Idol or Icon

Chuck Fromm
  • There is a major difference between an idol and an icon. An idol brings attention to itself. The icon points to God.
Icon Graphic

Musical excellence ultimately centers on the topic of performance. So before we go any further, let’s talk about the “p” word for a moment. First of all, “performance” is often a shunned discussion by Christians as it relates to worship and the church. Why? Because the word “performance” is often translated into something that is inauthentic or lacking integrity. We think of performance as something that is made up or acted out in public but does not necessarily relate to our private lives. But this way of thinking when applied to a performance art like music is problematic. To make music or to deliver a speech, for that matter, requires some kind of grade-able performance.

Starving Musicians

The number of professional jobs available for musicians underscores the common phrase of “starving musician.” The American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the largest musician union group in America, claim that only 15% of their 45,000 members have steady employment. Of the 35,000 records produced professionally in the United States, less than 200 will sell more than 50,000 units. In other words, there are very few very rich musicians.

We are a country of people that create our social identities around musical style; we will pay $400 for a U2 ticket and 36.4 million people watched Taylor Hicks become the 5th American Idol. Only the Superbowl and the Academy Awards garner bigger viewing audiences. America loves excellence in music and performance.

What Is “Excellence” In Musical Performance

Now admittedly what is “excellent” is very subjective; the criteria is based on the personal taste of the participant or observer. Those who watch American Idol (and many of us do) have their own favorite judge. The discourse they create among each other helps give us the language to express what we feel about the performance, as well. Our need is to generate some kind of rational truth about the phenomena that we just experienced, and in order to do that, we need language. In other words, the work of the judges is just as much a performance as that of the talent.

Fortunately, this is not a public process that those responsible for the music in worship have to endure. Why? Because our use of music, or any media art for that matter, in worship goes far beyond “mere performance.” There is a major difference between an idol and an icon. An idol brings attention to itself. The icon points to God. The goal of our music is to relate people to God. If it does that, it is excellent, if not, it’s not.

Love of Music and Passion for God

There is a wide and diverse readership at Worship Leader magazine, and, therefore, a very diverse number of Christian communities with an amazing variety of faith histories shaped by different styles of music and forms of making music. But all have one thing in common. The common thread is a love for music and a passion for God. It is our focus on God that generates more than, merely, an excellent performance. It is true worship as we consider God’s grace and find, as the Psalmist wrote,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” Psalm 30:11-31:1 (NIV).

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  • Worship should be pure all is the new Christian music is beautiful fun gets you dancing .. there is no such thing as a bad Worship Song as long as in our hearts we lift God up in our praises .. and with Danny gokey tauren Wells Jordan Feliz has one of the best Christian hip hop songs there is my little brother fell in love with the music and he worships and listens to it all the time and so do a handful of all my friends and they love it and it ministers to them any of the gives you a boost I Zumba to it … And even Christian Rock Christian country Christian rap anything to attract people to God anything to get them through the door anything to introduce them to Christ that’s the goal right just sayn for my people to love the music says a lot all Christian music is awesome

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