Recently I have heard an interesting quote. It is a mild put-down, but I confess that it really bothers me. It compares traditional worship services with a car, and the quote says that in order for churches to succeed today, we must make our worship service different - "not like your father's Oldsmobile."
How does this annoy me? Let me count the ways:
1. Since when it is taken for granted that my father does not appreciate contemporary worship services? My father was one of the first adults I knew that loved the new, cool "folk mass" that the Catholic church began to hold back in the 1960's. My father enjoyed the somewhat casual air, with the guitar music and the new hymns. He also enjoyed seeing LOTS of kids at these services. But if the casual atmosphere had led to the sacraments not being celebrated properly, if the message was unclear or ill-prepared, if the congregation had not been respectful of what was going on, then my father would have rejected the whole thing. Worship needs to be done properly - it is not about the style or the delivery or the music choices; it's about worshipping God.
2. It implies that there is "good" worship and "bad" worship. Or to put it more gently, there is "old-fashioned worship that no longer works" and there is "exciting, contemporary worship that attracts new people." In the research that I have read, in the experiences I have had, and in the conversations that I have had with many Christians in many parts of the country, I have found that this is simply not true! Good worship is just that - good! The style does not matter, but it DOES need to be done properly.
3. When did this debate become either/or? Why can't it be a blended approach to music? It is true that young families enjoy more contemporary music, but great traditional music can also move them. It is also true that older church members love the classics that they sang as children, but they can also be caught tapping their feet and smiling to a good beat in a contemporary hymn.
4. When did music become the defining point of worship? I love music and I NEVER want to do without it in any worship service I attend or lead. But music is a component of worship. So is the reading of the Scriptures. So is the preaching of the word. So is the proper, respectful celebration of the Sacraments. So is prayer. But no one ever seems to talk about things like reading Scriptures in a certain way can make folks come to church. I wonder why not!
5. Why can't we accept each other? God always calls us into community. We are better with other believers, including those that we disagree with. We argue over the DUMBEST things as Christians...like the style of worship that works "best." Why not work together to develop BETTER worship styles and practices at our churches? Why not try some new ideas - and give them more than two weeks to see if they work? Why not put old and young in charge of developing some new ideas for worship? If they work together and talk together, great things just might be done - and God will be praised.
By the way, a classic Oldsmobile would be great to drive! If somebody has one and they need a driver, just let me know.
But I get to pick the radio station!!!