My local church is working through a debate about worshiping. I should qualify that because while we call our entire morning service “the worship service” (which entails singing, giving, and preaching), we’re pretty much just debating the singing part. It amazes me that people will get so worked up about differences in opinions about singing styles. Please understand that I don’t say that condescendingly, because I have strong feelings about it myself. The operative word, of course, being “feelings”.
I spent the first eight years at my church experiencing worship in song with one leader, one pianist, and everyone holding a hymnal, and I loved it. “The Solid Rock“, “Grace Greater Than Our Sin“, “The Love of God“, and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” are all ingrained in my soul and their words have helped me commune with God throughout my life. Seven or so years ago, our assistant pastor (you may know him) took over the music ministry and instilled much needed focus and purpose. All that was lost on me except that I noticed now we had words projected on the wall and we sang a lot more so-called “praise songs”.
I didn’t like it.
I liked my hymns and I had heard horror stories of churches turning into concert venues. But the silly thing was that I knew I had no justifiable reason to be upset or worried. The new songs we were singing were doctrinally sound, many of which I sang with vigor by myself listening to the car radio. Understanding that I was just holding on to temporal preferences, I went along with the new format and gave Ryan a chance to work out his ministry. Eventually we added an acoustic guitar, two accompanying singers standing off to the side (that’s important), and for a while we had an electric bass.
Now all these years later, I love the way it is. In addition to the great hymns, I have “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us“, “In Christ Alone“, and “Blessed Be Your Name” which also help me praise and connect with my Creator. I serve in the music ministry, and I enjoy the blended attitudes of duty and relaxation that our team carries. I have to say I love hearing God’s people sing. But more change is around the corner.
Our church is now at the threshold of a transition that will more than likely result in a change of the format of our worship in song. Same great teaching, same focus on God and his will, but nonetheless a likely change in singing style. There will be new people (in addition to the old), an electric guitar, a drum set, and some new peppier music I’ve never heard before.
I don’t like it.
I find myself feeling the exact same apprehension I felt at the last transition. I know in my mind that there is nothing intrinsically evil about drums, electric guitars, or clapping during songs. I know different cultures around the world worship in a myriad of styles. But that doesn’t console the feeling in my gut that I’m going to lose something I hold dear. Which is why this transition will probably help me grow a little bit.
I have developed in my mind a model for God-honoring worship that is based on rhythm, meter, volume, and familiarity. It should be based on heart, attitude, and desire. When I read “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”, I see a call to put nothing, not even family relationships, above our devotion to Christ. How much more so our musical preferences? This is hard for me to come to grips with, because the songs and format of our church’s worship are like a comforting blanket to me. I don’t want to give it up, but I recognize that the comfort I find in it is devotion that I could better direct heavenward. He must increase, but I must decrease.
So I keep looking back to my experience with the last transition. I trust my leadership to guide us faithfully. I trust the people of our worship team to keep a heart to glorify God in our worship and serve the body. I trust the new members I have yet to meet that as brothers and sisters in Christ, they should have that same heart. Both the old and the new will minister to the others weaknesses with their strengths, and in so doing God will be glorified. The body of Christ, functioning as God designed. It is my prayer that the rest of the body can see this change as an opportunity and not as an obstacle, but I trust them to weather the transition. Most of all, I trust God that He knows what He is doing, and that He has a purpose in all this to further sanctify our local church, and to bring more lost souls to salvation.
As for me, I’m sure that I will eventually get used to whatever the new format becomes and love it… just in time for God to change something else.