Saying Goodbye: David Crowder

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Author: Jeremy Armstrong

Rituals are everywhere. They are found in the mundane as well as the formal. From the ritual of waking up and making coffee to the way we celebrate a birth or mourn those who have passed. Beyond that, our worship services are rich with ritual. There is a time for the welcome and a time for the doughnuts. There is a time for a rock ’n’ roll band to take the stage and a time for the video announcements. A time for the pipe organ to play the Sanctus and a time for the passing of the peace. The question every leader struggles with is “when is it time to change?” When is it time to build something new, and when to build by tearing down a practice that no longer reflects the values of your community? The David Crowder*Band dealt with just this issue during the past year. We were fortunate enough to sit with David Crowder as he and his band were on the final leg of their final tour and on the cusp of a new direction—a new song. The topic of conversation? The past. And when is it time to make changes to our rituals.

The news that David Crowder*Band was releasing their final CD was a bit of a surprise to many followers. But what isn’t a surprise is the breadth and scope of their final offering: a double CD with over 90 minutes of music, it’s massive, and it’s a ritual of worship. But not just any ritual, DC*B created a Mass—a requiem to be more precise. For those rusty on the early church’s Mass nomenclature, a requiem is the celebration for the repose of the soul. Their final offering is a funeral CD. How appropriate. Of course it’s “In the happiest of keys.” The David Crowder*Band has never shied from the past. Their first CD had a classic hymn cover, before that was a hip thing to do. Throughout the years they’ve busted out Bluegrass, “Church Music,” keytars, and now a Mass. The question becomes, is this a reaction to the current state of contemporary worship where there seems to be a lack of regard for church history? Not exactly.

“It’s more a lack of complexity,” explains Crowder. “What’s majestic and beautiful about a lot of the older liturgy that we’ve maybe misplaced is that that it feels transcendent. Many times the liturgy was like a journey. You couldn’t just pop in for half the service and get everything. You know, you can pop in a lot of contemporary services and not be very confused by any of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but, it’s like the show Lost. The reason that show was so attractive was because there was an exploration that it demanded of you. You couldn’t understand everything that was really happening. I think there’s something very attractive about worship where everything is hinging on mystery, and it’s a difficult thing to put your head around. It’s more complex.”

It’s clear that Crowder isn’t alone in this view; the next generation of worshipers (who will also become the next generation of leaders) is far more interested in the past than many worship settings allow. “There are so many college students that are attached to what we’re doing,” says Crowder. “And the thing I love about where they are in life is that they want desperately to live for something bigger than themselves. Of course, that’s not new to our theology and our theological approach to life, but it is something that’s been a huge social trend. It’s even a buzz amongst corporations; in their need to market to this younger generation they have to somehow present a product that’s bigger than just consumption.

“And the younger generation is finding that this present moment is not sufficient enough. That we need something that’s bigger than just ‘the present.’ And we need words that say something that’s bigger than the present. But we cant’ look into the future, so we look backwards and pull from what has already been said. In doing so we also realize that we’re not alone in this present moment, but in fact our history is with us.”

Back to the Vulgate?
Yet Crowder admits, some of that mystery also came from the services being presented in a language other than what the people were speaking. Martin Luther felt strongly about this issue (obviously not in favor of it), as do many people of faith today. There is a time to discover which worship practices are becoming idols in and of themselves. And, this is a contemporary issue as much as a traditional one. It’s not just a question of when should we trade the organ for a guitar it’s also have our projected motion visualscapes covering the entire back wall of the sanctuary become a distraction?

“For us it’s always been we want whatever we’re doing to be an authentic extension of what we are about,” says Crowder. “So if, as musicians and humans, we are exploring different ideas and sounds, it should come out in how we lead. It’s authentically part of who we are. But if the motive is ‘we want to be cutting edge,’ it feels contrived. It works when it’s an extension of who we are, and we can’t help but explore how to move people through this or that media. There is a very significant shift that happens with a change of motivation, and the results between the two are almost polar opposites of each other.

“So I think that’s why a lot of times you go into a setting and the creativity feels very contrived. And there are other moments where you go in and it honestly moves you. I really feel like there’s an authenticity there that is all based on motive. But on the other side, I also feel like there’s an equal falseness to just tear rituals down because we feel guilty for having them there. The key is not to build or tear down media, but to find humans that are part of our community that God has gifted in unique ways and allow them to express their giftings in a visible way to move us as a community. If that is happening, you don’t have to worry about the falseness.”

Saying Goodbye
As worship leaders, as pastors, as people who simply live in this world, it is important to examine if our hearts are truly passionate about our mediums of displaying Christ or if we are simply drawing lines between numbered dots because that is what we have done for so long. As Crowder says, it’s a matter of authenticity. And where the David Crowder*Band is concerned, this question recently became more poignant, and it began the process of tearing down the ritual of David Crowder*Band.

“We have always had a bizarrely long term vision in terms of our six records,” shares Crowder. “But we could never see past record six. And we would talk and talk about it wondering what could be next. But as we were about to start this last record, we decided that we really needed to sit and think and pray and talk to the people around us and figure out if we are going to continue doing this just because it works. Or if we should be open to something new. After some time, everybody came back and there was a real cohesion and sense among all of us: ‘Yeah, this is it. This is the end. And it is painful.’

“But as scary as it sounded, we knew we were going to have another chapter coming. We have talked about the band as a sentence, and now, we are at the end of the sentence. It’s time to put a period on it. But after the full stop, it will be time to write a new sentence. And I hope the best sentence is yet to be written.”

Requiem
“Now we realize that there’s almost a multiplication in what we are able to do,” continues Crowder. “All the guys want to keep making music and have even already started working on stuff. That part is really exciting. And for myself, I’ll continue to live the way I’m wired. And I feel like I’m wired to help figure out ways to serve the Church musically.”

Of course of all our rituals, one of the most complex is understanding that there is a time to say hello, and a time to say goodbye. The David Crowder*Band has chosen their final record, Give Us Rest (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]), to represent their goodbye, “And it’s all centered around the Eucharist,” finishes Crowder. “And so we thought, man, this is a great place to finish things up—to just come back around this. I guess the period at the end of the sentence would be Christ and his sacrifice, and his in-dwelling.”

That sounds about right for a faithful band of worship leaders who have continually moved forward in creativity while relentlessly keeping the focus on Christ and his victory. Maybe we should call it an exclamation point.

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    20 comments on “Saying Goodbye: David Crowder

      • most of crowder’s cd’s have been “concept” driven. even “can You hear us” had a little bit of it as did “illuminate.” they weren’t as blatant as “a collision”, “remedy”, “church music”, and “requiem”, but they still had hints of the concepts in them. much of their music has been fairly premeditated, meaning that he knew what the cd was going to be about before he arrived at the point of actually writing it.

        i will say that my favorite piece of musical art EVER (both secular and Christian) is “a collision.” the journey of the concept is just breathtaking to me and strikes so strongly at my heart. i am really enjoying the requiem and some of the intensity of it, as well as the throwback to some of yesteryear’s music. makes me feel like i’m chillin’ with the gaithers and singing some old-time gospel songs!

        • oh, i should have also said…the “concept” album is a fairly lost art in Christian music these days, and even in the broader secular music world. few artists have the capability and vision to see such a thing through, so in that sense i agree with your assessment…”finally!” God bless.

          • “a collision” is by far their best work. What a journey they take you on. Real feelings and emotions experienced thru the birth and life of a newborn believer. God has truly anointed them.

    1. We miss you guy the DCB band. I’ve always loved learning the new styles of worship and where it has brought you guys! It is such a shock and surprise. But it has been a great journey of desire of worship where God has lead you… keep up the requiem and keep in his love where you see his leading… God Bless you guys DC*B…..!!

    2. “And it’s all centered around the Eucharist,” finishes Crowder. “And so we thought, man, this is a great place to finish things up—to just come back around this. I guess the period at the end of the sentence would be Christ and his sacrifice, and his in-dwelling.”

      Legit.

    3. Great interview…if a band of worship leaders can “sit and think and pray” about were they are going with the talents, gifts that God has given them, maybe its time i do the same. I don’t want to sing just because i can and it works. I’ve been asking “Lord is it time to step aside…hmm. May God continue to bless you all

      • I wondered the same thing. Notice that implicit in his interview is a lot of talk about traditions oldish and newish but not a great deal of Scripture. With the Mass comes a lot of baggage—–transubstantiation, indulgences, tons of sacraments… I think today people are far more interested, as the article indicates, in experience over Scriptures. We are too much driven by what we want out of worship than what God wants. Lot’s of people head back into old dead traditions because “it’s new to me.” But it’s not about me (and you) it’s about God.

        I’m reminded that the Holy Spirit speaking through the pen of Paul says this to His people: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phi 1:9-11)

        God wants us to grow in love but in a love that is based upon understand His will, rather than craving a new experience or rush, and He wants us to be discerning. He wants us to approve the things that are excellent, not that just scratch some itch we might have for self-gratification, and the issue isn’t our gain but His glory. I’m not so sure, reading the interview that this is the direction things are headed.

        • Your comment shows your misunderstanding of the Mass and Catholicism. I’m not criticizing – I was there, too, for a long time (a Protestant). Once I got past the lies I had been fed about the Catholic Church, I saw the depth of the faith. I assure you – the Catholic Mass and sacraments (and transubstantiation, etc.) have more scripture behind them than you know. In fact, they take more scripture literally than Protestant faiths do (biggest example: the Eucharist). It has opened a fullness of Christianity that I had never before imagined. The Bible become more alive for me than before.

          All you have to do it Google “Catholic apologetics”. You will find loads of scripture behind the Catholic Church’s teachings. You will be shocked at what you find (as I am sure David Crowder discovered) about the Church Jesus gave us.

        • I am also a Protestant that was trained as a pastor. I preached in a small rural church in Virginia for a while. I have been a Protestant all my life. However, just a day or so I joined the Catholic church after a year or more of study. The Scripture, which the bishops of the Catholic church compiled and agreed upon, does support the doctrines of the Catholic Church. However, the biggest thing to think of is that Scripture is not self evident. Everyone is “taught” a tradition. Everyone is taught an understanding or perspective on the bible. The problem is that the Protestants (of which I was one, so I did this too) wouldn’t admit to this. And many times the understand the church has developed is not merely from 500 or so years of understanding on a scripture passage, but much longer and closer to the original apostles.

        • There is only one Sacrament in the Mass not “tons”, only one, the most important one, the one that John tells us in his Gospel that we must partake to abide in Christ… The center of the Catholic life, the Eucharist!

        • Just a thought on the whole “with mass comes baggage” thought. As far as the Church is concerned the mass is a great many things. A scriptural beating over the head it is not. In terms of what it is, it is a sacrifice not a re-sacrifice but rather a revising of the original sacrifice pin Calvary. while it does contain scripture and its liturgical meaning it is not heavily laden with overly abundant discussions of what it might mean. Rather it gets to the point. Scriptural study is our responsibility as faithful servants of God. It was once said by saint Thomas Aquinas that ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. I would blame less the faith but rather the individual given that the individual already has this information. Once you know your responsibility it is your job to do it. Just a few thoughts, God bless you all.

          • Rob- I would highly highly highly encourage you to read the book “The Lambs Supper” by Scott Hahn. As a former protestant pastor, he does a fabulous job of showing all the scripture behind the signs and actions in the Mass. The mass really IS a scriptural beating over the head and that beating was literally what brought Scott Hahn to convert.

    4. I’m actually shattered at hearing this…I only recently heard of these guys nd their music is awesome its unique nd to nw hear they don’t go anymore….kills me :”(

    5. Former Protestant here turned Catholic. Very excited for David Crowder. I wish all of you the best in your search of truth. Remember to frame all discussions in love and kindness, trying always to understand the other side in honesty, earnestness and love. Peace in Christ this day, Bill G.

    6. Pingback: David Crowder on Liturgy | God's in the Details

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