This is a bit of rant…

I was on my favorite gear discussion board today, when I noticed a few posts with similar titles: “Post your favorite U2/Praise and Worship Pedalboards”; “Favorite Praise and Worship Overdrive Pedals”; and so on…


Church, what have we become? Where has our creativity, our imagination, our artistry gone?

In 1998, “The dotted 8th” (let the musician understand) was a revelation. It was new, it was majestic and ambient, rhythmic and interesting, and could lay down tremendous beds of comforting sound around a band and worship leader.

That was 13 years ago now, folks. We were absorbed in the sound of U2 because, well, that sound was cresting and peaking. Now, the culture has moved on. U2 is still selling out stadiums, but Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons and The National are making exciting music now. Why won’t we embrace them as “temple musicians”? Why have we stopped growing?

Yes, U2 is an amazing, even anointed band. Yes, Coldplay is their scrappy sonic younger brother. But we’ve all missed the point, and by missing the point we’ve cheapened U2/Edge’s sonic tapestry as well as the creative element in worship music.

Because what we should really be interested in, musicians, is the way Edge thinks. Not how to rip off his delay tone.

He said once in an interview, “I’m interested in abusing technology.”

Where’s that attitude and approach in our efforts? Have we settled?

We pick and choose the safest parts — we love “Where the Streets Have No Name” (c’mon, I know it makes you cry; I’ll confess: me too!), but we shy away from “Mo Fo” sonically as well as lyrically (even though I’d say that the latter is about an overtly spiritual song as you could find, if you, um, cared to read the lyrics). Feed 3 or 4 fuzz pedals into a Whammy Pedal and hit “Go” … because that type of thinking is where all of this tapestry came from!

But we’d rather figure out how to find the right “Praise and Worship Overdrive Pedal”.

You know what the right “Praise and Worship Overdrive Pedal” is?

The one you can afford. The one you’re stepping on right now.

Because worship music is about incarnation. Which means it’s about God’s intersection with you. With your experiences, your gear, your creativity, with your imagination.

Worship guitarists out there — what are you afraid of? Ry Cooder once said, “Go where it’s dangerous and say, ‘Yes.'”

Go ahead. Step on the pedal; the one that’s “NSFW” (“Not Safe For Worship”). It will be okay (though I didn’t say it would be easy)… Edge would be proud.

And the church, in the long run, will be edified…

Because we still need imagination. Maybe now more than ever.


4 thoughts on ““MoFo.”

  1. The most personally and communally rewarding experience I’ve had as a “temple musician” was a summer where the church band lost it’s one and only available bass player. That meant no more week-in-week-out, U2 style music. And it meant digging for deeper inspiration and imagination. It wasn’t easy. But it was incredible.

    So to your closing words and admonishment – Amen.

  2. I expect worship leaders to be on the bleeding edge on what God’s doing. Period. And if that isn’t happening sonically, it makes me wonder what’s going on spiritually. Those two things are not separate, but part of a bigger picture of what’s going with us as individuals, and more importantly, corporately. I’d hope for some pushback from the laity if it’s same ole, same ole being played and sung. Then again, The Rolling Stones have ceased evolving, because they are like the old hymns, ok maybe the Maranatha band or something…Integrity? Nah, maybe hymn makers is best. Nothing wrong with some creature comforts.

    I’m not saying that the Church should go indie, (although I wouldn’t mind it too much), but those artists you list (an aside: Mumford and Sons sounded like a worship band to me anyway) are going *there*; all in their own unique ways. The funny thing is, God is already *there*, so he’s basically saying–catch. up (lovingly of course, but insistently). Mimicry is cute, but Sigur Ros is another band I’d say that has temple musicians but can be barely imitated. They have their own Icelandic/Hopelandic stuff going on. And even their sound has evolved as a band (yeah, most bands do that!).

    But the creative life needs nourishing from without–what are people reading, seeing, listening to? Even if it’s bad, you can still learn from it. It should start to affect your craft. And it shouldn’t come from the same sources. The more you can bring in, the more your craft can evolve, but also it’s just other ways to interface with God that aren’t just within the Sunday morning service or quiet times. “The edges” is where the infinite is, where God is (he’s in the middle, too, naturally–but still!). But the human yearning for “more” should push artists to the edge, to the depths, to the unknown. But if you’re stuck in some worshipbandhivemind…you can’t go *there*.

    A lack of imagination, to me, is death, or at least seriously wounded. And I’ve said too much! That’s what happens post-creative writing class…

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