idioms.  Perhaps we’re more analogous the “Lutheran reformation,” seeking reform through as much continuity as possible.

Wardell’s statements rightly question whether the musical idioms of mainstream evangelical worship music are conducive to the goals of musical worship, i.e. the glory of God through strong congregational participation.  Authors like T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, obviously feel that the modern music enterprise is so bankrupt and devoid of substance that it cannot be redeemed (some day, Lord-willing, I will muster up the strength to write what I hope will be a fair but critical review of Gordon’s book).  I think differently.  While I share some of those concerns articulated by Wardell and brought to their extreme conclusion by Gordon, I am comfortable to live in the tension, because: (1) I’ve participated in “arena worship” services that are successful in drawing the congregation out (thus proving that it’s ultimately about the heart, not the level of production); (2) perhaps what we are doing by retaining culture’s dominant musical idiom can be like a “gateway drug” for mainstreamers to begin to explore hymns in different, beautiful musical idioms, like those of Bifrost Arts.

In any regard, I give Isaac Wardell and Bifrost 100% of my support for their music and broader vision for a brighter day in Western church music.

4 Comments on “Where Has All the Singing Gone?: The Bifrostian Vision”

  1. Whoa. The music behind this video was cryptic and alluring. Was that a Bifrost hymn? I'm going to have to get me that song.

    All in all, I appreciate the via media you are pursuing- I always have. It was frustrating to me, given that I know the contents of Gordon's book, seeing how much he was publicized for his recent trip to Denver. Why must evangelical Christians constantly eat their young? And why must our young people/modern worshipers be even more bitter sometimes towards those on the other side? If it's always about the heart, why do we ever need to take shots at other avenues of worship?

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