Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Is There a Right Style of Worship?

2 Samuel 6:14-16

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

IMG_0301Yesterday we wrote about our attitude in worship and quoted this passage dealing with David’s attitude as he worshiped God.  He was not concerned with what his wife thought or his subjects. He was concerned only with presenting himself before God.  Style was not something he worried about either.  Today we want to write about styles of worship.  Which style is right?  Before you think traditional or contemporary or gospel or charismatic or some other style it right or the best – read the rest of this article.  Thanks!

For some the right style of worship means hymns and quiet time – for some the right style means psalms and songs sung with vigor and excitement to a quicker beat – for some the right style of worship might mean a Sanctuary and tradition – for some it might mean a comfortable setting and contemporary.  The style is less important to me – or dare I say – even to God.  What I think God desires is that our attitude be such that we come together to worship God not glorify ourselves or our desires/preferences.

Style or worship does come into play – at least in corporate worship – and many churches are facing this subject in different ways these days.  One place where style comes into play is when it doesn’t fit the target audience any longer.  For instance – a traditional worship in a Sanctuary has long been a style of worship that reached many and still does today.  A number of young adults are coming back to traditional worship settings.  But it is also true that different styles of worship reach the unchurched or those new in their faith.  The unchurched should ALWAYS be high on our radar.  We are – after all – to be reaching the lost with Jesus with at least the same vigor as we build up the saints who already know Jesus!  I am not talking about entertainment value here – but rather a style and presentation of the Gospel that will reach those who do not have a church background.  That may look somewhat different from many churches today.  It may look different than the style that meets some of our needs or desires as well.

It may not be practical for all churches – but I am an advocate of churches offering a mixture of worship styles to reach the whole of their communities for Jesus.  I realize that we cannot be all things to all people – but there is a lost community out there dear readers.  When Paul took the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles – remember his battles with Peter and other traditionalists that wanted Gentiles to become Jews before they could become Christians.  Paul believed that it was more important to present Christ rather than a tradition or style.  What do you think?  Should we stick with what works for us rather than what might reach the lost?

In many cases majorities of our communities – and a large number of our young adults – are unchurched.  What if our attitude in worship was all about God and all about offering a place to worship God that would touch the hearts and minds of all people – rather than trying to conform people into a pattern of worship?  What if authenticity in worship were more important than style?  Maybe this is accomplished by offering several services.  Maybe this is accomplished by offering elements of worship that differ in style in the same service.  For example – First UMC of Laurel is growing to be a very multi-ethnic – multi-generational – multi-cultural congregation – and a very diverse congregation in expressed tastes in worship styles.  What if at our two current worship services we added elements of charismatic – gospel – and liturgical worship – just to mention a few alternatives to traditional and contemporary worship styles?  Could this happen in our current worship services or would some be offended/upset?  I’m not speaking about raising hands in worship folks – – it is much more than that.  What if someone was at the altar or cross and was slain in the Spirit one morning?  What if we sang some spirituals in our worship services from time to time?  How would the contemporary service react to some liturgy in worship on occasion?  What if we really tried to reach out and present Jesus in differing ways?

Some say that blended worship doesn’t work – I’ve heard that argument for decades – I’ve even used it myself.  This statement might be true because in blended worship someone will always be unhappy with an element that doesn’t fit their liking – because our attitudes are askew.  It doesn’t work when those who gather for worship are about what pleases them rather than what pleases God.   Would it please God to have all people worshiping together?  I think so!  What if we had an interpreter for our growing Hispanic population around the church?  Or for the deaf community?  Would that take away from our ability to worship God?  What if we brought in symbols of worship that didn’t fit the box of what worship is for some of us – or even some art or symbols that reflected a diverse ethnicity in our congregation?  What if we didn’t follow a standard order of worship?  Just some thoughts.  What do you think?

The easy answer from the pew is to offer these differences at different services.  As long as you don’t change MY service – you can do whatever you want.  But adding services takes more hours – more staff – more volunteers – more funds.  It also keeps us segregated – by style of worship – by ethnicity possibly – by expressions of worship.  I already hear people referring to those folks at the other service (both ways).  Aren’t we worshiping the same God?  What if we could all just get along and worship – with various styles – in the same service?  Do we think worship in heaven will be segregated by styles?

I have lived long enough to have witnessed elements of several local churches break off/leave a community of faith because the way they wanted to worship God was not accepted by or even tolerated by the majority or an outspoken minority.  I ran into a former member of a church I served while visiting a different church recently.  I was told they left our faith community because they wanted more excitement – more emotion in worship.  Ouch – that hurt!

Here’s a question for us to consider – what if many of our churches are dying in the United Methodist Church because we are unwilling to offer Jesus in a fresh way that might just reach the unchurched in our communities – in our own families?  Those of us who know me – know I’m not talking about a new theology – I’m talking about a fresh new way to present the Truth!  I’m a third generation Methodist pastor and I preach the same gospel truth that my grandfather and father preached – but the way they reached their congregations is not the way I strive to reach the congregation I serve.  Are we striving to reach all we can for Jesus or just those who fit into the box we have created in our worship services?

David seemed free to worship God as he saw fit.  Was that because he was the king or was it simply because he didn’t care how others saw his worship – he simply wanted to express himself before his God.  I bet he even felt the wrath of his wife – yet he probably felt very close to his God.

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.

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March 11, 2015 - Posted by | Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Lenten Thought, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , ,

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