As I begin 2010, I look back to see how God has brought me to where I am now. I always enjoy telling the story of how I initially began producing electronic worship music. The beginning was when I obeyed God somewhat begrudgingly and relocated to Helsinki, Finland for a year. After being there only two weeks I saw God’s purpose in this relocation when I was asked to produce a record for a Christian singing group that wanted to make a record that sounded like the music they were hearing in the dance clubs of Europe and Scandinavia. Their intent was to bring their music into the clubs and reach out in ministry. They subsequently locked me in a small room where I began my indoctrination to electronic worship music with a bunch of keyboards and synthesizers. The album that we produced eventually helped to launch the Club DreamLab record label several years later. It was our first release, entitled fittingly (considering the intent of the group), Club Revival.
What is electronic worship music (or “worship electronica” – a phrase by Eric Nordhoff, a partner at Club DreamLab)? It is any type of worship music or music for the church that is produced under the Electronic genre. There are several sub-categories under the Electronic genre: Trance, Club, House, Drum and Bass, Ambient, Techno, etc. Beats and sounds that are primarily generated using electronic keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines identify this genre. Typically there is not a real drummer, bass player, or acoustic/electric guitarist present at the creation of these productions.
People are accustomed to having a live a band on the church stage each Sunday morning to lead worship singing. Imagine, not too long ago the thought of a “rock” band leading the singing a church would have seemed, at the very least, unnerving and, at the very worst, sacrilegious. I like to think that electronic music is on the same path. I mean, what is that guy doing up there turning all those knobs, and what is with the flashing lights and the big driving kick drum?! Oh, and on top of all that, I guess we are supposed to join in some form of communal dance.
Sometimes I wonder why God chose me to be the guy crazy enough to be on stage trying to break in and encourage a new movement in worship music. I’m not sure I want to swim upstream when it’s so much easier to go with the flow. Imagine the confusion at some of the first meetings Eric and I had with industry folks – trying to explain our vision of people worshiping God to electronic music. For sure, we had a lot of explaining to do to try to bridge the gap and create a confidence that this music was viable. Well, I guess I just answered my own question. I guess I am crazy enough to believe that God wants to do something new, fresh, and way out of the box. I believe He wants to do it in your church and with your youth.
The electronic instruments that are now readily available are contributing greatly to the popularity and exposure of current electronic music. The days of having to feel like a mad scientist dealing with intimidating chord progressions, buttons, and bulky synthesizers are long gone. Actually, you may be surprised to learn that most new synthesizers reside only on your computer, so all you need is mouse and a MIDI keyboard controller. Who would have thought ten years ago that every new Mac computer would now come with a virtual recording studio on it – a program called GarageBand? These new technologies are here to stay and will only encourage more young people to have their hand at music production in the electronic genre. Let’s not forget that these young people will need outlets for their creations. I have seen an incredible increase in the number of young aspiring DJ’s and electronic artists doing “remixes” of their favorite worship songs as well as writing and producing their own compositions. This is extremely encouraging for the future of the genre – a future that’s bright!
I’m a big believer in a diversity of expression in the church. God is honored and worshiped in so many different ways. He only asks that we worship Him in spirit and in truth. Jesus didn’t dictate what body position, time of day, or genre of music should be employed in worship. He didn’t tell us whether or not we should stand still, sit, raise our hands, bow our heads, sing in a choir, or hum quietly. God doesn’t impose Himself upon us in that way. We are encouraged to be sincere in our worship. I love how He gives us this freedom of expression. And, just as diverse as all His children are, their expressions of worship will vary just as much.
One of the greatest thrills for me last year was when I was spinning an electronic worship music set at a large Christian festival. I looked out and saw hundreds of young people dancing and moving in a celebration of worshipping God – who gave them the legs, bodies, arms, and freedom to do so. It was all done with the purest of intentions. This absolutely brought me full circle in seeing the hand of God in my life personally. How, through my tentative obedience, He brought me from a little room in Helsinki to a big stage in America to lead thousands of His children in the newest form and expression of worship on the planet!
We are His creation. He is pleased when we worship Him with all our hearts, minds, and bodies. Plus, it’s good exercise. Hope to see you out on the dance floor very soon!
In His peace and love,