Most of us are familiar with the late nineteenth century English painting, His Master’s Voice. It featured Nipper, a fox terrier, starring into a phonograph and listening to a recording of his recently deceased owner. In the early 1900’s a revision of this painting became the trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company. A consumer who was looking for a quality gramophone was told to “look for the dog”. As Americas made audio recording and playback a part of everyday life, it is doubtful they knew the reverberations of this sound breaking technology would be felt by the Church a hundred years later.
Within a decade the gramophone was replaced by the recording disc, but Nipper helped push forth this new media with the same excellence. Everyone wanted a record player – that is, until the late 1950’s when the magnetic tape industry hit the market. Two major developments in the tape industry were the 1964 cassette tape and the 1970’s Sony Walkman. In the 50’s nearly every family had music playing in their living room, while in the 70’s the ears of many Americans here hidden by headphones. As times changed, the 90’s introduced the CD – a compact version of its larger vinyl cousin, and the turn of the 21st century gave way to the MP3 player. The 2001 Apple iPod would enable listeners to have hundreds of songs literally in the palm of their hand.
I love technology but it seems that the church is as mesmerized with media entertainment as Nipper is his master’s voice. Unfortunately, the rapid progression of music and media has greatly affected the church’s approach to worship – much of our worship is no longer active. After passive listening all week long and little attempt to ever make music, it stands to reason that Christians often want to be entertained while at church. As we interact with culture, we should not be guilty of allowing the conveniences of our world to dictate how we approach God. I am reminded of verses like these from Psalm 66 that command us to “make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honor of his name: make his praise glorious. O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard.” These verses leave no room for passivity. As church leaders let’s be sure that the media we employ in our corporate worship promotes active praise unto God.