I have the blessing of leading a multi-generational church. In these days where many churches are focusing on one particular age group or generation, we are pretty excited to be multi-generational. But with the blessing of being multi-generational comes some challenges, particularly in the area of music.
While I cannot say that our church is renewing the “Worship Wars” of the past, people do have strong opinions and those opinions tend to differ along generational lines. I hear all the opinions. More hymns. More choruses. More contemporary. More traditional. Less drums. More drums. Faster songs. Slower songs. You get the picture. And while as a church we are committed to a blend of hymns and choruses and tend to lean more contemporary than traditional, there is still always some tension.
Where I struggle is finding the place of personal opinion and personal preference in worship music. All of us have personal preferences. For example, I grew up listening to rock and roll. I listen to a wide variety of contemporary Christian music, but my personal preference skews toward the harder edged end of that genre. And though I love the old hymns as much as the next person, if I were to apply purely my personal preferences, we would have a rock and roll worship show on Sunday morning. (And some of you would cheer, others are grimacing.) I know there are others in our congregation whose personal preference would be all traditional hymns in a traditional style. Others want everything upbeat, still others would prefer it all quiet and contemplative As a pastor of a multi-generational church, I believe all of those styles – contemporary and traditional, upbeat and contemplative - can be possible in the worship music of our church, even though all may not be present every Sunday.
What gives me pause is thinking about the place of personal preference in worship music and the fact that worship is meant to be directed at God. After all, we don't worship corporately to please people. The songs are not there is impress outsiders with our talent or impress the congregation with our musical choices or styles. Rather our worship, while it has a corporate, horizontal component, is meant to be directed vertically, to God. If it is not, it isn't worship; it's just a concert of spiritual songs.
I wonder what would happen in our churches if every person put their personal preferences about worship music on the shelf before walking into church? What would happen if each of us made it a priority to seek God's face in corporate worship every Sunday, regardless of the song style or selection? Would God be glorified? I think so. Would we be unified? Yes again. And last time I checked, those were very good things.