I keep reading about the so-called “worship wars.” From what I can tell, a lot of churches these days are in upheaval over styles of worship, and especially styles of music. Having come from a faith tradition that long ago perfected the art of worship war-making*, the last thing I want is to get swept up into this sort-of controversy.
So, to those of you who are thinking about trying to recruit me to your viewpoint on the subject, I make this simple request: Don’t make me choose.
Really. I’m not going to pick sides on this one. I intend to be completely and unabashedly wishy washy on the subject until the whole controversy blows over. This isn’t because it is a presidential election year, and I’m trying to get into swing of things. It is because I like music. All kinds. And I love to praise God. In all kinds of ways. And – pardon me for being so frank – but I just don’t want to make a choice.
I like to sing acapella songs – new and old – on Sunday mornings at Highland.
I like the worship songs of Mercy Me.
I like to sing while my dad leads singing at the small congregation where I grew up.
I like to worship with Jeff Deyo and his band. Rock concert volumes. Passionate lyrics.
I like to pray during Oasis (Highland’s Wednesday night service) while the soft sounds of the Zoe Group play in the background.
I like When I Survey the Wondrus Cross. We can sing it however you want: acapella, guitar, piano, orchestra, Chris Tomlin version – you name it. I’m ready to go.
I like Amazing Grace.
I like to sit quietly on the floor – eyes closed and headphones on – listening to modern worship music.
I like the soulful sounds of african-american gospel choirs and the warmth and energy of African youth choirs.
I like to sit at my keyboard, softly playing songs like The Old Rugged Cross and Before the Throne of God Above.
I like the Highland youth band.
I like Handel’s Messiah. Especially the Hallelujah Chorus and And the Glory.
I like passing the hours during long drives by listening to United Live albums.
I like old lyrics (“The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets/before we reach the heaveanly fields/or walk the golden streets”).
I like new lyrics (“And when I dance with you/I’ve finally found my place/Its so extraordinary in a normal way/’cause I was made for loving You/I was made for loving You”).
I like honest lyrics (“And how could it be/ that you were the one on the cross?/Lifted for all our shame?/And how could it be/ the thorns in those hands/ are for me?/You are the King of all”).
I like to sing the Zaccheaus song with my kids before bedtime.
I like to sing The Lord Bless You and Keep You at ACU events.
So I’ll say it again: I don’t want to choose. Music gives a voice to our hearts. Every one of these experiences gives me a unique and meaningful opportunity to tell God what He means to me. Better yet, many of them give me a chance to make music with others who want to say the same things to Him, in the same ways.
I don’t want to lose any of these experiences. Do I really have to choose?
I sure hope not.
*Those of you who aren’t familiar with Churches of Christ can’t begin to appreciate just how true this is. For the last half century, our small fellowship has – in true Phariseeical form – relentlessly bashed just about every worship practice known to Christendom, upholding our own assemblies (involving no choirs, no robes, no candles, no shouting, no instrumental music, no art, no dancing, no clapping, no shouting, and – above all – no women in any public role) as the model that everyone else should be following. We’ve even managed to get onto each other from time for such heretical worship practices as: singing songs written during the last half century, reading from translations that were completed during the last TWO centuries, clapping, and even disrupting the traditional ORDER in which the various acts of worship are faithfully (if not – on occasion – somewhat dryly) performed.
Funny thing about it is: While I consider myself to be “in recovery” from a lot of the attitudes that have dominated our corner of the evangelical world over the years, I love our little fellowship of churches. A lot of us are deeply committed to understanding what it means to be “just a Christian” – and I think most folks are finding their way back onto a healthier path, theologically, these days.