Looking at Your Traditions

I must begin by saying that it has been some time since my last post on Church growth.  I had not intended to be so long away (sorry about that) but I’m back at home and it’s time to move forward… so here goes.church_clipart_white

Last time, I was talking about TWWADI (The Way We’ve Always Done It) and proposed to continue with a look at some traditions that we adjusted so as to move forward both spiritually within our congregation and as a result to bring more people to Christ.  The biggest and most visible tradition that we took a look at was our music.

Now I fully realize that this is a controversial subject in many places and it has had fallout in churches for quite some time.  For whatever reason the style of music in a church is often a polarizing subject that breaks a group into two parts:  The first part is often the older group that likes their music the way it’s always been and doesn’t want to hear about doing it differently, and the other group is often the younger ones who want more modern music. We had the same dynamic.

It is tempting to want to try “blended” music as many churches do.  Blended music is a little of each so that nobody is overly irritated… and so that nobody is overly satisfied. I must admit that we did some of the blended music for a time, but not because it was our desire to compromise, but because we lacked the people who could sing the more contemporary tunes.  This is not a good thing!

The thing that I hope you will understand here is not the “what” but instead the “why.”    There are two very important things to consider when music in the worship service is being discussed.  First we need to remember what the purpose of the church is from a Biblical point of view.  Is it to please its members and give them their favorite music… or is it to seek and save the lost?

If the purpose of the church is to please its membership, then take a vote and follow the majority.  If it is to seek and save the lost, then we must take into consideration what will make a visitor, a seeking person who is willing to consider becoming a Christian and give his or her life to the Lord, comfortable enough to let down their guard and take in the message of Salvation.

Before I go any further, I must confess that I prefer the old music, the songs that come from the old Hymnal, you know the ones, they are all a hundred years old or more… some are closer to 500 years old.  When I come home, I also listen to classical music; I am really fond of Baroque music (1600-1750).  Am I representative of those we are supposed to be taking the gospel to?  No, not really.

Most people who are not already church members aren’t familiar with old hymns, but they usually do listen to music, and mostly they listen to music that is more contemporary than not.  If they are visiting a church, it stands to reason that the more that they come into contact with that is familiar and comfortable, the more at home and relaxed they are likely to be, and the more relaxed, the more likely they are to receive the message of the gospel than if they feel utterly out-of-place.  Thus, since there is plenty of very fine Christian music in a contemporary style, why shouldn’t we use it instead of insisting upon our own preferences and losing the opportunity to win a soul for Christ? I have heard it said that if the music isn’t traditional then it also isn’t worship… but consider this:  What is traditional music?  It is nothing more than contemporary music from a different time!  What is style?  It isn’t something from the Bible, it’s something from the culture of man.  If the music faithfully conveys a Christian message than the style is meaningless!

The other thing we should consider is why some of us insist on making no change in music.  A spiritually mature believer will have his or her top priority on the lost, not on their own preferences or habits, thus when people strongly object to any change, they are not telling us that we shouldn’t adjust our music, they are telling us that we need to do a better job of discipleship, that we haven’t taught them enough for them to grow spiritually.  To put it another way, their objection is a teachable moment.  When we patiently and lovingly teach them where our priorities need to be as Christians, we are able to bring them along into greater spiritual maturity and enable our churches to reach people that we haven’t reached before.

I’ll continue this discussion in the next post…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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6 Responses to Looking at Your Traditions

  1. Having both the privilege of being on the Music Team in 12 churches and sit in a few more, I do have opinions on this subject that I have yet to see expressed.
    I respect the seeker music, but truly, not every seeker, not even most of them do the poorly imitated kind of hazy rock band that we do.
    Many do Celtic Thunder, Country and Western, and love songs….but we never get those. We just get one kind of Praise and Worship Sunday after Sunday.
    I love the hymns, but I get very tired of the big bust Choirs and the drummer on tour feel.
    Why can we not do truly different kinds of music? Yes, we are seeking the lost, but we are also about the business of discipleship. That might include no music at all or no singing. Just some of my thoughts.
    I was so tired of the cutesy or Big Bang music programs, that I did a simple Praise and Worship Christmas Play…and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
    Anyway, thanks for a look at the interesting play of church music. 🙂

  2. Don, it is pretty sad how churches fight over the genre and musical styles they should use in their services. I have heard of church splits resulting from this disagreement. I think most churches and Christians are going down the wrong path when it come to worship music. We’ve made worship more about about worship itself and not about Christ and more about self or what “I” want. Style is meaningless in the face of the glory of Jesus, however, I think Jesus will meet each and everyone of us where we are in our musical taste. The 90 year old member in my church is never going to like rocking to the new stuff of our day and the teenager or young adult is not necessarily going to like Gregorian chants, unless they are into it. The beauty of a church shines bright when it’s people are able to worship along with songs that raise Jesus to His rightful place and a style that other brothers and sisters like. When this happens, style no longer matters – only Christ and the people we love the worship Him with.
    Sorry if I took up much of your space.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Walter, what great insight! Of course the key ingredient is having a congregation that is mature enough spiritually to realize that Christ is the center of everything and that style is meaningless. The priority is inclusiveness and Christ.

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