Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.
One thing that God has been teaching me recently is to get along with other well-intentioned people whose opinions differ from mine. Take Mark Driscoll, for example. I mean, honestly, the guy has said enough offensive things that I can’t imagine ever having a desire to attend a Mars Hill–related church or event.
But having never attended Mars Hill, I’ve begun to realize that I know very little about the church itself. Sure, I’ve read the shady rumors about strange discipleship problems—but if I’m honest, I really have very little upon which to base my negativity. I have made divisive determinations in my mind without even an attempt to find common ground.
And now I am faced with the announcement of Mars Hill Music, a record label being launched by the church that will release records from the church’s many worship bands.
I was extremely skeptical when I heard this. My skepticism grew to cynicism once I watched the announcement video and heard Driscoll talk about the new record label as an entity that was going to save Christian music from its devilish path toward femininity. Even worse, the director of the whole thing was a former guitarist in Christian metal band Demon Hunter. The last thing the Church needed was some insider from the Tooth & Nail world thinking he could save the inevitable sinking ship that was CCM! Figuring that this would be perfect material to scathe at in my Music at Mars Hill column, I went ahead and checked out some of the music.
What I found was a diverse set of styles and songs that felt both relevant and totally appropriate to sing on Sunday mornings. Bands like The Sing Team take on the folk pop style of Sufjan Stevens singalongs, while bands like Ghost Ship have a mature indie rock sound that feels like a perfect hybrid of John Mark McMillan combined with a more standard worship sound. You can listen for yourself to decide, but after hearing the music, I am actually quite excited for the future of Mars Hills Music. While I still don’t know how I feel about the entity being so directly connected to the church itself, I can’t help but think that a lot of what comes from the project will be a huge blessing to the Church.
A friend of mine posted a blog entry from the worship director at New Spring Church a few weeks ago. The article was titled: “Your Dream Sucks.” It detailed with great precision all the emotions and misled desires of just about anyone who has ever led worship at a church. It hit me like a bag of bricks. One line in particular stuck out to me: “I even hate the lack of artistry in worship music until I try to write worship music and realize how hard it is.”
Having personally gone through this exact phenomenon in my own life, I can readily concur by saying that writing good worship music is extremely difficult. In my experience, it’s much harder than writing other kinds of music. As part of the royal priesthood that is the Church, we are called to sum up the praises of creation to God. I can’t think of a more direct way this happens than when people write songs for the Church to sing. People who write music and sing it at their church are taking the huge responsibility of summing up the praises of creation to our God into their hands and guitars—it’s a big job.
If you’ve followed this column, you’ll know that I’ve touched on the issue of Christian worship music quite a bit. The Church and pop culture have a revolving door relationship. If you check out the past 100 years of church music, you’ll see how gospel, soul, rock, CCM, R&B, and pop all have influenced each other in pretty significant ways. That’s what it means to be in this world, but not of this world. The revolving door is what this column has always been about and as much as I’d like to deny it, Mars Hill Music seems to embody that idea pretty fully as well.
I still am not into the idea of attending Mars Hill any time soon. However, not only do I feel good about the idea behind Mars Hill Music, but the project has also been a good reminder that we are on the same side. We are all a part of the same Body. The same Church. The same mission.