Why I Hate Special Music

We were leaving the Vineyard last Sunday and it hit me: there had been no “special music.” There had not, in fact, been special music any Sunday we’d been there, and I hadn’t missed it at all. Truth be told, it was wonderful.

“Special Music” is that awkward point in the church service where you aren’t actively worshiping or learning, and everyone sits down so they can hear someone or a small group of people (or the whole choir, whatever) sing for a while. It’s generally passive, unless your church is the sort that claps along, and it is not uncommon for this to come during the time of putting-money-int0-a-plate/basket.

Because I love worship, singing, and music (and though I use those three words consecutively, I do not mean to imply that they are synonymous), I always hate times of special music. It feels like I’ve been told to sit down and shut up, to stop worshiping, and to enjoy the concert they’re putting on.

I get that the person(s) involved in the special music aren’t generally that vainglorious, but I do question whether such times are edifying to the church body. Recognizing that we all worship somewhat differently, I think participatory worship is, at the least, the way to go. And though special music is often a bit of a stretch from our usual worship fare, I have never seen any reason that the congregation can’t be participating in it.

Why shouldn’t we be stretched in worship? Why shouldn’t we be pushed beyond the normal songs we sing or know? Why should participation be discouraged as we’re all told to sit down and listen? I’d rather stand, sing, stamp my feet and raise my hands, and worship the Lord.

After all, He’s the reason I’m here, not the music or the singer.

2 thoughts on “Why I Hate Special Music

  1. As someone who is part of the “special music” almost every Sunday, I agree and disagree. At our church, “special music” ceases to be special because we have it every Sunday. However, I can tell you that many of the songs we sing I have felt very worshipful about, more-so than some of the bland and campy stereotype songs we sing throughout any given service (this goes for contemporary music as well).

    My viewpoint is that prepared songs by groups or individuals, instrumentals, etc. give the opportunity to those smaller sections of the congregation to contribute their praise in a way that they don’t normally do, whether because of embarrassment, stage-fright, etc. I think that participating in this allows them to express themselves in a more full and personal way than they may be able to as part of a crowd. And I certainly don’t see there being any more potential for personal edification for someone singing on stage than for someone raising their hands and yelling in the pews.

    1. Agreed, but my question becomes this:

      If some of your songs are bland, campy, and stereotypical, and the special music seem more worshipful, why not discard the stereotypical songs and sing the “special” songs as a congregation?

      An orchestra can be integrated into communal worship, and there’s no reason the congregation can’t participate just because the song isn’t the same four lines repeated over and over again. There is certainly the opportunity to worship without singing, by sitting and praying, meditating, and/or just listening to the music… but I dislike the organization of worship that forces people to sit down and just listen, instead of encouraging them to worship how they feel comfortable. It should all be done as a community, rather than some of it being one-directional.

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