Music, culture and urban church

This week a couple of rappers have caught my attention.  First there was this by Flame drawn to our attention after a Learning Community discussion on contextualisation.  Then there was John Piper’s comments on Lacrae which we picked up on here.

I want to just pick up on one or two (not completely connected) thoughts that struck me.

  1. Rap has been around in all its varieties for some time now -yet generally it, along with a whole range of musical genres rarely shows up in our churches except as a kind of novelty act.  Indeed thinking about it, at other ends end of the spectrum, do we see much by the way of classical music or jazz? Though Stuart Townend at the older end and The Rend Collective are between them bringing in a folk renaissance of sorts. But overall, what we sing in church seems along way away from what people are listening to outside.
  2. How do we decide the music we use in church. I think this is one of those areas where there is an assumption that certain choices of music are culturally neutral when in fact they are not.
  3. Is it the case that too often we choose music based around our own preferences.  We choose not to listen to musical genres outside of our taste but we quite happily inflict our own tastes on people who come to our meetings.
  4. It is possible to acquire something of a musical taste.  In the context of do I choose songs I would naturally prefer or not, I didn’t particularly like The Rend Collective when I first listened to them. However, there are some good lyrics and our younger people were enjoying the songs and I’ve taken time to engage and the music has grown on me (not all of it and I have my preferences).
  5. Back to the two rappers mentioned. I love the rawness and honesty of the lyrics. The direct and straight forward, self depreciating humour in The context song scratches where I itch.  I suspect that for many the humour lacks the subtlety sophistication they would prefer. Well tough.
  6. I think it is incredible, wonderful and delightfully Gospel centric to see an older man  and elder statesman like John Piper clearly care about and love deeply someone who is much younger and culturally different. I’d not heard of Lacrae before but Piper had and not at a surface level. He’s taken time to read, reflect on and analyse his lyrics.. There is a sense of someone willing to invest across generations and cultures.
  7. The rappers go deep in their lyrics. There’s no dumbing down. Solid theology is available to all. There’s no assumption that it is beyond or not for those in seminary
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