Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blended Worship

“The main purpose of my music is to glorify God. Some people do this with music that is simple. I haven't chosen to use a simple style, but my music comes from my heart as a humble offering to God. This honors God no matter what musical style I use” (Bach).

According to a recent survey by CCLI, 63% of congregations in the United States have blended services. The term "blended worship" denotes the creative weaving together of diverse musical styles and other elements into a seamless fabric which is Christ honoring… simply employing different musical venues with deference to all styles and age groups of people.

We celebrate the God of the past with hymns, the God of the present with our choruses, and the God of the future with our spiritual songs and new songs. Matthew 13:53 says, Jesus said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.  God rejoices in diversity.

The demographic of the local church obviously determines the style of music for that particular body of believers. There is no right or wrong with either the old or the new. The only “right” is that the worship music must honor the Lord, and the only “wrong” is to condemn others for their style.  C.S. Lewis declared, “The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of.  Our attention would have been on God.” And that is what I believe God expects from us irrespective of styles or musical tastes.

The worship we lead is not about us and the styles we want; rather, it is so we can be all things to all people.  To quote Dr. Steve Phiffer, a theologian and friend, "One generation declaring his works to another is the new blended worship.” The apostle Paul writes…”I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (I Cor 9:2) And that is our goal… to tie generations together to glorify God that many would be drawn to Christ.

The term “Worship Wars” has been bantered around now for several years; unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to many churches when worship leaders and pastors demand one particular style to be the standard, and it seems that we are still in battle.  My advice to the hundreds of people who have complained to me about the contemporary music replacing blended or traditional is simply this: if you are attending a church where the music is a distraction to you or doesn’t invite you in to worship, then go somewhere else where you can be an active participant from the congregation… it only causes distress and turmoil when one complains to others about style, volume, and songs used for worship.

Many of our seniors get their "fill" of new songs during the regular worship services and I think they just miss the "good ol' songs"’s not the “change” that bothers them so much as it is the “loss” of something dear to them…thus, I often receive requests for us to use hymns on occasion.  The good news is that the message and melodies of the old hymns are just as effective as the songs that God gives's our audience that changes.  Too often I have heard people say, “That song doesn’t move me anymore.” However, when God anoints a song, I believe it's for eternity!

In his New York Times Bestseller, “90 Minutes in Heaven,” Don Piper talks about his “death” experience.  After a horrible car accident where he was declared dead for 90 minutes, Don shares a glorious encounter with celestial beings and heavenly music.  During his experience, he heard thousands of songs being sung simultaneously, yet he could distinctly hear each one and all blended together in glorious harmonies.  He heard what he calls ancient chants as well as familiar and new hymns, and even “modern sounding” choruses.  I believe he was allowed to hear the heart of God’s creation express Heavenly music…worship that transcended denominations, styles and genres…Blended Heavenly music. 

If our congregation is diverse, then we must be equally as diverse musically. It shouldn’t matter what musical style is being used in our services; as true worshipers, we should be more concerned about God showing up!

Romans 10:13 says, “Whosever will may come!” May the Lord use us in all musical styles to change the hearts of those who “won’t” to be those who “will!”

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