Contemporary vs. Traditional styles in worship? Offering an excellent perspective on an age-old question, Tullian Tchividjian speaks as to why Christians are to be people with “swiveling heads” when it comes to music in the corporate worship service…
“Following the lead of the advertising world, many churches and worship services target specific age groups to the exclusion of others. They forget that, according to the Bible, the church is an all-age community, and instead they organize themselves around distinctives dividing the generations: Busters, Boomers, Millennials, Generations X, Y, and Z. Many churches offer a traditional service for the tribe who prefer older music and a contemporary service for the tribe who prefer newer music. The truth is, however, that if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is old, you inadvertently communicate that God was more active in the past than he is in the present. On the other hand, if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is new, you inadvertently communicate that God is more active in the present than he was in the past.
The only way to musically communicate God’s timeless activity in the life of the church is to blend the best of the past with the best of the present. In other words, we must remember in our worship that while “contemporary only” people operate with their heads fixed frontwards, never looking over their shoulder at the stock from which they have come, and “traditional only” people operate with their heads on backwards, romanticizing about the past and always wanting to go back, the Church, in contrast from both extremes, is called upon to be a people with swiveling heads: learning from the past, living in the present, and looking to the future. That’s the only way to avoid in worship what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.”
You see, when we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated.
Building the church on stylistic preferences or age appeal (whether old or young) is just as contrary to the reconciling effect of the gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions. In a recent interview J. I. Packer said, “If worship services are so fixed that what’s being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don’t believe the worship style glorifies God.” One of the leading ways the church can testify to God’s unifying power before our segregated world is to establish and maintain congregations and worship services that transcend cultural barriers, including age and musical styles.”
*Tullian Tchividjian is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
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