Thursday, November 21, 2002


One of the biggest movements in today's religious environment --particularly among evangelicals--is toward 'contemporary' worship, particularly in music. Some (many?) churches have multiple worship services in order to accomodate those who want a 'traditional' service and those who want something hipper. Ironically, folks have let corporate worship--meant to be something that unifies--become something that divides.

Barna Research has issued a new study on the worship wars. I think Barna hits the nail on the head when he says,

"Most of the church people who fight about their musical preference do so because they don't understand the relationship between music, communication, God and worship. Church leaders foster the problem by focusing on how to please people with music or how to offer enough styles of music to meet everyone's tastes rather dealing with the underlying issues of limited interest in, comprehension of, and investment in fervent worship of a holy, deserving God."

When worship boils down simply to people's tastes then we're missing the point. Ultimately worship is to be about what God wants to receive, not what we prefer to give. The account of Cain and Abel illustrates that perfectly. In our consumer environment everybody thinks they ought to have a choice in everything.

The church I attend only practices congregational a capella singing for our music. We do that because that's what we believe is authorized by God--that's what He wants us to do. My wife ran into a man who had visited with us for awhile and whose wife was now attending a more musically with-it church. He said our lack of musical instruments was really a barrier for others. We really ought to think about getting a piano or something.

Well, we won't. That's off the table as far as we're concerned. And it's not based on personal taste, but rather what we think God authorizes. That being said, there are some who think that if a hymn was written within the last 50 years (or 100!) it's suspect. While we need to make sure each hymn is Scripturally expressive in its teaching and praise, I don't know that there was anything particularly special about 19th Century hymn writing. Each generation is equally authorized to express themselves musically in keeping with Scriptural principles. There tends to be a feeling among some that the older the hymn the holier it must be (I think it tends to go along with the liking for lots of 'Thees' and 'Thous').

In the end, corporate worship is meant to be something that unites us under the authority of our Lord. And while it does matter what we get out of it (part of its purpose is to spiritually energize us), it matters a great deal more that God is pleased with what we do.

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