Someone passed along this link to me the other day. It’s a blog post on contemporary versus traditional worship. I thought it was relevant enough to similar discussions concerning SG that it was worth discussing here.
We’ll start with this bit:
The goal of corporate worship is to honor God and bring men and women to His Son. Keeping that in mind prevents our preferences from getting in the way. In my years of campus ministry our goal was to have God honoring worship that used the musical style that was the same as the musical style our students were listening too [sic] when they drove into our parking lot.
Sigh. Here we go again. Am I the only person who’s getting just a little bit tired of the old, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s good music or not as long as people are coming to Jesus” line? Raise your hand if you’re like me, which means you think artistic excellence actually matters. (Of course, heaven forbid we should ever suggest that a flawless Charles Wesley hymn might actually honor God more than a mushy, inarticulate bit of modern worship fluff.)
Just think about this for a minute: “…Our goal was to have God honoring worship that used the musical style that was the same as the musical style our students were listening too [sic] when they drove into our parking lot.” Let’s apply that today: Suppose that the students were listening to rap music as they drove into the parking lot? Does this mean that the church should immediately jump up and say, “Oh, this is terrible, what were we thinking to not include rap music in our services?” Imagine, if you will, special music a la Toby-Mac…I’m trying, and it ain’t flying.
Now look at this passage:
If I had just gone with musical styles that I liked – evangelical 1950′s and traditional hymns – I would have been happy but the end would not have been achieved. Selfishness and consumerism are the culprits that cause the split over contemporary vs traditional music. Which is “better”? Neither! They are both means to an end.
Which we use or any blend thereof should be determined by our target audience not by the preferences of the people in the pews.
Hold it. Hold it right there. Now push rewind and listen to that last part again. Then ask yourself this question: Exactly what is being said here? Essentially, this person is saying that the people in the pews don’t matter. The only important thing is attracting people outside of the church. The people who are already faithfully coming are just supposed to live with it. And if they leave, the implication is that they are being selfish, narrow-minded, and un-evangelistic.
Does this strike anyone else as…well, a little insulting? Think about it: Instead of telling the people who would refuse to come to church because of hymn-like, traditional music that they’ll just have to deal with what we have, we’re supposed to tell our own congregation that they’re being narrow-minded for taking issue with a modern, lower quality style. Instead of keeping high standards, we’re supposed to bend and change according to the demands of a “target audience” with much lower standards.
In a word, balderdash. Rather than catering to today’s culture, we should reflect that our culture is in a sorry state indeed if it is producing people who are no longer capable of distinguishing between excellence and mediocrity. If we can make that distinction, it’s not our fault that they can’t. God wants the best we can give Him, and if some whiny people are going to complain that the music isn’t loud enough or cool enough, they can go jump in the proverbial lake—or perhaps the nearest emergentist swamp.
This person closes with a helpful word from Dad:
My dad just turned 89 last week and he goes to a church that recently replaced their choir with a praise band, their hymnals with a projector, and their organ for a drum set. His response – “I don’t really care for it. They are too loud and I don’t know the songs. But the church is growing and that is what counts.”
Poor guy. Sorry, but I’m not nearly so cooperative. I consider it to be grossly unfair and an inauspicious reflection on the Church that people like this fellow are being forced to put up with every new fad that comes along. The people engineering this type of thing in their churches had better watch it, because one of these Sundays they might look out to find that those “people in the pews” aren’t in the pews anymore.
One final thought: How if this pattern of catering to the outsiders were to be extended to matters of doctrine? What if someone were to decide that it would be off-putting and insensitive to present people with the unvarnished gospel message and began watering down what Scripture actually says? What if churches began telling people who came in that their lifestyle didn’t matter, that doctrinal truths were non-essential, and that Jesus just wants them to feel good about themselves?
Maybe that doesn’t scare you, but it sure scares me.