Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Few Further Thoughts on Worship Styles and Content

I'm really good at saying 2/3 or 3/4 of what I should say. A question I'm learning to ask is, “What might spiritual growth look like?” Needless to say, the answer depends entirely on where a particular believer is, their starting point. Spiritual growth in worship could look very different for different persons. Maybe the range of personalities could be useful to suggest some possible paths of spiritual growth for different personalities.

The Christian who believes their preferred music style is all that God approves has one or more pretty basic spiritual problems. Their problem might be pride, believing they are part of some sort of spiritual elite that has a special understanding of God. Their problem might be that they are, in their minds, effectively, grafting their personal tastes onto Scripture. Or their problem might be ignorance – not knowing or recognizing what God has been and is doing in the Body of Christ outside of their particular circle of fellowship. There may be other factors, of course. What might spiritual growth look like for such a person? Recognizing that God is bigger than their particular personal tastes would be a good start. Recognizing the freedom the Bible gives believers in this area of spiritual life would be good. Learning about and learning to respect other fellow believers who are different would also be good. Though simply stated, those three measures are not trivial, and would go a very long way toward rooting out spiritual pride and informing ignorance! All three would broaden such a person's understanding of the Bible. And all three would expand such a person's vision of the Body of Christ in the world. Would such a person then be under the imperative to fellowship with believers who use styles of different music in their worship? Good question, but I won't go there yet.

What about a person who understands that the music style used at their church isn't all that God approves of, but has simply grown really “comfortable” where they are? I won't paint with too broad a brush, but at least some such persons have gotten into a spiritual rut and are not growing spiritually in the area of worship. That distinction – is one growing or is one in stasis – is a key issue in knowing whether it might be spiritually helpful for such a person to seek fellowship with believers who use different styles of music in their worship. And the same could be true for the kind of person mentioned in the previous paragraph. If they are in one, getting out of their rut could be one area of spiritual growth. The need isn't for change or constant novelty for its own sake, but spiritual growth, under God's guidance.

What about a person who is comfortable with and able to worship in a variety of styles and forms? For such believers seeking spiritual growth in worship, spiritual growth might not be in the direction of breadth so much as for greater depth. Worship expresses praise for God's greatness. Worship expresses awe at what God has done – in creation and in the believer's life. Worship expresses appreciation for God's character. So one possible area of spiritual growth, then, might be a sort of spiritual adventure or quest to learn more about the grandeur, beauty and intricacy of creation – God's work. Another might be to meditate on all that God has done in one's personal life – salvation, general provision, guidance throughout the course of one's life, specific instances of provision or guidance, ways in which God used past troubles as preparation for ministry to others experiencing similar challenges. And a believer seeking greater depth in their worship could also delve into what God has revealed of His character. Scripture has many direct statements concerning God's character: “God is love”; “For God so loved”; “A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright”. Scripture also illustrates God's character by showing how God worked in the lives of various persons.

I have to emphasize that spiritual growth is very individual – God isn't seeking cookie-cutter robots. God will lead apparently similar believers on dissimilar paths. In addition to spiritual growth being individual, spiritual growth also in intended to happen in a corporate (church congregation) contextgrowing and helping others grow.. So the areas of spiritual growth I suggested above are possibilities, not prescriptions.

Personally, I am comfortable worshiping in quite a few styles and forms, but I can see a problem I have with spiritual pride. I remember where I have been – in worship, not physical location – and I see the changes I've gone through as spiritual growth. And so they have been, for me. So when I see others doing things I was 20 or 30 years ago, I can fall into the temptation of thinking of those things as signs of immaturity. In my silly pride I have failed to recognize that God deals with individual believers as individuals. Maybe God has worked with that other person with a different order of priorities. Maybe God has taken that other person on a totally different path in worship. Maybe there are more maybes than those my limited mind can conceive! So, for me, one area of spiritual growth is to respect other believers as God's work-in-progress – just as much as I am – and to respect the work God is doing and path on which God has them.

No comments:

Post a Comment