by Steve Brown and Mike Westendorf
A few weeks back, Mike posted an article on FaceBook from a Pastor who was quitting the praise band for a variety of reasons. This article was ultimately met with a rebuttal from another Pastor who won’t be quitting the praise band anytime soon for a different bunch of reasons. In between these posts was a plethora of worship gold voiced by believers.
The following excerpts from the FaceBook comments show a fraction of the beautiful faith that exists within our fellowship as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in and among us.
“We make a big mistake when we try to limit the Holy Spirit to our way of thinking.” – PB
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“Just because it’s contemporary doesn’t make it bad, shallow, or irreverent.” – SB
Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
“In reality, everything we humans bring before God in worship is a filthy rag and only made pleasing by the blood of Jesus!” – SB
Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
“I leave those services (contemporary worship) humming many of those songs all week.” – SA
Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.
“I believe the Holy Spirit worked in my heart through this (contemporary) music to strengthen my faith, it has completely changed me!” – PE
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
“If you disqualify all Christian radio, you are doing what the devil wants you to do. He wins!” – PE
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
“In the last ten years… the way I worship Jesus has changed. I don’t just worship Him on Sunday or for ten minutes a day. I try to worship Him in everything I do. That includes the type of music I listen to and sing and play.” – DRS
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
“I believe that the Lord has given us this music (contemporary) to reach those people who may not be able to connect with traditional four part harmonies and hymns.” – DRS
“Music is a method of communication and we need to be able to speak everyone’s language. If it’s an organ for you, great, but what about an electric guitar roaring like the mighty power of God?” – SA
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law though I myself am not under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law, so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.
“I would still rather listen to a Contemporary Christian radio station singing about Jesus even it’s not perfect then a pop station that plays music about stuff that goes against everything I believe.” – DRS
“But for God, worship is a matter of the heart not a matter of form.” – SB
Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
“We should have services that you can bring a friend to that’s never gone to church and they should feel comfortable and be able to connect with the service. Musically speaking a language that they’re familiar with helps a lot.” – SA
“It was contemporary Christian music that the Holy Spirit used to bring me to faith, and gave me the desire to go to church in the first place.” – SB
“I guess I would say… a feeling of fullness with the Holy Spirit.” – RP
Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Steve’s Conclusions: So you might be wondering, why do these people, that place a value on contemporary Christian music; worship in a traditional, liturgical, confessional and hymn-loving setting? The answer is quite simple. We are in agreement with the doctrines and biblical interpretations of this denomination. This is where God wants us to be. We are one body and we commune with one another in unity. Our fellowship is defined by our biblical beliefs based on the absolute inerrancy of scripture. The Gospel is the glue that binds us together and we realize that musical style should not even make the list of fellowship discriminators.
In essence, these responses do show that contemporary music connects on a heart-felt level with some people in the same way that hymns do with other people and this involvement of our hearts is crucial for our worship. The big issue is that there needs to be a Christian relationship based on love that understands and accepts the need for these stylistic differences because the adherence to scripture and doctrine can be maintained, and in the end our objective is to share God’s words in whatever methods that works best.
Yes, we differ in things like musical taste in the same way as we do in our choice of clothes, but this is just part of being the diverse body of Christ that God intended us to be. In the end, we may not be steadfast Lutherans, but more importantly, our hope is to be steadfast but humble believers and followers of Christ.
Simply stated, “Christ’s Love is Our Calling!”
Mike’s Conclusions: As I read the comments of the two viewpoints from the original pastoral blog posts and the responses that we see from many people, it continues to reinforce the idea of effective “communication” and “language” within our worship settings. A simple way to define worship in our settings is that “God comes to us (word and sacrament) and His people respond to Him (praise) and one another about Him (proclamation)”. Another thought about worship is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Regardless of what your worship preference is, “the mountaintop”, the best ever worship experiences will always include all four of these elements. Lastly is the idea that communication is much more than the words we say, but it also is the way we say them as well as what people see when words are said and what the overall “environment” says within the context of those words.
When I read these comments and the scripture passages that Steve beautifully related, it continues to reinforce the notion that people receive the communication of God’s Word and the stories of His faithfulness differently. When they respond to God, they long to have the words and melodies that allow them to praise and proclaim Christ that involves the heart, soul, mind and strength. We want to communicate back to God and back to others about our God who has been faithful to us and to me personally.
Because we are varied people, we speak different languages in worship and certain styles and environments of singing, songwriting, and yes – even listening, engage people differently in worship. If we truly desire that people hear God as He comes to us with the fullness of the Gospel message, and if we truly desire and hope that people can and joyfully respond to God through praise and proclamation, then we must realize the beauty that contemporary worship can offer, especially when it is birthed out of the biblical understanding of Jesus that we joyfully preach in the Confessional Lutheran church with songs that have a powerful effect similar to the way as traditional hymns do.
God paints in beautiful colors, I love it when our worship includes the languages, environments and communication styles of traditional, blended, contemporary and modern worship settings married to our understanding of the true Gospel message.
1 Corinthians 12:15-20 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.