Positive Criticism

Last week I went to a Worship Central event in Southampton.

On my way home, I had a most interesting discussion about said event with my mortal enemy good friend Tom Pollard. One phrase that he used struck me.

He said, ‘I don’t want to be critical…’

This is one of these splendidly British phrases that mean the exact opposite of what they say. Like ‘with all due respect’, which actually means that you have no respect for the phrase’s intended recipient whatsoever. So what Mr Pollard really meant was that of course she wanted to be critical.

I get the feeling that this is a little bit taboo with Christian music though. Perhaps I am being cynical and finding faults when there are none, but I’ve read too many fawning, hyperbolic reviews of worship music that I personally found to be a little underwhelming.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want that to reflect on Worship Central – I had a great evening; the guys lead worship really well. And equally, the new album Let it Be Known, available from iTunes and all good Christian bookstores, is a good worship album. My worry is that it’s not quite as good as a lot of people are saying.

My point here isn’t to claim that all worship music is inherently crap and that anyone who doesn’t agree is a musical dullard. Not at all. In fact, I’m not entirely certain exactly what my point is.

I think what I’m trying to say is that being overly positive about music that is often mediocre is not part of being a good Christian. If we are labelling normal stuff as groundbreaking and innovative perhaps it is actively unhelpful.

What I don’t want to advocate, though, is a culture where we are merely consumers and critics of worship music. Where we sit on the front row on Sunday morning with our scorecards ready to hold up a ten when ‘Happy Day’ is played, only to replace it with a two when the worship leader sings ‘Our God’ for the fourth time in three weeks.

Equally, I don’t want to advocate a culture where we think Chris Tomlin is a musical genius. Is that allowed?

As it often is, the goal is somewhere in the grey area in between. And I’m not sure what that looks like. Even for myself, I am still constantly working out how to achieve balance between wanting better and not wanting to be the sneering cynic in the corner.

Is that just me?

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