Music Style in Worship (Part IV): Unified Worship (3.23)

Note: for those who have missed any rehearsals in the past month, all devotionals are available on my blog (the address is at bottom of the page).  This particular devotional is part four in a four week series, so if you’ve missed any of the previous ones you may want to go back and read them to better understand the context of what I’m writing, or now that I’m finally wrapping the entire thing up you may want to go back and look at the first three to refresh your memory on how we got to where we’re at.

Week 1: A Matter of Heart

Week 2: A History of Cultures

Week 3: To Blend or Not to Blend?

Over the past several weeks we’ve looked at this issue of musical style in worship and last week I suggested we needed to move away from the term “blended worship” and towards “unified worship”.

I came across the term “Unified” worship about six weeks ago in an article by Scott Wesley Brown.  Below is an excerpt from an article he wrote on the subject of Blended Worship.  Because I think he hits the nail on the head here (and says things much more succinctly and elegantly than I can), I’ll just quote him (for the full article click here):

I prefer the term “Unified” worship over “Blended” worship because our intention should be to reflect the scriptural teaching of unity in diversity. (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:12-14) The term “Blended” worship does not necessarily mean that it is “unified” worship. The best way to describe “unified” worship is to say it is anchored in the church’s historic worship and seasoned with the fresh winds of the Spirit’s movement in the present using the “best of the best” from the past and the present.

The Church today faces “the spirit of individualism” and has succumbed to tailoring worship to meet the expectations of various age groups by fractionalizing the church into what are now called “venues”. No longer called sanctuaries, these “venues” cater to the “experience” one is up for. If you don’t like the “Traditional” try the “Edge” or the “Over the edge”……….whatever works for you! How dare we ask a teenager to sit through a hymn or a senior to listen to a song by Delirious!

I do understand that it is appropriate for children, youth, seniors or those of other cultures to have a meaningful experience within the context of their own group, but what ever happened to “corporate worship”? Indeed worship is both vertical and horizontal; it is about God, yet it is about people in fellowship with one another before God.

But when the focus is on people (mostly ourselves) there will always be battles because we are diverse (and opinionated!). If you think it’s hard trying to please everyone at your church, imagine how difficult I thought it could be leading worship for a church in the Middle East with 500 members from 40 different nationalities and dozens of denominations. Yet somehow it worked…..not perfectly…but it worked because the greater focus was on God. They had their individual meetings throughout the week, but on the Sabbath they were in corporate worship.

Mark Horst wrote, “As soon as we come to worship looking for and expecting an experience, we have violated the most basic principle of (worship). We easily become religious aesthetes capable of judging the entertainment value of a church service while remaining unaware of the reality it can open us to. Unfortunately for us, when our worship becomes self-conscious rather than God-conscious, it points not to God’s reality but (only to) our own.”

Too often we think of worship mostly or solely in terms of how it impacts us rather than how it impacts God. And we are the losers when we do that. If we think of ourselves as the necessary beneficiaries of worship we won’t truly worship. If we think of God as the beneficiary of worship, we will also benefit. One of the major reasons people argue about worship today is that they have the wrong person (themselves) in view. Worship ultimately is not about us; it is about God.

And if it is about God, then it is about pleasing God with a heart attitude clothed in humility.

Now, I’m not sure there is much difference in the way Unified worship “looks” versus the way Blended worship “looks”, particularly in our church, because what is important here is the heart of the worshipper (remember the first devotion back in February that touched on this topic).  What I know is this: as long as we seek to please our own desires in worship and not touch the heart of God then we are committing idolatry by placing ourselves on the throne instead of Jesus.

And once we realize that this issue of musical style in worship is less about style and more about the heart we have made a tremendous step forward in Christian growth and maturity.

Cross posted on I Respond to Jesus


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