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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
On Cellular RingTones and the Commodification of Worship??
Have you noticed the latest ring-tone offerings for your cellular phones? Well maybe it's not the latest offering-- but it's the latest i've actually noticed: Worship Songs. You can get short renditions of popular worship songs now for your ringtone-- at a cost.

On the one hand you can get the marvelous tones of "Juicy" by Pretty Ricky or for $2.49, your phone can ring to the tone of Mercy Me's "I can only imagine."

When I first saw worship songs among the ring tone offerings of my cell phone service I must admit, I cringed. I immediately went into my self-righteous, angry, indignant prophet channeling mode. After all, this takes "pimping the merch" to a whole new low. It's one thing for CCM "Contemporary Christian Music" to work the retail racks, but come on, to commodify worship is another thing entirely. On I could go. . . . . and have.

But then I began to consider another angle. Shouldn't Chris Tomlin be an alternative to Ludicrous for my cell phone ring tone? I mean, what does music do? Precisely. More than we will ever know. As the legendary country singer, Clint Black, once sang in "State of Mind,"

"Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory,
take you to another place in time
completely change your state of mind."

Music has the power to "completely change your state of mind," because music freights memory. Like no other medium, music dials us into the story-line of our life and more deeply immerses us in the plot. And as stories go, there is a virtual tournament of narratives out there. And though we know that "our story" wins in the end, it should be clear to us, at least in this culture, that our story is not presently winning.

Maybe it's because our music isn't making it to the streets. Maybe our music is too locked up in the sanctuary.

If I'm reading Deuteronomy 6 rightly, the proper effect of worship is to order all of life as an inescapable cathedral constantly reminding us of the glorious goodness of God.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In this spirit, might we fairly say, "Get them as ring-tones on your cellular phones?"

If the ever-present ringing of my cell phone can serve the Story of God by restoring my "state of mind," then why not? If we are going to cultivate the "same mind in us as was in Christ Jesus" (see Philippians 2) it's going to require a bit more mind-full-ness in us. . . . . . more creativity and innovation as worship leaders and designers to worship God in the seamless-ness between sanctuary and streets.
posted by John David Walt | at 1/23/2007 09:37:00 AM



Blogger gmw said...

Agreed, if you're into ringtones--why not. Not much different that buying CDs or music from iTunes for you car or personal player.

But this is related to another phenomenon that annoys me that is a the commodification of worship: "worship concerts." Seems to me that authentic worship intrinsically does not involve buying a ticket to an event. No matter how good the musicians are, this is still selling an experience and is a form of entertainment, not actual worship.

2:42 PM EST  
Anonymous Jamey Lee said...

I agree IF the ringtone centers you and brings your heart, mind, and soul back to God. But would it after the 3rd time your phone rings? My self-righteous, indignant, prophetic thoughts are that if everybody begins putting Tomlin and Crowder etc. as their ringtones it will become part of the noise instead of an alternative to the noise. Let us seek refuge in His sanctuary so that we can come out refreshed and alive to live in the world but not of the world. Can I get an amen?

4:05 PM EST  
Blogger Marcus G said...

Question: would the ringtone take your mind and heart back to the sanctuary, or when in the sanctuary would the song take you back to the ringtone?

The problem with the Deuteronomy ordinance is that the legalism of it can prevent or release the Spirit. But which one does it do for you? For me?

And if my phone rings out "How Great is our God" or "Forever" or "Beautiful One" or whatever, my worry is that before long when that song starts in worship I start to think of the phone call I need to make or return or avoid instead of the Lord I need to fall before and worship.

Maybe my mind and heart are too fragile here; maybe the risk is one I think I am going to pass on. I have enough things that crowd into my head when I want to worship without giving the culture a whole new way in! And am I risking missing something good? Maybe. So you have your ringtone, I'll pass, we'll love each other anyway, St Paul would be proud of us both - leastways if you remember to turn off your phone before the worship service starts...

5:32 PM EST  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

just for the record, i dont have a ringtone. :-)

6:05 PM EST  
Anonymous chad said...

This is my issue,

You know the person who lets their phone ring forever while they are trying to find it, or has the volume JACKED up and gets calls all the time? Most of the time when you see them in a public place they are already getting on your nerves, talking loudly into the phone, or just being loud in general.

Now what if the ringtone that you hear played for around 30 seconds while the person digs for their phone just happens to have one of these "Jesus" ringtones? To me, I am scared that it will be yet another thing that sends out an idea that Christians are an annoying, out of step, sub-culture in society.

Anyway, ringtones get on my nerves, I go for the vibrate...

I quote my favorite comedy/rap group "Futuro Boots"

"I keep it on vibrate, with the ring, ring, ring

It gets more ladies than the bling, bling, bling"

1:24 AM EST  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

nice one chad. love the lyric-- but prefer the bling myself. ;-)

11:09 AM EST  
Blogger eli said...

i never think its good when worship music becomes a tool for competition in culture. a tool for wooing the culture, but not to compete for air time. at that point it is simply topical music, not worship music.

9:39 PM EST  
Blogger Matt Purmort said...

OK overall, I don't think ringtones will make or break the worship wars however, could be an interesting parable of the church. We can now take worship wherever WE GO. Rather than worship making us FOLLOW HIM where HE goes.

10:07 PM EST  
Blogger DGH said...

I have had Jars of Clay and Bebo on my phone for a long time...of course it is on there with Darth Vader's march and Braveheart, but not too bad right? heh.

10:06 AM EST  
Blogger jtveillon said...

I apologize in advance, because I am sure that you get this all the time, and this probably isn't the right forum for such a request, but none the less. I was curious, if possible, that you would be able to dialogue, through e-mail or blog (whatever is easiest), about worship. I am in New Orleans, LA and in the beginning stages of a church plant. I have a desire, passion to know God, not to know about God. I strongly believe that conversation and discussion is key in getting to know God. I am not asking for a discipleship or mentorship, just a simple dialogue back and forth on the subject of Worship. I heard you speak at Passion and was challenged and intrigued by your class. Thanks you Father for the Spirit you have poured into us to speak your word. Thanks for the consideration. My blog is nolaworhsip.blogger.com. Thanks (Josh)

9:09 AM EST  
Anonymous JP said...

Ringtones are all about differentiating your phone (and you)from everybody else..because "it's all about You" to quote a recent praise song.
That being said, who knows what effect a "praisetone" might have if others heard it on your phone. While it may personally annoy us, it might get everyone in the room to consider God, when before they wouldn't have (if if the consideration is negative, that's not necessarily bad, is it?).

Chad, I'm with you on the vibrate mode...it's less annoying, but I gotta agree with JD, the bling is the thing!

2:50 PM EST  

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