There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't.
While Providence Church was meeting on Saturday nights at Murphy Road Baptist Church while awaiting the availability of our lease space, we were free to visit other churches on Sunday mornings. One of those mornings we took the family to worship with our friends at MRBC.
Mary Ellen and I attended the 9:45AM blended service while the kiddos were in Sunday school, but then had them in with us for the 11AM Church Contemporary service.
When we were leaving, Sarah (7) commented on the music at the 11AM service: "Daddy, can we do our music at Providence more funky like that and not so graceful?"
She really dug it and I enjoyed it as well, but I thought her descriptions were priceless. Surely there's a sermon illustration in there somewhere.
I told her we might try to funk it up some, but that many of our folks probably preferred it not so funky.
Naturally, this got me thinking about the whole issue of worship "styles" and preferences. For the most part, I think a great deal of debate on these issues comes down to preferences. Don't get me wrong, worship is to be in spirit and in truth and doctrine is huge in what we sing.
But, while I enjoy singing And Can It Be? in a very traditional sort of way with our orchestra fully in bloom, I wonder if others would prefer that same song "funked" up some.
I think sometimes we need a deep song with rich theology as our trinitarian God is magnified in all His splendor. Yet, there may be a place for a simple message to be profoundly dwelled upon with repetition. I think of those in the Lord's presence who say that the Lord is "holy, holy, holy," but yet we know that's not a 7-11 song (seven words you sing eleven times). That's often the beauty of a chorus of some of the more well known hymns.
By nature, I'm prone to be overly critical when it comes to music used in the worship of our Lord, but sometimes I wonder if I let my preferences ooze just a bit to where I don't realize that my bias is more preference driven than theologically so.
Our worship should be done before an audience of One. Thus, the most important question has to do with His worship style and what He likes. Yet, at the same time, there's nothing virtuous in not enjoying worship.
If worship is to be most pleasing to Him, it should reflect our enjoyment of it and, consequently, Him. To quote John Piper, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."
It did my heart good to see my oldest enjoying worshiping via music that was more funky, as there was nothing suspect theologically. Music doesn't have to be old to be good, nor does it have to become bad once it's twenty years old. Just because you've never sang it before doesn't means it's bad. Every song you like to sing was at one time or another a song you had never sang before. Just because folks have been singing it for generations doesn't mean it's worthy to be sung in worship.
Much of what is written under the umbrella of Christian music today is going to fall by the wayside. There are far fewer "hits" than misses, but this is nothing new. Most hymn writers wrote tons of stuff, with typically only one or two making into our hymnals. The good stuff will last, the fluff will fade away.
Hey, if it's good, which means that God is exalted and we are encouraged on to greater love and obedience, then sing it, whether its more "graceful" or more on the "funky" side.
Sometimes there can be a great divide among people based on their music preferences in worship, similar to the great divide over how people feel about Neil Diamond.
In the words of the 90s theologian Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?!"
Let's not let worship preferences hinder our unity in Christ. Evaluate, discern, and sing with joy as we extol the greatness of our God in Christian worship.