I was surprised but not amazed last Sunday to be “treated” to recorded music in worship. It’s hard to sing along with a backing track, and sometimes even harder to sing along with a jolly vocalist who was in a nice warm booth at the time of recording and didn’t have to keep an eye on the kids, match the lyrics to the tune he’d never heard before, or try to make the song relevant to the service as it progressed.
I’m not against recorded music in worship, although singing along to it can be tricky. It’s a development I reserve the right to observe with caution, but I’m not beating it down with a big stick.
I find that no recorded worship can flow with the service unless the service leader and PA operator are quite experienced. Even then, the congregation need to be comfortable with it.
Please, don’t stick on the CD track then segue to a live song by the worship band. It’s a totally false progression, and makes the band sound thin and reedy. No worship band is ever as polished and processed as a recording is.
Please, don’t stick the music on louder to get a greater response. Watch the members of the congregation who don’t know what to do, and feel self conscious. They deserve better. Try out a sample session with a single song introduced and run through like you would a normal new worship song. You can’t play a CD with an extra verse, or go back to the beginning once people have the hang of it, but you can make sure it’s played and performed by the band or service leaders in the pre-service.
Please, remember that the live musicians can do repeats, shorter or longer versions, variations in tempo, a range of dynamics and above all can react to events in the service as they present themselves. In the same way that projection software in churches needs to be flexible in response to song structure as played in a particular service, the CD recording forces conformity from the congregation and leaders, but lets you type the song in advance in certain knowledge of the order of lyrics.
Above all else, be gracious. The inevitable jump in the flow of the service at both ends of the CD tracked worship can be made easier if you have spent some time selecting a suitable rendition which serves your needs. Worship leaders and bands rehearse, so please take the same level of care in selecting recorded music. Having said that, I often turn up an hour beforehand with a pencil and a pad and more or less go with the flow. Maybe I don’t have such a strong case on this point. The grace, however, remains the vital ingredient.
With reference to my earlier post about Angels, please also make sure it’s worship material we’re singing. I assume you’ll check the lyrics and context thoroughly beforehand. It’s more glaring if the song you’re trying to sing is inaccurate or just very wrong lyrically, because the recording is perfect and delivers each word with perfect clarity.
Apart from that, bring it on. Let’s sing to the CD more often, and I get to lie in more Sundays.