It’s funny how some things take longer than expected. Take this devotional, for instance. In the middle of February I sat down to write a brief devotional on musical style in worship. Here we a month later and I’m still trying to finish writing a devotional on musical style in worship! We’ll try and tie this all up in the next two weeks before we take our hiatus from rehearsal until the beginning of April.
Last week week’s devotional ended up being much more history lesson than I had originally intended, but I really felt it was important that you understood some of that. History is important because it helps give some perspective on where we are right now and also informs us as we move forward into the future. I ended with this statement: “The problem lies in defining ourselves by our cultural differences and not our unity in the Spirit. So where does that leave us in 2011 at our church? That’s something we’ll look at next week.” Well, next week is here!
When I first came on staff I was given the job of working to “blend” the musical style in the services. Without repeating the history of what’s happened here over the past decade in terms of music style (since most of it was before my arrival, anyway), let’s just say that there has been some disagreement on how music should look in church. From my understanding a process was put in place and, at the end of it all, there was some pretty obvious desires on the sides of the coin labeled “traditional” and some on the side labeled “contemporary”. A decision was then made to work towards a “bled” in style – something that would have a little bit of everything in an effort to make everyone happy. It would lean neither too far to one side nor the other but attempt to stay somewhat in the middle (if I’m wrong on my history I’m sure someone will let me know this week via email or phone call!). I don’t know everyone who was involved in those discussions or decisions, and, quite frankly, I’m kinda glad I wasn’t here when the decisions were made because choices like this inevitably leave some people’s feelings hurt – regardless of how sensitive everyone tries to be.
Over the past couple of years I have worked very hard to transition our church’s musical style in worship into what I consider a “blend”. Sometimes with resistance from people, but more often than not I have been met with openness. People have generally understand that sometimes music is planned that they may not like, but, for the most part, they take it in stride because on any given Sunday there may be something they like but someone else doesn’t. It’s one of those give-and-take things that mature adults and believers are able to understand and accept. But as I’ve gone through this process myself (both as your leader and personally) I’ve come to realize there is one main struggle I have with the “blended” approach.
It’s about us.
That’s the bottom line. “Blended worship”, as it has been defined in the past decade across multiple churches and multiple denominations, is not about worshipping God at all (at its heart). It’s about making man happy with a particular musical style.
Ouch. That hurt to write, so I can only imagine how much it hurt to read. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the people who made the decision years ago to pursue a blended style made what they honestly believed was the best decision at the time – and I probably would have made the same decision myself (in fact, when I interviewed, I remember saying and believing that!)
In the past several months I’ve given this a lot of thought, prayer, and study. While I believe the spirit with which “blended” was arrived at was done with the best of intentions, I believe it’s time for a change. As a church we’ve made some great strides in musical style transformation over the past years. I believe we are more “blended” now than we were three years ago. But we have so far to go – not musically speaking, but spiritually, in terms of understanding and accepting style. So next week I’m going to introduce that concept to tie this all together. But here’s the sneak peak: Instead of “blended” worship let’s try for “unified” worship.
Cross Posted in Grace Notes