By Phil Nitz
Imagine that it’s Christmas Eve. You and your family have just finished watching your favorite Christmas movie, donned your festive pj’s, hung your stockings, and shaken all of your presents one last time to venture a guess as to what’s inside. And now, before the children go to sleep, it’s time to read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. You read these familiar passages as your family listens intently. You begin to recall all those childlike images you’ve painted in your head since your Sunday School days. And now it’s the part of the story where the shepherds are keeping watch over their flocks by night…
“And lo, there appeared in the night sky a bearded man in his late twenties with a guitar and thick-rim glasses, and he said unto them, ‘Hey guys, this is a new one – sing along if you know it!’”
And suddenly with him was a man playing a djembe, a bass player, and his wife, who is a pretty good singer.
They sang songs of praise for about 20 minutes, and the younger shepherds really enjoyed it because of how fresh it sounded, and the older shepherds were very confused.”
As you already know, this is not what Luke actually wrote. The real events were much more special, much more otherworldly, and much more impactful on these lowly shepherds. These men were moved by the words of a heavenly choir – a message delivered with the power of a “multitude” of angelic voices, and they quickly went to Bethlehem to see the newborn king.
Now let me pause for a moment and assure you that I am not against the modern worship movement nor am I against praise teams, guitars, or guys with beards. I actually identify very closely with the man I described above (minus the thick rimmmed glasses – God decided to give me great eyesight). Music is a beautiful medium of worship, and we should always be thankful for the people who put the time and energy into preparing and leading our times of corporate worship.
However, it is important to notice the cultural shift that is occurring in many churches today. The scenery is changing, and many traditions that have been held by Christians for hundreds of years have all but disappeared. Our sanctuaries look less like sacred spaces set aside for encounters with God and more like black box theaters or the set of American Idol. Metal scaffolding has replaced the arched columns, simple music stands have replaced lecterns, and the guitar-driven praise team has replaced the choir.
All across the country, schools are cutting music programs entirely, and the modern church is following suit by watering down its music and worship programs because the “choir thing” isn’t relevant anymore. However, for those of us who are crusading to recover, maintain, or restore the time-honored traditions of the Church, the choir is an essential part of the service.
Among the many reasons the choir is vital to the life of any church, consider these three:
About the author:
Phil Nitz serves as Staff Arranger and Worship Leader at Christ Church Nashville. Upon earning his Master’s Degree in Church Music from Lee University, Phil began his career in Nashville in 2013 and is quickly becoming a sought-after arranger, orchestrator, and vocalist. Though he is well-acquainted with many varying styles, both vocal and instrumental, Phil feels most at home leading worship with his guitar in hand or directing the Christ Church Choir.