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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Tyranny of Theme Part 1

I see it every week. On Twitter. On Facebook. On various network loops I belong to.

The quest for the perfect “feature” or “special” song to use on a Sunday.

Typical scenario:

1) Someone decides upon a theme.
2) A team brainstorms what movie clip/music they can use to support said theme
3) Some songs make the cut and then the music person asks their network for ideas

Maybe there is a missions conference happening. So, the senior pastor puts it out to his “creative team” to find the most pertinent—ahem, most obvious—“mission” songs.

Typical Tweet: “Looking for a killer energetic opener for the missions conference. Last year we did “Takin’ it to the Streets.” Ideas?”

God forbid the theme is something like Ananias and Sapphira to send the poor music person on a quest for a song about an untimely death.

I’m having fun, but I think it is time for us to retool.

Food for thought . . .

Are we willing to let the song stand on its own? I seldom give a song a setup or explain away all the mystery. I want it to speak for itself. Art is dialogue.

Yet, in our theme-heavy church services, we take away the guesswork for people. The most fun and effective part.

Sometimes, usually because a pastor can’t live with tension or doesn’t want people to get the “wrong idea”, someone will give away the whole punch line of a song before it begins. Example: “This is a song about how we need to get along and stop bickering. It is a sad song about how a person is hurt by words. It is a great story about a dad and his daughter. Listen to the words. Ask how you use words. Do you need to change?” And one and two and three and four and . . .

Boring. No adventure. No discovery.

One of the things I love about watching LOST is the conversation that happens outside of the program. The endless search for deeper meaning. Clues. Suspense. Metaphor.

ABC did something with their new series, “FlashForward” after week one that made me furious. At the commercial breaks, the commentator gave us hints as to the clues. He would say, “did you catch that name? Could be important!” Or, “Did you see the kangaroo? That probably means something.”

I almost stopped watching. I’m not an idiot. Don’t dumb it down for me.

I wonder if we sometimes do that with our “creative” process. “Hey, everyone . . . here are the clues. Here is what to listen for. This is the theme for the day. Get it? Get it?”

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