Have you ever wondered why we sing or play certain types of music in church? Is it because that’s what our parents sang? Is it because that’s what the church down the street is playing? What are the churches on TV or live streaming singing? Should our worship music sound like what we hear on iTunes, records, CDs, or even old 8 track tapes? Should it be different?
The answer to all the above is, “Yes.” Church music has taken a beating over the last few decades as churches battled over traditional versus contemporary, acoustic versus electric, organ versus guitars, and even the very presence of percussion instruments in the sanctuary. Taking into account Kara’s sermon story last week about how easy it is to draw lines of difference, let’s think about how all of these are similar. First, they all require human skill and work. Second, they all require some sort of vibration to produce their sound, just like the human voice. Third, they all have valid mention in Old Testament Scripture: strings, woodwinds, brass (ram’s horn), AND percussion (cymbals especially).
The pipe organ uses pipes like a flute to make sound. The guitar and violin families use vibrating strings, like your human vocal folds. Brass players “buzz” or vibrate their lips in a metal cup to produce rich sounds. Pianists strike a key in turn striking a string which then vibrates. Percussion players strike… well, lots of things to make sound. Even the electric synthesizer sends an electric signal to a speaker which vibrates!
So, pianos, guitars, organs, drums, cellos, trumpets, tubas, voices, and sticks are all basically the same. The rub comes when we decide God prefers one over the other. To steal a thought from our pastor, “We know what God’s favorite instruments are when He hates the same ones we do.” I think we have to ask ourselves some tough questions. Does our music carry a meaningful and theologically sound message? Do our multiple musical styles speak to everyone in the room? Can we widen the scope of our fine arts worship vehicles to reach an increasingly diverse culture? Can we learn to appreciate several styles?
If we are to be a church that celebrates diversity, embraces variety, and loves all, then it is only reasonable that we be inclusive in our worship practice and tools. At this week’s XYZ (Senior Adult) meeting I heard our guest speaker Michael Lowery say, “Just because you don’t like apples doesn’t mean they are not good. Let’s serve apples, pears, oranges, and grapes so everyone can have something they like.” I thought it fit so well. Gratefully, Bill