Thursday, April 24, 2008

Traditional, Contemporary, or Blended? Part 3

Finally! We can get to the theological part of why I believe a 'blended' service is a Biblically faithful service. The reason that I say "Biblically" or "theologically" faithful is because I get the feeling that most traditional churches go for a "blended" style just to throw a bone to the young folks. In other words, the switch is born out of pragmatism, not out of theological reflection. As food for thought, I want you to think of all the traditional churches you know who have tried to make a move to be more blended, for whatever motivation. Have you, on the other hand, ever heard of a contemporary church making a move towards a more traditional blend? (Failed conversions don't count!)

I want to center my thoughts on one main passage, and you can then judge for yourselves whether my conclusions have any merit. Paul taught this to the Ephesian church:

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

Do you see that Paul includes psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? That is, in my mind, a blanket statement including every sort of song there is. Notice also at the end of the section that all of this praising of God and singing is bound up under our mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here is where I poke the traditional crowd. I have often heard it said that most contemporary worship is simply irreverent. The usual offense is either the loudness of the music, the instruments used to make the music, or the exuberance observed in the worshippers participating in the contemporary service. Behold Psalm 150: 1, 3-6:

Praise the LORD!...Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!

If the guitar bothers you, then you only need look at this psalm. All stringed instruments are included, even commanded, to be used in the service of God's worship. (A lute is, after all, the forerunner of the modern guitar.) If drums bother you, behold the timbrel and cymbal! Ancient percussion was used in the worship of God, indeed, it is commanded. Further, the psalmist liked loud cymbals! And they danced! Dancing was commanded! So beware, beloved traditionalist, beware. There is no sense in trying to be more traditional than God's Word, and there is no sense in being less enthusiastic than we are commanded to be. It could be that, in part, the contemporary guy is right: You are sinfully uptight. Sinfully? Yes, sinfully. The Psalm commands the praise of the Lord in this manner, not always, but sometimes, and if you stifle that, you stifle genuine praise. Beware, lest you go the way of Mical who "looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart" because "David danced before the LORD with all his might" (2 Samuel 6: 16, 14). She thought his worship was shameful, but it was she who should have been ashamed.

If you really want to see variety, look no further than the Psalms. Do you hate 'repetitive' praise and worship songs? What do you do with Psalm 136 that repeats the line "His mercy endures forever" 26 times in 26 verses? Are the contemporary songs too short and fluffy? What of Psalm 117 that weighs in at a whopping two verses? Perhaps you find long hymns a drag? What of Psalm 119 that has 176 verses? Can you imaging a Worship Pastor saying, "Turn in your hymn books to Psalm 119, we will be singing all 176 verses."

I had planned on finishing this today, but I got busy. I'll finish up my thoughts on this tomorrow, if God wills. Suffice to say that if you are really anxious, just look up how many times we are commanded to sing a "new" song to the Lord. That should keep you busy for a bit.


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brad, did you happen to get my email?

Brad Williams said...

Actually, I didn't! Try thirstysoulmail at yahoodotcom.
I'll try to send you one.


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brad, I received your email and responded Sunday night. I assume you didn't receive it, so maybe you could email me your phone number and we can communicate that way. You must have some Albertville mail server huh?