Monday, August 26, 2013

Worship wars

Sometimes people write in to my local paper's Billy Graham column with serious questions. This is not one of them. It's actually a quite trivial one that really didn't need asking. One that highlights just how blindly some believers wish to be led.
Is my church changing its tune?

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Have you heard the expression “worship wars”? Recently we moved to a different city and joined a new church, but the congregation seems at war between those who like contemporary Christian music and those (like us) who prefer traditional worship. Should we look for another church? — E.M.

DEAR E. M.: I know many churches have experienced similar debates in recent years because of new styles of worship and music. I’m not a musician, of course, but I’m grateful that God has raised up a new generation of composers and musicians who point us to Christ.

That doesn’t mean we should throw out what previous generations have done, however — not at all. If I were a pastor today, I’d probably try to avoid making sudden, radical changes that might cause some to feel they were being ignored or put down. The Bible says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

I actually hear less today about these “worship wars” than I did a few years ago; many churches seem to have found ways to bridge the gap between older and newer styles of worship. Some, for example, try to blend the old with the new in their services. Larger churches often have two services — one traditional and one contemporary. Encourage your church’s leadership to explore all options — not just for your sake, but for the sake of the whole congregation, including your youth.

Before you consider changing churches, look beyond this issue to a more important question: Can you grow spiritually through this church’s activities? Is Jesus Christ and his word, the Bible, at its center? Does it offer opportunities for service? The Bible says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
 So... This letter is about the horribly pressing issue of what kind of music is performed at church services? I know that several churches around here offer both traditional and contemporary services. So I don't see why EM is as worried about this issue as she is. If you like one type of service better, go to that church instead. At least you'll enjoy the music at your weekly service then. Better to enjoy music based on mythology, than to make the experience a total loss by not even enjoying the music.

But there's a bigger question here that is being ignored. Why are there different services to begin with? Surely the immutable 'word of God', wouldn't need to appeal to different music tastes to get noticed. If the Bible shows anything, it's that this mythological deity is not one to compromise. It's his way or the highway (to Hell... sing it Bon!). The answer is really quite simple, and one that we see every single day.

These contemporary churches are doing something your toothpaste, favorite breakfast cereal, fast food restaurant, and just about all other products have done. Re-branding! What does a product or company tend to do when the sales figures begin to weaken? They introduce a new commercial, they launch a new slogan, they may even redesign the packaging. It's all simple marketing really. The same things are done when a company wants to attract a new target demographic.

And that's what contemporary worship is. It's a reply to the reducing 'sales figures' of Christianity. More and more, Christianity is losing out on the younger generations. Sometimes they think it's just boring, others are more educated and have moved past religion, other still have seen it for the archaic and necessary thing it is. So, to 'stay in business', the church needs to make more 'sales' to the younger generation. Enter contemporary worship. It's just your same old Christianity in a shiny new package. Not any better or improved... just blatant marketing.

The same is true of churches that differ in stance from other churches in some areas. Consider congregations that are accepting of gay members. Consider them the fat free potato chips of Christianity. Sure, they are better, but they still aren't good for you. And actually, the fact that some churches will bend their beliefs to align with the changing views of society makes one wonder how important the church doctrines actually are, or if membership is their primary concern. And considering that donations from members is how they pay their bills, it is membership, or more importantly, their money that are the church's concern.

How about skipping church altogether? Instead of lining the pockets of those that just want to fill seats, try worshiping at home, or not at all.

 -Brain Hulk

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