Over the next few weeks, CHURCH MUSIC TODAY will feature some blog articles by guest authors. The authors will include Rev. Tim Hooper, Minister of Music at Stithton Baptist Church in Radcliff, KY, Rev. John Cashion, Minister of Music at Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Beaver Dam, KY, Rev. Rod Ellis, Worship & Outreach Pastor at Journey Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, KY, and Rev. Mark Williams, Pastor of Hawesville Baptist Church in Hawesville, KY.
Today, we feature the second article and author. Rev. Tim Hooper, Minister of Music at Stithton Baptist Church is featured today with an article called “Choir Robes or Hawaiian Shirts?”.
“A few months ago I had lunch with a good friend who serves as pastor of a small church in south central Kentucky; small being relative, attendance on any given Sunday averages 152. His “part-time” minister of music had recently resigned and he wanted to know if I knew anyone that might be interested in the position. As we talked, Jim shared with me some of the issues that his congregation experienced with the former worship leader in regard to the man’s leadership of the music ministry. It was a story that I wish I could say was new to me; however, it was far from it. It was the same story most of us have heard many times over. “Too contemporary, too traditional, not enough hymns, not enough choruses, too many hymns, remove the drums, remove the organ, use the choir, use a praise team, wear choir robes, wear sandals, and on and on…” It was clear that Jim was exasperated over his situation. Then, in his effort to find solace concerning his predicament, he asked the question that always seems to follow someone lamenting their church’s woes concerning the use of music in worship. “Tim, is your church’s style of worship traditional or contemporary?” I think I made matters worse for him as I answered with a resounding, “YES!”
I went on to explain my point by stating that what I heard him describing was not so much a question of worship style, but rather a question of musical style. The fact was that most of what he described stemmed from problems resulting in the choice of music and not the liturgy or prescribed order of the service. I continued by sharing that I’m afraid we often use the words, “worship” and “style” inappropriately in regard to what happens on Sunday mornings. It’s kind of like saying, “I love hamburgers.” As much as I enjoy a good hamburger, I’m certain this is not what John had in mind for the word love in 2 John 4:19. The question is; should we attempt to place limits on the meaning of the word worship by trying to categorize it into a type or style? My fear is that when we do this, we have ultimately fallen short in respect to what God has intended for us in corporate worship. Music, on the other hand, is just one of many tools used to facilitate worship, albeit a powerful part, it is still only one part of the overall act of worship. As worship leaders (both pastoral and music), I think it is crucial we better understand that aspect of worship and communicate the appropriate message to our congregation in a unified voice.
This is a point that is often overlooked in the overall planning of corporate worship. We need to ask ourselves, “Does the music we choose shape our worship or does our worship shape the style of music we use?” My guess is music is shaping our worship in most instances. This might also help to explain why so often the minister of music bears much of the fallout when a congregation is unhappy with their worship experience. If the emphasis is on music and not the act of worship, it will most likely be impossible to please everyone in worship; however, if our goal is one of creating a worship experience, rather than the right style of worship, I think we stand a much greater chance of uniting our congregation, and most importantly, pleasing God.”
Rev. Tim Hooper is a guest blogger for CHURCH MUSIC TODAY. he is currently employed as the part-time Minister of Music at Stithton Baptist Church in Radcliff, KY and as the Coordinator of Distance Learning and Electronic Resources at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, KY.
Tim earned his undergraduate degree in music at Campbellsville University and then earned his masters degrees in church music in 2004 from Campbellsville University and Library Science and Information from the University of Kentucky in 2005.
Tim is married with three sons and enjoys watching his children participate in football and band. Moreover, Tim does gardening and barbecuing in his free time. Visit Tim’s church website here.