Yesterday I shared some of the drawbacks of using pre-recorded music in church services. Can it ever be beneficial? I think so, as long as we’re aware that God is more concerned about the faith in our hearts than the sound of the music. If you’re part of a small church, a small group, or a mission church, you may find the following to be true.
1. Recorded music can encourage people to sing out enthusiastically
While I generally prefer the sound of an average musician to a CD, there are times when bad instrumentalists are more distracting than helpful. Of course, as I mentioned yesterday, singing with no accompaniment is certainly a viable option. Some groups insist that it’s the only biblical option. But there are many outstanding songs that are helped by instrumental support. Music tracks, with or without a vocal, can provide that. It’s important though, that the music serve congregational singing and not overpower it.
2. Recorded music can enable non-musicians to benefit from the gift of music.
Music speaks to our emotions, and when used rightly, can deepen the impact of God’s truth on our hearts. Advances in technology have made it possible to have a full orchestra or band accompany our singing almost anywhere. I’m grateful to God for the churches and ministries that have made it possible for Christ-exalting, God-glorifying music to be heard and sung throughout the world. In small churches, a soloist can actually be more effective at times when they aren’t at the mercy of an inexperienced pianist.
3. Recorded music can free up people to serve in other areas.
When your group is small, how you allocate people resources is crucial. Sometimes church musicians spend hours practicing with little to show for it. They might invest their time more profitably greeting guests or serving with the children.
What about more established churches that have skilled musicians? Some of the comments for small churches still apply, especially freeing up people to serve in other areas. Playing recorded music before or after the meeting can prepare people’s hearts and minds to focus on God, or accompany a time of prayer and ministry. (We’ve found these Prayer Songs CD’s especially useful for after a meeting). Pre-recorded music might also be useful for accompanying a children’s choir. However, for congregational or presentational singing, the drawbacks of pre-recorded music often outweigh the benefits. Whenever possible, we should involve instrumentalists who bring glory to God not only with their gifts, but with their heart attitudes as well.
A few concluding thoughts.
If you have musicians, use them, equip them, give them feedback, and most of all, encourage them. If you think there’s benefit to using recorded music, use it sparingly and wisely. Consider singing a capella, as well as finding other ways to exalt God’s name. Reading God’s Word together, sharing testimonies of God’s faithfulness, and praying in faith, can all enlarge our view of God’s greatness and goodness.
Remember that the musical priority as we gather is singing with thankfulness in our hearts to God. (Col. 3:16) We’re not trying to sound like the church down the street nor the latest release from our favorite “worship artist.”
I have to admit that it was easier for me to come up with the deficiencies of canned music than its benefits. That may be because in many instances we’re simply bowing to the idols of performance and professionalism. We mistakenly think we can “improve” our worship by minimizing the human error factor. But in this life and the next, the only thing that will remove THAT is the atoning death of our Savior, whose one sacrifice makes all our offerings acceptable. (Heb. 10:19-22)
Our technology doesn’t impress God. The best we have to offer sounds off-key to Him. But because we trust in the Savior who sings in our midst (Heb. 2:12), even the most musically inept congregation can sound like the angels. Or better.
Backing tracks have changed a lot in the past 12 years. It’d help a lot of us out if you could revisit this topic.
Astrapto, I just read through the two posts again. I’m not sure I’d change much! If anything, my awareness of the deficiencies and limitations of recorded music for congregational meetings have grown. Is there a specific question you’re wondering about? Let me know.
Thanks, Bob. I should’ve been clearer that I was wondering about tracks like those provided at multitrack.com – where you can add in other elements that were recorded in-studio to fill out a sparse band. I know some worship teams use keyboards or laptops for electronic-sounding tracks that help fill out a song.
Astrapto, ah, yes that’s clearer. Philosophically, I think using tracks tends to teach people that we need a certain “sound” to worship God in song. God uses our weaknesses and our sparse bands to glorify his name, all of them perfected through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. What should really “fill out” a song is the sound of the congregation. That being said, we recently started having our songs on multitracks.com because I know some churches won’t do our songs unless they can use the tracks. Pastorally/theologically, I wouldn’t encourage a church to use tracks. But for the sake of the content that a church could be singing, we’re making them available.