I Prefer Worship
I had the privilege of sitting through a "traditional" worship service today. What I mean by traditional is that we sang out of a hymnal and an organ and piano were the only instruments being played. Before the service began, the organ player was playing through some old hymns that I recognized from being brought up in Southern Baptist churches all my life. Since the room was full of hyper college students, I can't say for sure if anyone was enjoying listening to the organ as much as I was. The organ filled the entire room, and it was a pretty big room. If I had to guess, I would say that the building was built in the 1930's-40's, and in that time it would have been considered a mega-church, being in the middle of downtown Dallas. As I sat there and listened as this very skillful organ player was playing, I began to think about how different this was from "contemporary" 5 piece Chris Tomlin-like worship, which I would say is becoming the preferred thing.
The organ sounded amazing to me. It was as if the sound was all around me. It was full and majestic and beautiful. And the songs we sang were full of much more theology than I was used to singing. It captured different aspects of worship than usual. Even the sound of the organ sent a message of the greatness of God, the fullness of God, the majesty of God.
It seems to me that this type of music in a worship atmosphere is pretty unpopular amongst people my age, and I wish it wasn't. I do not mean that we should forsake "contemporary" worship, I mean that we should incorporate this into our worship. I put words like "contemporary" and "traditional" in quotes because I feel as though these are practically unnecessary because all styles of worship respond to the same God. There is not the new, cool God, and also the traditional, old-school God, depending on what worship service time you attend. It is the church's job, and more specifically a worship leaders job to display the greatness of God in our worship. The greatness of God cannot be fully portrayed on this side of glory, but we should strive to display it as best we can. Traditional worship is no better, nor any worse than contemporary, African, Chinese, art, or instrumental worship. All of these portray different dimensions of the greatness of God. An organ is much different than a flute. A guitar is much different than a drum. A hymn is different that a chorus. Perhaps it's all of these things combined, and then some, that could give us a greater portrayal of who the triune, all powerful, everlasting, majestic, graceful, merciful and loving God is. My point is that there is beauty and God in each setting. There is truth in worship with an organ and a hymn as well as worship with a guitar. The same God is being glorified whether we happen to enjoy the music or not, because the last thing worship is concerned about is whether or not the people enjoyed the music. Perhaps we can practice self denial and appreciation for our neighbors worship, even though it may not fit our fancy, by participating and glorifying God anyway because the fact that God deserves all our worship, regardless of style, never changes.
I was browsing through the job postings at my school earlier today and came across two that were asking for worship leaders. In the first one the description went as follows..."we are looking for someone who can take both of our worship services (contemporary and traditional) and combine them into one and make everybody happy." The second one had the title "Gen X Worship Leader." As opposed to a baby boomer worship leader? In that description it even specified "must lead with a guitar."
Here are some words from Marva Dawn in her book A Royal Waste of Time:
"There are many fights in churches these days over what kind of music to use, but I am convinced that most of those fights could be avoided if we faithfully reflect upon the questions given to us...Instead of asking what kind of music will appeal to the world around us, we must ask, What will enable us most deeply to dwell in God's Word? What will best express that Word? How will the Word's beauty and mystery, it's infinity and generosity be best conveyed?"
Worship is far beyond a matter of taste, and I fear that that is where the church is headed- to be more concerned about pleasing people rather than God, about drawing in the lost with "cool" music rather than drawing in the lost by loving our neighbor and denying ourselves to bring in the lost, and then displaying the greatness of our God through our worship. By giving them truth through our worship.