27 November 2011

jubilant song

Today I read an article about the styles of music that is used in evangelical worship.  So, here we go again with the internal debates and wars over the mode instead of the message.  Normally, I would have rolled my eyes and declared that I have moved past such discussions . . . but I haven't.  To be more accurate, I haven't been allowed to leave all of this behind.

This morning our church gathered together for community worship, as is our custom.  As our worship leader was making his way to the stage he was confronted by one of our 'fussier' older men.  The message was simple, "The music is too damn loud!"  Although I was unaware of this until after most fo the congregation had dispersed for the day, I was somewhat aware of why the morning worship was not becoming more than the sum of its parts.

It is difficult to constantly face the internal opposition and would-be discouragement that is continually lobbed at those who have accepted the call to lead the church.  It is easy to stand on the sidelines, contribute nothing, and constantly offer criticism and pessimism in the house of God.  That is the failure of divinity to overcome our humanity, for the only force in all creation that can stop the Holy Spirit is the human heart.

There comes a point at which there is nothing more that can be said.  Of the many responses that could be offered to such a statement, none would serve to soften such a hardened heart.  Such statements can be disruptive, hurtful, and worse.  So perhaps the battles over music are going to continue, but not as they have been fought before.  For it is time for the church to move on and stop wasting time arguing over that which yields no fruit.  The simple fact of the matter is that no one is bound to a particular congregation, which means that you may feel free to come and go as you please.  But no Christ-follower should ever feel that it is his or her place to distract the congregation from the work of building the kingdom.

So much could be conveyed and avoided if God's people would do more to speak and act like Christians rather than church-gathering culture-ites.  The primary purpose of the assembly is to offer praise and worship to God.  There are many passages that declare that this should be loud and joyous, meditative and quiet, and any other expression that is fitting to bring as the best of who we are.  Scripture speaks of shouting, crying, strings, drums, horns and cymbals to express a new song fitting for a new life and a new creation.  I have yet to discover where old music is required, and the Bible never once mentioned an organ.

In my estimation, over 90% of planning and implementing worship is appropriateness, which means that various groups (and even individuals) are free to express in ways that are appropriate for them. I have been in churches where David Crowder would be wholly inappropriate, and others that would find no expression in even the greatest of ancient hymns.  And I am quite certain that God doesn't care about the mode of our expression, but rather the heart which offers it.  Just as he was not more into meat than he was into fruits and vegetables when he sent away Cain's offering with displeasure.

Mostly, I think that more people in our churches today simply need to have a personal encounter with the risen Christ.  He can change more than any of our own thoughts, rhythms or rants.

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