By Mark Deakins
Knofel Staton’s article is compelling and correct. Community, particularly a community in worship, must encompass everyone in the congregation and must not discriminate against age, cultural heritage, or social classification.
I believe the author has pointed out a fundamental breakdown in the service selection process—the worship music and music style is usually chosen by one person with his or her taste being the key criteria. In this process, many in the congregation may be left outside the worship experience—either because they don’t know the new songs, can’t remember the songs, or simply wish to offer a song that is familiar and brings to mind prior worship experiences. On the other hand, a person with traditional tastes will exclude a segment of the congregation that longs for the new songs of worship they have heard on CDs, at concerts, or on the radio.
Personally, I love contemporary songs, the wonderful hymns of the church, and classical music. Can these differing styles of music bring glory to God when used in the same service? The answer is yes. They did in the past (we need to remember that all songs were contemporary when first composed), they can in the present, and they will continue to do so in the future.
Love Is the Key
Every person has an individual opinion about church music. And far too many feel it is their God-given right to express that opinion when they are not pleased with a worship service. This, I believe, is the fundamental problem that negates unity amid diversity within the church. The underlying cause for this problem in congregations across the country is a lack of love.
When Christians truly love one another “deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22), then their opinions regarding church life, especially worship, will cease to be sources of division. When we value God and others above ourselves, we will welcome musical styles and appreciate a variety of musical instruments. We will embrace the biblical model of worship (hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs), that invites all to come before him with singing—unifying the diverse musical opinions in the church. After all, worship has never been about us . . . it has always been about God.
It Is Possible!
In the three years my family has attended the Gregoryville Christian Church in Grayson, Kentucky, I have witnessed something I have rarely experienced in any church: genuine Christ-centered love. These believers have, to my knowledge, never spoken ill of another person in the congregation.
When we began using contemporary music in the service and utilizing guitars and percussion, I was wondering when the “war” would begin. It never did. Our church uses hymns, gospel songs (mostly performed in a Southern gospel style), contemporary songs, and from time to time a little bluegrass! Talk about diversity!
Unity amid diversity is possible: when a worship leader, in the process of selecting music for a worship service, focuses on the worship of God in a worship experience that unifies diversity; when people are encouraged to keep their opinion of the worship service to themselves; when the desires of others and the desire to please God is placed above our own; when love is the rule rather than the exception. Then community becomes the result, and God receives all the praise.
Mark Deakins is dean of the school of music at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson.