Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Worship Repercussions (8) - Music, music, music

I am grateful for the comments on recent worship blogs (as well as private emails). Let me focus on a couple of specific issues raised. I admit I don't have reflective answers to the questions I want to raise. First:

Music, music, music.
In response to Worship's Inclusiveness (6) one person wrote about music resonating with the soul, another about the need to be inclusive. Yet another said they were tone-deaf, so the whole debate seemed irrelevant! The more I think about music's role in contemporary worship, the more I see how some people have to be careful in music leadership. Let's place four attitudes towards music on a scale of 1 to 10. At both ends there are difficulties.

1. DISINTEREST. Friends who are tone-deaf fit here, but this raises important questions about how else the liturgy ("work of the people") may involve them. How vital is participation in prayer, Scripture, Lord's Supper, and preaching for genune opportunity to belong. (1 & 2 on scale).

2. NEUTRALITY. Those who have no particular interest in music and go with the flow. (3 & 4 on scale)

3. ECLECTIC. Those who are enthusiastic about music and commit themselves to a wider range of musical styles. Intentionally, they embrace differences. (5,6 & 7 on scale).

4.FOCUSSED. Those who are totally committed to one style of music and find it difficult to listen to any other. (10 on scale).

Now, noone should underestimate the major issues at either end of the scale - those for whom music is unimportant, or all-important! Somehow, room must be found for the tone deaf, while encouraging those who are neutral to realize music's possibilities for worship. But major work has to be done with the totally focussed, who may be in danger of hi-jacking the agenda. The eclectic option may sound rather weak, but actually speaks volumes about seeking to appreciate what other people experience in different kinds of music while learning how to respond positively.

Recently, my son "treated" me to half an hour listening to his Ipod tunes. Frankly, I had never heard any of the artists or their music before. But I realized how much they mean to him and I sought to enter in. And I know his thoughtfulness, when he puts on classical music for me. Its a small (familiar) example. But I do think it says something about avoiding extremes to exclude others.


dawneen said...

Another question might be, "are the "directors of musical worship" in churches today at the focussed end of your scale for any particular type of music?" Are they driving the separation of the body or is the body separating itself by their preferences?

Instruction from the pastor or the director of musical worship might help if it is the congregation separating itself. There might be times where they could encourage the congregation to mix styles or have one style of musical worship one week and another type of musical worship another week. Balance might help with this approach. But if the minister is the one that has the definite opinion, it might not change unless they become more open to the desires of various congregational members.

I think that congregational leaders today frequently try to avoid contention, or disharmony, by having separate services which are distinguished by a more traditional or classical style of music and another that is more contemporary. But that does separate the body.

Intuitively, that does not seem good, but many things separate congregational bodies: size of congregations, times and days when various services or educational classes are offered, and other things I haven't considered.

Several additional reasons easily come to mind for mixing musical worship styles and, presumptively, age groups: there will be opportunities for relationships,service, support and instruction. Therefore I think it's important to work toward this unity of which you speak for many reasons.

wsuriano said...

There is a fundamental principle that sociologists will confirm, namely that people tend toward separateness. This occurs for a multitude of reasons, including “self-centeredness”, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, Christ spoke about how becoming a follower would separate believers even from their own families. However, when we as believers come together in worship, we have a unique opportunity to become unified. I think of corporate or community worship as that distinctive event that allows us to put self aside, join our hearts with other believers and focus on Christ and His redeeming work. We do that using a variety of Biblically-based means – music, prayer, preaching. Now the problem is that we’re still human so that this unity will not be perfect. Many of us have a difficult time truly laying down “self” and focusing on Christ. Nevertheless, this unity provides the vision of what corporate worship should be and that vision needs to be embraced, articulated, conveyed, encouraged and actively promoted by the church leaders, most importantly, by the preaching pastor. So, I’m not sure it necessarily follows, but where a particular person is on your continuum may have more to do with “self” and not as much to do with “worship.”