Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Traditional, Contemporary, or Blended? Part 2

Today, I want to explain why I find the blended approach to a worship service the wisest, and I believe, most Biblical pattern for corporate worship. Before I dive into that, let me say a quick word about musical tastes.

I find that the typical objection to music used in worship is simply a matter of taste. In the worst case, the offending 'style' is thought to be detrimental, perhaps even evil, in its essence. In the best case, it is merely considered an annoying distraction. The first objection is patently absurd except in the case of 'discordant' music. The second, I hope to point out, is a selfish reaction that can be turned to a fuller worship experience if we are wise.

I am personally convinced that every music style is a 'tradition,' even contemporary praise and worship music. It is a tradition in the sense that it is what one is familiar with and it is the musical 'habit' one has developed via the radio, purchased CD's, or etc. For example, you may purchase a CD because you enjoy one or two songs on the CD. At first, these may be the only two you enjoy. However, after a period of consistent listening, you find that you are coming to appreciate, if not downright enjoy, some of the other selections that you once skipped. The reason for that is repetition and a growing like for a particular artist's style. Or, you may have come to appreciate an aspect of the song that you previously overlooked in your haste to get to your favorite song. This is why, in my opinion, many are 'hooked' on contemporary, Southern Gospel, traditional, or etc. It is simply all they have listened to in the context of personal worship.

To give a personal illustration, I freely confess to a period of country music obsession. I moved from pop/rock straight to "Boot, Scoot, Boogey." All the buttons on the radio were reset. My Poison/Warrant bumper sticker was replaced by Clint Black. I cannot pinpoint exactly how this happened, but it did, and through consistent listening to country music, I developed a taste for it. From there, I moved to the Blues. This happened via an accidental encounter with Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" performance. That CD, by the way, is still considered by yours truly to be one of the most outstanding CD's of all time. Just so you know. Basically, I have moved all over the musical map at some point in time, and I have found that time spent in any genre makes that genre more personally appealing. Hopefully, you will have found that to be true with your own tastes as well.

So why do we get aggravated when our local church sings contemporary songs when we like traditional or vice versa. I believe it is due to immaturity and a wrong-headed view of corporate worship. What the average church goer wants in corporate worship is what they experience on their commute to work. We become trapped into thinking that the way we worship individually should be exactly how we worship corporately. I submit to you that if your worship experience in your church gathering is basically the same as your corporate worship experience, then you are probably missing out on the corporate aspect of worship. They are, by design, supposed to offer differing experiences of the greatness of God. After all, if corporate worship is the same as private worship, why would we be called to gather together to worship God?

Part of the thrill of corporate worship is seeing and hearing others worship the risen Lord. Sometimes, that may mean seeing and hearing them worship to a different tune or in a different way than we are disposed to do it. For example, how many parents have worshipped the Lord through their little ones singing, "Jesus Loves the Little Children"? They are grateful that their children are learning the truths of God's Word, and they delight to hear them sing God's praise. Would they really want that sort of style for Sunday morning worship? Do they sing that in the car on the way to work? Or are they altogether enjoying watching and hearing and seeing someone else praise the Lord to a song that is not their first choice?

This brings me to how we can turn aggravation to a fuller corporate worship experience. Instead of being dismayed that a particular, perhaps unfamiliar, style or song is being used, why not watch and listen others. We can, and I believe that we should, enjoy that they are enjoying God. What is more fun at Christmas, opening your own present or seeing the delight of others as they open theirs? Both are great, aren't they? Can worship be the same? Why can we not worship and glorify God because others are worshipping and glorifying God? A good dad may not even bring his own fishing rod when he goes fishing with his son. Why is that? Does he not like to catch fish? Or is it simply that he finds more satisfaction in seeing his child catch one than catching one himself? In corporate worship, we have the opportunity to both personally praise God and to enjoy others praising our God. Perhaps some of us might worship more fully if we occasionally quit singing and started listening.

All this and I still haven't gotten to my main point. I'll work on it tomorrow.


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brad, I am actually writing a little post on this issue (will be out Sunday or so) too. I agree with your comments overall. To me the issue is content - whether in hymns or contemporary tunes.
BTW, when are we getting together?

Brad Williams said...


I look forward to reading your thoughts. As for getting together, I say we do it ASAP.:) Email me at hespeaks at Yahoo dot com with your phone number and I'l give you a call. I'll be in Huntsville Monday, I believe.