I would separate out aspects of the worship music, asking how it could be performed better, how the music could be written better and thinking that everyone should practice more.
However, in reducing the worship songs down into discreet elements I had missed the complete point of these songs. Christian congregational worship music is about the congregation lifting their praises to God in song. Although I still occasionally get distracted by these criticisms, I find worship far more enjoyable and engaging now as it is has become plain to me that worship is about praising God. Everything should be assessed in relation to this goal.
I think that focusing on this goal as both the congregation and as the performers, composers, songwriters, or lyricists is beneficial to us all.
Christian congregational worship music sits in a rather unique position in regards to its relationship to composers (songwriters), performers and audience (congregation). Composers write music for various reasons but the resulting music is a substantial consideration; a performer is decidedly concerned with the performance but what is the audiences concern?
I would suggest that this varies on the context, so in the context of a Christian congregation being the audience (perhaps equal participants) what is their concern, their focus?
Assuming that congregational worship is intended as praise to God, although I suspect that this is an inadequate definition it will suffice for the argument, we can say that this is the goal of songs created for Christian worship. Since this is the case, we should then ask, what prevents these songs from achieving this goal to the best of their ability?
These are the concerns we hear all the time; it's too high, it's too low, it's hard to sing, it doesn't mention God or Jesus very much and it's boring, just to name a few. These concerns are the criteria we should be assessing worship music against since the goal is worshiping God as a congregation.
By aiming to reach this goal of encouraging and supporting a congregation's worship of God, composers, lyricists and performers are using the talents they have been blessed with to serve the body of the church, a righteous pursuit.
To restate what congregational worship music is not, it is not about virtuosic performance or complicated themes but it is about it being accessible to the congregation and supporting them in worship to our great God.
By striving towards this goal we should see innovations in the way we perform music to support the congregation, we should see developments in writing as we make songs accessible and we should see congregational worship be a shining beacon of the joy we have in the Glory of God.
Let us all focus on this goal and praise the LORD.
Sam Gillespie is a graduate Composition student and a computer programmer doing his Honours year based in Sydney. Sam has composed a number of works.
Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html