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Maintaining the mood

November 2002 | by Dan Lucarini

An extract from Dan Lucarini’s new book, Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music movement.

We thought the Lord had finally led us to the right church.

It seemed to be so balanced in all aspects of the ministry (including music) and church life, so solid in doctrine and practice.

The pastor was once again around my age but he was more conservative than the previous three pastors. The preaching of the Word was excellent.

The music was a blend of the great hymns and Maranatha Music-style choruses. There was a band but the drums and guitars were muted and balanced, not overpowering.

Instead of one song leader, there was a singing team of men and women who seemed to have the proper spirit of reverence. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘this is the way I always wanted it: good balance in the music ministry’.

Music ministry

The worship team leader needed someone to play the church’s synthesizer. So I joined the music ministry and when the leader moved away from the area, I was asked to succeed him.

I became responsible for creating and arranging the Sunday morning worship service for a congregation of almost 500…

Our typical worship service was twenty-five minutes of praise and worship-style songs with prayer interspersed throughout. I also tried to include at least one hymn per week.

The worship ‘set’ (a term borrowed from the secular performance world) was arranged to be a continuous flow of music with no interruptions.

Ingredients

That was an important ingredient to maintain the mood. We used a large projection screen for the lyrics and were blessed with a state-of-the-art multimedia system and excellent technicians.

We became very good at contemporary praise and worship, and were once complimented by a visiting denominational leader as ‘the best in Colorado’.

Another strong musical influence in my life at this time was Promise Keepers, the well-known men’s movement based in Colorado. Promise Keeper music uses predominantly rock styles, including classic Seventies-style rock…

Another motive

At this point, I need to confess another motive that drove me to lead contemporary praise and worship. Suddenly, here were all these churches trying to play rock music in their services but performing it so badly!

Didn’t they realise the unchurched would laugh at their weak attempts and stop coming? I thought that if they were going to use rock, they should ensure it was of the highest quality.

I knew exactly how to fix that. Because of my rock and roll background and experiences, I was an expert on how the music should be played.

And because of my additional experience as a hymn song-leader, I even thought God was ‘calling’ me to be the bridge between traditional and contemporary church music.

Under my direction, the worship services progressed from a blend of hymns and ‘easy-listening’ choruses to a completely contemporary service…

Charismatic theology

There were musicians on the team who wanted to extend the boundaries of acceptability and try edgier material.

‘Edgier’ is a common term used by Contemporaries to describe music that takes the listeners to the ‘edge’ of their comfort zone, stretching them beyond their pre-conceived notions of appropriateness.

Some of the singers wanted to use new Vineyard praise and worship music that contained a great deal of repetition and beat. The lyrics reflected a charismatic theology that should have no place in a Baptist church.

Our normally humble drummer had an electric drum set that enabled us to control the sound, but even he constantly wanted to add a strong beat to every song we played.

The electric guitar player, a lover of classic rock, looked for every chance to play solos or add guitar riffs where they weren’t needed.

During our weekly practices, the praise band would often switch into a rock and roll ‘jam session’.

Gratification

As the leader, I could have discouraged this, but I chose instead to indulge my own appetite for rock and roll. To put it bluntly, I was having fun!

As I look back on this, I see how hard it was to restrain the rock music beast and prevent it from taking over completely.

I would like to stop here, take a deep breath and summarise the reasons and motives that led me into the ‘contemporary Christian music praise and worship’ scene (CCM P&W).

Firstly, CCM used the music style that I was not only very good at, but which also attracted me. Due to my lack of formal training I never felt I fitted in with the ‘sacred’ musicians.

CCM offered me the only opportunity to be the best-trained musician in church and to use that talent for God.

Secondly, I have to admit that being a CCM leader was tremendously gratifying to my ego. The respect and adoration given to me was faintly reminiscent of the rock star power I experienced as an unsaved performer.

But I was blinded to this because the gratification was packaged in an ‘acceptable Christian’ format.

Thirdly, I was with pastors who wanted this music in church and who influenced me greatly. I was raised in a military family, which left me with a temperament predisposed to pleasing those in authority.

There is a serious leadership issue involved in the acceptance and promotion of CCM in church.

Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music movement

, by Dan Lucarini, is published by Evangelical Press at £7.95 ISBN 085234 5178.