This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is There Such A Thing As A Sacred Style? (part 6)

Another way people sometimes react when they're fed up with a dominant culture trying to impose a preferred style and exclude others is by adopting an "anything goes" approach. 'Since the dominant-culture people are wrong to impose their style on us, the truth must be that it just doesn't matter what style we use.'

This is actually not at all what i've meant to endorse. i think it can very well matter what style of music a church uses. There are parameters by which we should measure what styles we use. i just don't believe the ones we typically use (cultural elitism) are the right parameters.

What is the right style for a worship service? Well, that's a very complicated question.

It's a complicated question because the church is culturally constructed. There are norms governing style within a cultural or sub-cultural perspective. That's why i'm not at all saying that a church in rural Kansas should be expected to adopt melodic styles native to French Polynesia. There are styles which rub one culture the right way spiritually speaking, yet rub a different culture the wrong way. Thus, 'what is the right style?' does depend upon the cultural make up of a given congregation.

But moreso, it's a complicated question because of this strange beast called a "worship service" that you really don't read much about in the NT. "Worship service" is a very vague term. What is it we intend to do at one of these "worship services"? Worship? Well, yeah. Oh, so is that it? No. Actually we do a ton of other stuff too. Edification, fellowship, confession, admonition, etc. etc. etc.

So what determines which style is right? i believe we should ask the question, 'what style would best accomplish our intended purpose?' Are we aiming to edify at the moment? Then we need a style that will best accomplish that goal. Don't get me wrong, i don't mean to say anything even close to "one-style-fits-all." Given the particular people present in a worship service, that question may be answered in lots of different ways. Different churches can have very different styles depending on their particular cultural make-up and immediate purposes. Nevertheless, all church practice (style included) should be governed by the purposes God has set.

A style which buttresses my impression that everything should be about me and what i like is not a style which edifies, nor is it a style which draws my mind to God in worship. That's not to say that i'm never allowed to sing what i like. But whether or not the song suits my fancy is not why the church ought to be singing that song. A style which excludes the cultural norms of a certain group present in the church is not a style which fosters fellowship and unity. That's not to say that if ever the church sings three songs in a row that i don't relate well to, then i'm officially oppressed and excluded. Again, the whole service isn't about me. It's not the worship leader's job to make sure he's only using selections off my top 20 list.

Because the church has set purposes given to us by God, it's not the case that "anything goes" in terms of musical styles. Given a church's cultural make up and circumstances, certain styles could very well hinder God's purposes and thus should be avoided. But bear in mind that a different church with a different cultural make up and set of circumstances may very well benefit from that same style. And that different church could be meeting 4,000 miles across the globe, or even 40 miles across town.

No comments:

Unique Users