Friday, January 20, 2006

Food for thought: The Silly War

I’ve recently been re-reading a paper on worship-style battles in churches. Kyle Matthews wrote The Silly War a few years ago. It is kind of long (11 pages single-spaced in 10 point Arial type), so it’s difficult to sum up in just one article. You may find me writing about it in the coming few weeks. Kyle has obviously found himself on the same battlefield as I have been getting hit from both sides in this silly war. His observations and suggestions hit home with me (and encouraged me to keep on striving for peace). Read a little of what he has written about our style battles:

When I was growing up, this issue was considered to be just one of many symptoms of "the generation gap," but it is that no longer. It now more closely resembles a market demographic, a taste preference that runs across all the old categories. In most of the contemporary churches I visit the members of the band are-surprise – all grey-headed! Then I go to formal, liturgical churches that are seeing real growth among 20-something young couples who want to experience "something old for a reason." In the church I now attend, the folks who most strongly disagree over music are often from the same generation, whether they're in their 60s or their 20s. Some of our members threaten to leave us for a church with more contemporary music, but I have also had a church member tell me that if we ever get rid of the pipe organ, he'd be the first to go, saying, "I feel like we're getting away from the heart of worship."

Of course, there was a time not long ago when the newfangled pipe organ was called "offensive." In their own times, both Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther were said to have done more damage with their music than they ever did with their theology. But we can now see those changes in the past as linear progressions affecting the church culture as a whole. Today's conflict is not a linear change, but a splintering: a shift from the corporate culture of "church-member" to the individual church-goer as "customer." The criteria for what binds a people together as "church" will soon be reduced from "shared belief system" to "enjoys the same style of music" unless Christians begin to grapple more seriously with the question: what is the heart of worship?

The telling thing is that while we say the right things about worship (it’s all about Him), we evaluate worship as if it were really all about us and what we like. I said it last Sunday that one of the most important things we do in worship is to rehearse the truths of God to ourselves, to each other, and to God. If we refuse to sing truths about God just because the musical setting is not exactly to our liking – whether too old, or too new, or whatever – we lose and so do others in our community. That’s one of the things that make this war so silly (and frustrating).
That’s enough to think about for now …


Blogger Travis said...

I would agree with you it is a "silly war". we had something similar happen at our church and im sure it happens every where, but some of the members began to complain about the music, that they didnt feel that it was very worshipful. I thought to myself here people are arguing about what they consider to be the type of music they think is worshipful, how funny.. I just wonder if anyone ever stopped to ask the question does this please God?

2:24 PM  
Blogger Travis said...

We had something similar happen at our church and im sure that it happens at all churches at some point. But I would agree it is a "silly War". To me any type of music as long as it brings glory to God is worship. now i say this Like I am impartial, But I am not. I prefer myself more contemp. music but thats me. It says in the bible make a joyful noise and it says to praise him (with a long line of insterments) so to me it seems Gods not worried about the style of music so why should we.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Morris said...

Travis, you're the first indication I've had that someone might actually be reading my blog. Welcome!
I'd recommend you do a google search on Kyle Matthews and "The Silly War" and read the whole paper. Kyle's observations come from a Nashville songwriter/singer who grew up in an almost high-church style Baptist church. He knows both sides of the issue very well and makes some very cogent observations that all we who seek to worship God would do well to heed.


2:50 PM  

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