Music: The Great Divide or the Great Bridge?
Change is inevitable, especially in this fast paced society. It is staggering to realize the amount of change in our culture in the last hundred years! Even in the last ten. It’s hard for us senior citizens to understand our grandchildren, who seem to have no problem keeping up with the times. How do I, as an evangelical Christian, utilize change for the kingdom and still remain true to my unchangeable Lord and His timeless principles?
Music in the church has always gone through stages of change. At some time in history, all that is old now was once new. Some embraced it. Some did not. At all times, it is important to set some standards, lest we be swept along with every popular current of the culture. But we must also be open to the “new song” which God inspires. The challenge is to be balanced and sensitive as to what is appropriate for our congregations, varied as they are.
Evangelicals have always stood for truth as presented in Scripture, the sole authority for our thinking and actions. We are conservative in our theology, in our political views, and in our social agendas. How did it happen, then, that our music is the least conservative in Christian circles (using the word “Christian” in its broadest sense)? The trend today is to think that contemporary music, a limited style, is the only means of worshiping God and the only possible way of communicating the gospel with a world in need?
Wait a minute. We worship a God who created all things with such infinite variety that we can’t imagine where He got all those ideas. The flowers, the fish, the birds, the animals that roam the earth all bear the mark of His genius. And then there is man. Made in the image of God Himself, humans contain a DNA factor which makes the billions of us alike, yet different. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Each of us is similar, but unique. And each of us has a different set of background and experience factors which contribute to how we think. Our souls are complex, incomprehensible, everlasting beings designed to worship the Eternal God. Some of us know Him and enjoy following the Scriptural mandate to worship Him “in the beauty of holiness.” Others enjoy worshipping the Lord in whatever happens to be the latest trend, beautiful or not. And we do not agree on what is beautiful.
Since God is the Creator of amazing variety, why do some try to limit Him to a narrow choice of musical styles? And how is it that the world’s philosophy of catering to a youth oriented, niche driven market has permeated the church? Since when does “being all things to all people in order to win some” mean being one thing to one niche of society? Evangelicals have a great variety of Bible translations, many styles of architecture for our churches, numerous denominations, and unlimited preaching styles. All of them work. So why one style of music?
Contemporary, of course, means written now. And since we are to have a “new song” in our hearts, it is logical that new songs are written out of what God is doing in our lives today. His mercies are “new every morning,” and so is my song. But does it have to fit a certain style or formula in order to be acceptable in the church today? What is the criteria? Are we Bible driven or world driven? Balanced or imbalanced? Sensitive to all or a few? Spirit led or self inspired?
The body of Christ is multi-faceted. When will we realize that each member is important, loved and gifted by God, and responsible to fulfill the commands of the Lord according to the grace and gifts bestowed by Him? Can we be mature enough to accept and encourage a variety of offerings by well trained, spiritual investors in God’s kingdom?
Now in my 70’s, I am watching some of my friends either stop attending church, or come after the music is finished, join legalistic groups, or move to more sophisticated denominations in which reverence is a high priority. This is a wake up call to help us change our direction and work together toward a godly resolution. I’d like to be part of the solution, not the problem. Wouldn’t you?
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