Saturday, June 21, 2008

Christian Worship Styles

Christian Worship Styles
I hesitate to post this because I know my religious posts are met with "groan" every time I post one, but here goes anyways

I've never liked "new" Worship Music until recently. You know the kind with guitars and drums and tambourines and the whole bit.
I grew up in traditional churches until I rejected the idea of God entirely in my high school years. I was later convicted in college - hard to explain, just one of those things where God showed up and said "Hey, time to come home." so i did.
Traditional Liturgy goes something like this : Opening Hymn, joint creed, hymn, reading, reading, hymn, gospel, sermon, hymn / offering, communion, creed, hymn, close. Now I'm sure I missed a point or two or got something out of order for some of you but the point is the same - there's kind of a set schedule of events and they follow a rough pattern. The hymns are usually accompanied by a pipe organ or piano and most hymns (shame on me for generalizing this point) are fairly slow plodding songs.
Then there's these new churches called "Mega Churches" that borrow a bit from the pentecostals and a bit from the traditionals. The plan at these churches is more or less musical worship with a full band like you might see if you were at a rock concert (guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards, amps and speakers everywhere) and then a collection and sermon occasionally followed by communion and more worship to close.
The contrast in styles is both shocking and discomforting if you're a consistent member of one and you suddenly start going to the other. Traditional services are a bit more solemn, quieter while the mega churches seem to encourage people to stand on their chairs and scream out "Christ is Lord! Christ is Risen! YAHOO!" It's all a bit strange to someone raised as a traditionalist.
But here's the thing and there's really no getting around it because it becomes a bigger issue every year :
Traditional churches are struggling. My family and I have been to at least 12 churches in the last 10 years and with very few exceptions, traditional churches can't make their budgets, can't afford toeven pay their own staffs, can't afford to send people on mission trips, struggle to meet their community giving goals, struggle to assemble enough people for a bible study class, struggle, in fact, just to survive.
The "mega" churches on the other hand, no matter how big they are or were at the time we first went there, are exploding with growth. If you don't get to our church at least 10-15 min before worship starts, you're going to have to find an usher to find you a seat. And this is no small coffee house church - this thing is built like an auditorium, complete with a balcony and it fills up to the point where they have four weekend services now plus another one on Wednesday. It's an absolute mob scene trying to get into and out of the church which is about the size of a decent sized school. There are people everywhere, young people, old people, people with problems and people with ironclad faith.
So though my wife and I were raised in traditional churches, we find that the opportunities to get to know Jesus in new and exciting ways is far more uplifting than the constant reminder that the church has missed its budget yet again due to people not giving as much as they expected.
So, I find myself on the train to work one day reading my bible. We've signed on for this four year bible program at church where you read a chapter every day for four years and then after four years you've read the whole bible. My time to read is on the train, and I find it's been an excellent start to my workdays. But riding the train is distracting - there's people talking, some are snoring, some are listening to their music way too loud, some are on their phones - it's all very aggravating if you're trying to get some bible reading done. So I listen to my ipod. I had been listening to my favorite 1980's pop songs but I find that way too many of the themes of those songs just don't mesh well with what I'm trying to do by reading the bible. So one day, I turn on this Worship CD I had received from a friend years ago, called "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever" and wow, oh WOW.
I said before that I never liked "new" Worship music but there I am on the train reading the Bible and listening to Worship music and REALLY enjoying it. I mean, I'm enjoying it so much I've got the little tears welling up in my eyes and I'm getting really embarassed because I'm having this really intense religious experience right there on the train amongst a crowd of people. The weird thing is about these experiences is that the more you try to bottle it up the more it bubbles over.
Anyways, suffice to say I have a new favorite CD in my collection and I haven't listened to anything else (other than my CS Lewis audiobook - different topic) for more than a week.
I hope this post is an inspiration to those of you who have shunned something corny or silly in your life in the past to revisit it with fresh eyes and ears and see if it's different today than it was when you remembered it.

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