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.
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…