American Idol is a very successful television program based on its search for the next big name in entertainment. Its success is predicated on two things: 1) we love to see new talent discovered, and 2) we love to judge performances. Even if we have no musical ability or background, we still have an opinion whether someone has “it.” This same propensity to critique carries over into church life. After every service we talk about whether or not we liked the music. I am curious about what basis we use for this. On American Idol the criterion is clear: will they sell albums? But what is the criterion we should use to evaluate church music? Is it whether it speaks to us? Is it the excellence with which it is done? Does it need to come from a particular genre? Or is it just a general feel of whether we like it or not? This is a fairly important topic since people join and leave churches because of its music, among other things.
Psalm 100 has a well-known phrase that says, “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” It boils down our criterion to one thing: are the noises we make joyful? They do not have to be classical noises or contemporary noises, organ noises or guitar noises. They just need to be joyful. The next time someone asks what genre of music we have at our church, I am going to say “joyful.” It gives space for a variety of musical expression while emphasizing what is most important.