Reluctant Xian has something to say about the trend toward making churches "hip":
Spare me the hip.
Do you try to connect people to God? Do you try to tell the story of a world in desperate need of Divine intervention in the person of Jesus? Do you try to help people see how God is active in the world?
If you do, then you don’t do church differently; you do it in the way it has always been done. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a reluctant Christian at times because, well, church branding has become a business taking its cues from contemporary advertising. In the need to feel relevant, so many places just end up fading into the same melange of commercials bombarding people daily.
What I think Christians and churches should be asking themselves is: are the symbols and mediums we use deep in meaning? Do they reflect a fullness that exemplifies the fullness of God?
How about we spend our time on that rather than spend time trying to convince people that we “do church differently.”
Don’t do church differently. Tell the story. Invite people into a relationship with the God shown through the Christ.
And turn off the advertising machine. It’s not different. And although it tries to be hip, it is not.
There are also some harsh words for the shallowness of much contemporary Christian worship music:
Churches have always sung a variety of songs, some contextual and some more reflective of their ancestors. Ancient Christians sang new songs, ancient Jewish songs, and then some new Christian songs to ancient Jewish music. You could say the same of any church you go in today. Amazing Grace done on electric guitar comes to mind.
I would argue, however, that this trend of church songs having only one theme (some variation of “Jesus loves me personally” or “God is awesome”) is fairly recent (within the last 70 years). That newness, though, doesn’t make it different…I think it should invite us to evaluative questions like, “Is this really the best we can do in expressing our thoughts about God in song” or “Is God other than awesome? Is Jesus more than just for me?”.
It’s clear those questions aren’t being asked in many circles. Please, someone, ask those questions. Mumford and Sons is writing songs with more theological depth than most anyone in the world of CCM.*
I have to say, tired as I am of more traditional liturgical styles, and the general sense that churches have become places of pomp and circumstance with little spiritual substance, I agree with the point being made here, both with regard to the idea that much of what passes for "hipness" in church is in fact very ancient, and with the critique of the vacuousness of most contemporary Christian music.
I worry about the cult of personality that seems to pop up in churches that are idolizing the "new" at the expense of the traditional, at the same time I think that worship needs to become more experimental.
As for the music, well, is it absolutely necessary that it be so excruciating? What I wouldn't give for a worship service where the music is a combination of traditional hymns and Sufjan Stevens with some Mountain Goats thrown in for variety. Can someone get on that for me?