On Being Bi-Musical

Published 10:11 am Monday, November 29, 2021

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS | Guest Columnist

It’s been said most of us don’t graduate from the music we liked in college. True for me; I still listen to Herman’s Hermits, Anne Murray and the Carpenters. However, I found a new, less mellow band lately in an unusual way.

I talked with a pastor who visited a contemporary church in his city, and asked him several questions about his experience, especially the music. He said there was very little congregational singing, and it was more like a concert with the band playing and praise team vocalizing.

When I asked him what the music was like, he said, “It was like the music you and I used to listen to.” When I asked him to be specific, he said, “ZZ Top!”

So I had ZZ Top on my mind when I found a television documentary about them. Theirs is an interesting story, and I downloaded one of their albums on my iPod for the first time. I was especially intrigued by their duet with Elvis on “Viva Las Vegas.” This combination is as unlikely a pairing as Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, who had the best-selling CD in America in 2014 (and followed it with a second one).

Some who write about faith matters insist people shouldn’t have to abandon their musical comfort zone when they worship. Thus, they say, there should be Bluegrass gospel for some, country gospel for some, jazz gospel for some and rock gospel for others. A California church offers Hawaiian gospel.

I remember hearing one of these writers “diss” organ music. “Who listens to organ music on the radio?” he asked. And that’s a fair point.

But musical tastes evolve.

Composer Ralph Carmichael died a few weeks ago. He’s called the father of contemporary Christian music for his work in the 70s. Andre Crouch wrote in the same era. Their music seemed a little “edgy” at the time—worship with a beat. Now it’s more mainstream. The hymnal our church uses has a Carmichael song and five Crouch songs.

I’m of the opinion Christian worshippers should be eclectic, or bi-musical just as many are bi-lingual.

We should be able to enjoy the great hymns in their traditional settings and worship music with various orchestrations, too.

I think that’s where most churches are in my denomination. We can sing the classic hymn, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” with the organ, but we can also sing “I’ll Fly Away” or join in Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light” with a guitar.

It might be a bridge too far for the churches I know to have rock gospel this week, though it might conceivably seem tame to the next generation if it shows up in their hymnals. -30-

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.