Pastor's Blog

By this all people will know that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”
                                                                                                                          -- Jesus Christ (John 13.35)

This verse provides an ideal – a leadership goal – from Jesus for pastors. 
I want to lead Christians to love one another. 
                Which means, at the very least, they’ve got to be able to get along with each other.
                Which means they must resolve conflicts that occur between them.
                Which, when I entered ministry, I assumed would be few, because I assumed
                                (a) that Christians wouldn’t have all that many differences to start with and
                                (b) that if they did have conflicts they would be insignificant and easy to resolve, and                                      
                                (c) that Christians would want to resolve conflicts and find ways to get along.

I discovered that my assumptions were wrong, and a good many of those lessons were taught to me in the arena of church music.  People on both sides of the “worship wars” feel very strongly about their respectively favorite styles of music.

I don’t feel strongly about most styles of music.  I couldn’t care less one way or the other.  I see music as a tool, a means to an end, not an end in itself.  If the tool doesn’t do the job, it’s useless.

The job of music in the church is to express our worship.  But I have found that even there, evangelicals find enormous differences among them. Trying to bring them together is no easy feat.

The old conservatives see worship as being reminded of the transcendence of God – how high above us He is, how far beyond our grasp He is.  God’s being so much wiser than we are and so much more powerful than we are, beyond our ability or comprehension, is what makes Him great.  Many of us grew up in the days of the churches that surrounded us with things that reinforced those concepts:  churches with high ceilings and spires, with incredibly detailed classical-style art and stained-glass windows, churches that inspired quiet and meditation before a mighty God. 

And the art of the music in those churches conveyed the same thing – an almost other-worldly content.  I say other-worldly because (at least recently) it has refused to be “contemporary”.  It intentionally stayed behind the times.  It intentionally used (for the most part) instrumentation and style that was used mostly in church and not in public venues (I know I’m simplifying this; more about it in later blogs).  Church music was unlike what we used in our everyday life.  It was church music – and that otherness was supposed to be felt;  it was supposed to remind us that we are different because God is different (“holy” is the religious term).

The contemporary approach to worship finds itself, I believe, on the opposite end of the spectrum – more concerned (though not exclusively) with the immanence of God – how close He is to us, how He comes down to us and works in our lives, how we personally experience His touch here and now.  Our church architecture now tends to be oriented that way – practical functional “earthly” buildings and very simple popular style and art (if we use art at all).  And we tend to use the instrumentation and style of popular music – three or four chords in a song, nothing too difficult or too complicated.  Predictable popular music with lyrics that aren’t complicated either (and neither is the grammar – so not the case with many of the hymns).

The old view of worship gloried in God being far away;  the contemporary view glories in God being very much present.

Aren’t both theological truths true?  And if so, isn’t it possible to worship by discovering the glory of both truths – the sovereign God seated on the throne of heaven and “Immanuel” (God with us) – as well as the art that accurately represents both perspectives?

Shouldn’t that be common ground for Christians?  A starting place for bringing people together?

Perhaps you’re saying “Wait a minute.  That’s too simple.  What about . . . ? “ 
I’ve not said all I want to say.  I only get one page per week.  See you next week!

 

 

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