In today’s church I think you will find a common tension where transition is involved. As a culture (especially one with freedom of religion), we tend to hyper-personalize our worship experience. When I speak of worship in this context, I’m referring to praising God in song within a church service. If we are honest, most of our complaints are rooted in personal preference, not in righteous indignation.
“It’s too loud!” “Why is it so dark in here?” “Where did the piano go?” “Why aren’t we singing more hymns?!”
Something tells me we could hire Josh Groban to lead worship, and there would still be fault found with his performance.
The resistance to change may not be coming from a humble place of honoring Christ. It could very well originate from a place of entitlement to the traditions of an older church culture. Not older as in the age of a church member. Older as in a style that originated from a decade or more ago. It’s not holiness or the quality of our worship that’s being guarded here. It’s the attachment to sentimentality and familiarity.
However, this truth is often deflected with the insistence that moving forward and letting go of traditions, is somehow a move to disrespect or dishonor the past.
Sadly, what is not being acknowledged here is the disregard for our future.
Yes, you were there for the ‘good ole days’. But keep in mind that the good ole days are happening right now for a new generation. A generation with perhaps a different mindset on how we relate spiritually. They aren’t necessarily conservative. They may not cling to the propriety that was once a requirement in the church. They aren’t loitering within the walls of a holy building whenever the doors are open. They are loving people to God’s grace in unconventional ways. Love is not a noun, it is a verb. The church is not a place, it’s you and it’s me, wherever we are. This generation is not telling people about Jesus. They are being Jesus.
Is their way wrong…or just new?
Often times I’ll hear a generalization sung to the tune of,
“These kids and their technology…(insert condescending expression). We’re supposed to be in the world, not OF it. Harrumph!”
To clarify- ‘in the world’ is our location. Being ‘not of the world’ is our origination and ultimate destination. This scripture is meant to remind us why we are here, where we come from, and where we are going. If there is something that won’t please God, don’t do it. If there is a worldview that goes against the will of God, don’t adopt it. Take wine for instance. The Bible tells of Jesus turning water into wine to save the reputation of those throwing a wedding party. (John 2: 1-11) The Bible also says not to get drunk. (Galations 5: 19-21) It’s not a matter of what’s IN the world. It’s a matter of how we (not being of the world) choose to interact with it. Do we honor God and his commands, or the world and it’s indulgences?
But here’s the thing. If you are digging your feet in the sand when your church is boldly trying to move into a cultural norm that might appeal to the non-Christian community of 2019- you might be stunting the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven.
When we look different to the world, it will be because of the way we love one another.
Not because we refuse to accept the evolution of trends and technology. Unless there is a moral objection, it’s as innocent as women wearing pants instead of a dress to church. By clinging to the cyclical steps of your preferred service style, you are in fact planting your flag in the soil of your chosen kingdom. Earth.
Will you die on that hill?
Or will you be a timeless light of love for Christ?
Flexibility is the key here. We must put aside our preferences and allow our leaders to lead in the direction God is calling them. Your pastors are not villains of the faith when they nurture a transition for something more contemporary.
In fact, they are spiritual warriors trying to empower God’s hands and feet while also taking friendly fire! Is this how we love one another? They and your church staff need your support to succeed.
This may mean recognizing when you begin to gossip about a change that is not your ideal. These seemingly innocent expressions could be planting seeds for dissension among your church family. Instead, in that moment, challenge your heart to shift toward thankfulness. Maybe pick up a comment card and encourage the worship team who have been working hard to lead their brothers and sisters in praise.
This may mean that instead of focusing on how good things used to be, praise God that we get to be a part of more than our pocket in time of Kingdom growth.
Now we get to feed into younger brothers and sisters who might prefer a band over a choir. Who might prefer to put the hymnal down every now and then, close their eyes, and worship God with a current hit on the radio. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. I only ask that you allow room for things that might be out of your comfort zone.
As a result, we get to discover how nutritious it is for our souls to learn new songs! Simultaneously, we decrease the risk of our lips going through the motions of all too familiar lyrics.
If you look for the blessings, you will see and magnify them, encouraging one another in love. If you dwell on the differences, you will become a slave to them, embittered and blinded to what God is capable of doing with our new tools and styles.
Are you going to white knuckle the past? Or will you choose to be one in spirit with your brothers and sisters here and now? Let’s not allow our preferences to become a distraction from our vital mission. After we have gathered together to sing praises to our God, then we must go out into the world to tell them WHY we do it. Otherwise, we are withholding the reason Heaven itself rejoices!
In Luke 15:7 it says “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Our salvation is secure! Let’s do what we can to rescue others. Even if that involves a change in musical style.
Frankly, this tension over music in the church is nothing new. Ed Stetzer writes an enlightening article in Christianity Today titled, Church Music Conflicts, illustrating these push-backs as early as the 200’s! Don’t believe me? Check it out! There will always be a battle of the bands, so to speak. It is our task to not let those differences detract from our worship.