Friday, February 15, 2013

Spiked Kool-aid

The ease and comfort so many churches have with the transformation of worship into the glorification of the people, their feelings, their preferences, and their desires is striking.  It would seem the most successful churches of any denomination (as well as those of none) are churches who find out what people want and dish it up to them in forms that people like.

Now, to be sure, there are many who have insisted this is a stylistic debate -- about things non-essential.  They insist that the purveyors of the modern style are still faithful in the content or substance of what is preached and taught.  Here faithful has come to mean Biblical and if you can find a proof text to support your preaching, then you are, indeed, faithful (no matter how awfully you ripped the quote from its context or elevated detail to the status of essential doctrine).

Worship wars are not fought over musical preference.  It is about much more than this.  Worship wars are battles over what is believed, confessed, and taught.  It is the conviction of a growing number that what is disguised as style is a radical reinvention of the faith that leaves the church unrecognizable and steals the Gospel from the appearance of religion.

Perhaps the way we ought to put it is as blunt as blunt can be.  One blogger labeled it this way:  Do they like the spiked Kool Aid of contemporary sounds that jar the spirit rather than lift it to God in a meditative, contemplative way? Just wondering?

I rather like the label "spiked kool aid."  It conjures up the image of something that is ever so appealing for its sweetness but which harbors death itself.  And that is exactly what we battle here.  It is not instruments to accompany singing, musical preference, or page number.  It is about the heart and soul of the church.  It is about the authentic voice of the Gospel -- silenced or over looked by the glorification of personal taste and felt need.  It is oh, so good, to drink but it is the death of the church -- not because it is not likeable.  It is.  But because it is not faithful.

The radical disconnect between what happens in so many churches today and the church of the ages is not incidental.  It is a sign that portends death.  The goal here is not repristination of a past moment.  I am no believer in the glory years or days or in a particular page number and its hallmark.  I believe that where the means of grace are, there is the glory day of the Lord calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying.  So my concern is not recreating something of our past but making sure that what we have today is faithful and what we pass on to those to come is faithful to our Lord in faith and in practice.  New is not always bad but it is not always good, either.  We sing to the Lord a new song but that new song is worthy only in so far as it is faithful.  We add to the songs of old the new song of the day that has proven faithful and worthy.  It is no secret that much of what is added to the church's liturgy and hymnody disappears as soon as it is written.  It is also no secret that what endures is found faithful and noble.  It is this that should occupy our attention and not relevance to the moment -- perhaps the most nefarious and deceitful captivity.

Let's be careful that we do not make this a war over personal taste but contend for the faith itself and for the forms and practices of worship and music that are faithful to that once delivered to the apostles and handed down by every generation of the saints even to the present day.  God expects nothing less and we can afford nothing less.  Anything else is the sweet poison that can steal from us the very gift of the church and turn worship against us instead of for us, replacing the means of grace with the means of pleasure, relevance, and timeliness.

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