Friday, September 01, 2006

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.

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At 01 September, 2006 09:46, Blogger C. T. Lillies said...

Is it possible to worship God in a way that pleases him and still, er, "funk" it up a little?

In other words, can what we have been calling "contemporary worship" be pleasing to God at all? Is it worship at all?

Much Grace

At 01 September, 2006 15:25, Blogger Rev. said...

In my estimation, many people who argue for employing the "regulative principle" and shy away from using contemporary music do so not for purely theological reasons, but for reasons of preference. They like all of their theology and all of their books and all of their music to be from the 17th-18th centuries. While that was a great period, such an outlook denies the work of the Holy Spirit in subsequent generations (including our own).

Sounds like MRBC is a large church. I always worry when I'm in a large church. I mean, what if I'm looking for a bathroom, I can't find one... and my bladder explodes?

At 01 September, 2006 15:35, Blogger GUNNY said...

I think that's true, Rev. Of course, I tend to side with Luther with regard to the Regulative Principle.

I think it's admirable to want to minimize weirdness that may creep in, but there's so much that is done with RP warrant (e.g., announcements, creed recitation, responsive reading, passing a plate, etc.). I think we just have to deal with the awkwardness and ambiguity of evaluating each on its own merit as blanket policies may prove elusive if desiring firm exegetical guidelines.

In reality, there's not a great deal of explicit instruction with regard to the standard service for the ekklesia (not a cuss word or outflow of Tourette's syndrome, but the way ... plus, if I fake it, it means I don't have it).

At 01 September, 2006 18:45, Blogger Rev. said...

Tourette''s exceptionally rare. Like the regulative principle. Just for clarification: the regulative principle holds that whatever is prescribed by Scripture for worship is permissible. The Lutheran view - the normative principle - holds that whatever is not prohibited by Scripture is permissible for worship.

So, is "Death Therapy" permissible?

At 01 September, 2006 19:03, Blogger GUNNY said...

I'll be suing you for the rights if you print that Death Therapy up in a book.

But, I digress. Hey, it's the weekend. I'm on vacation ... from my problems!

At 05 September, 2006 12:58, Blogger GUNNY said...

Josh wrote: "In other words, can what we have been calling "contemporary worship" be pleasing to God at all? Is it worship at all?"

I think that's a question that needs to be asked, but perhaps the better for each church would be, "Can what we've been calling our worship be pleasing to God at all?" (pointedly asking of each particular church to dissect the good, the bad, and the ugly)

I think it may be more complex than the presence of a drum set or a person swaying while singing.

I think it may be more complex than opening a hymnal containing great theology.

If we are to love with all our heart, soul, mind & strength, it goes much deeper than the instruments and the words, though those are of absolute necessity.

I'm a critic by nature and have my personal bias, but can worship be equally pleasing to God with an organ vs. a piano vs. a guitar vs. the harp & lyre or while in jeans vs. a suit or jubiliant vs. somber, etc.

Me thinks most of those in the world of Christianity too quickly respond by embracing some things and rejecting others, while a more thorough examination may be needed.

At 05 September, 2006 22:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say bring on the funk! Here's my personal thought-
I find it rather odd that God would only appreciate anglo saxon/ european instruments/ style worship.
If we were going to "go back" to a certain style, why wouldn't it be a jewish style? Though the danger there is who can sit still when they hear that style of music? ;) Roni, roni, bat zion...
Regarding my personal taste- I love the old hymns. I even like singing the psalms. But I like other styles too. I also own a cd player, so am not confined by what is or isn't played in a church service. I think there are times when different songs can inspire different depths of worship.
by grace,

At 06 September, 2006 07:56, Blogger C. T. Lillies said...

My thought is that style matters less than content. We don't generally see harps and cymbals in the worship service like they used in the OT temple worship. But, guitars, pianos, organs and drum kits we got. That said, I can't tolerate these 'God or your girlfriend' songs or these empty, vague metal ballads--even if they sound cool.

I'd like to see what would happen in a worship service that used music that was full of doctrine and obviously pleasing to God done in an updated style.

Funk is fine as long as it doesn't get in the way.


At 06 September, 2006 12:11, Blogger GUNNY said...

"Funk is fine as long as it doesn't get in the way."

I second that motion. I might add the addendum as well that I'm skeptical of funk for funk's sake.

P.S. I too hate the "Jesus is my lover" songs where He's embracing me with love's first kiss and other tomfoolery as well as the whole "Jesus is my homeboy" weirdness.

(Okay, soap box is vacant again.)

At 19 September, 2006 11:26, Blogger C. T. Lillies said...

Posting Aye, it is.

If you've got about forty minutes listen to this chapel service on
The third commandment by Dr. Mohler at Southern Seminary. Man talk about convicting on so many fronts. And it just hits all the points and more...

May the Lord bless you richly


At 19 September, 2006 11:43, Blogger GUNNY said...

Thanks, Josh.

I look forward to getting a chance to listen to it.

At 29 January, 2007 13:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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