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)

Loving one another starts with getting along and working through conflicts and differences, and I’m blogging about winning the evangelical “worship war” by loving one another.

To be completely honest, I have found that the worship wars are pretty much one-sided.  Nearly all the venom comes from the old school – those who love the traditional hymns.  Being a traditionalist is my own default and I have had to work to understand the perspective of those who love contemporary Christian music.  I understand the traditional criticisms, but I think I’ve learned a few things that help me understand the contemporary side of things as well.

I’m a traditionalist but I’m also much more of a thinker than a feeler.  Lyrics are important to me.  I think about what I’m singing, and it is what I am thinking about, what I am contemplating as I sing, that moves me.  The accompanying instruments are just that – accompaniment.  If they help me keep the tune as I sing, they’re doing their job.  I don’t really need anything more from them.

I always saw the musicians performing a function for me.  But consider a few God-breathed words from the book of Psalms.

Let them praise his name with dancing, 

making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!  (Psalm 149.3)


Praise him with trumpet sound;  praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;  praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with sounding cymbals;  praise him with loud clashing cymbals!  (Psalm 150.3-5)


I always read these verses to mean “praise him WITH WORDS and instrumentation ALONGSIDE OF the words”.  That is possible.


But so is this:  Praise Him by means of the tambourine, the lyre, the lute, the cymbals, etc.  The musician who is playing can praise God by his playing.  Even a percussionist can do so with a tambourine and cymbals, so I would assume that he can also do so with a kick drum, a snare, and toms.  Or a cajon.  Or congas or a bongo.  No words needed.


By failing to see the instrumentalist as actively praising God in his art, with his instrument, I was closing my eyes to an entire side of the praise and worship of God that God Himself seems to love.


When I picked up my bass again a few years ago to play with our worship team, I got to taste this very thing.  I’m not much of a musician.  I play by ear; don’t really read music in any meaningful sense of the word.  I’m not talented enough to play and sing; it takes all my attention to just play the instrument.  But I’ve learned a good bit working with our musicians, and when I’m playing now, I am consciously playing to the Lord in my own simple way.  I try to teach myself little things that will just create the beauty of a joyful sound – and the sound itself is my praise to God.  After all, He is the one that created sound and the ears to hear it.  And He delights in it.


What’s funny is that traditionalists accept this idea but seem to apply it only to a non-electric keyboard instrument.  In the strictest of churches, I’ve heard accomplished pianists play complex non-religious classical pieces for offertory, and when they are finished tickling the keys, the chorus of Amens that resounds is almost deafening.  The pianist can close her eyes and purse her lips and show incredible amounts of expression, rocking and swaying as she bangs on the keys, and people will almost weep and shout Hallelujah when the piece is complete.  But if a guitarist or a bass player or a drummer does the same thing – plays to the Lord, allowing his/her body and face to respond naturally as the heart pours itself into the playing – he is condemned as “putting on a performance”.  More than once I’ve heard people say, “This is a worship service – not a concert.”


For the instrumentalist, it is both a worship service and a concert, and the concert has an audience of One.  If you see it this way, you can learn to love rather than nitpick.

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