THE BLENDING OF WORSHIP
Music is a colossal issue! Not only is music emotional, but people are emotional about their music. In modern culture, the style of music one listens to has become a part of their identity and association. Christians, also, who used to divide up according to Theology, now separate according to worship style. Many pastors are aching over the rifts appearing in their once-united people. The blending of worship has become an issue because of the unique organism that is the Body of Christ. A grandmother may be sitting next to a punked-out teenager, while an auto-wrecker is sitting next to a brain surgeon.
The term “Blended Worship” suggests a desire to include people of differing musical tastes and backgrounds. This is not to insinuate that the strategic use of a specific musical style is inferior to blended worship. Rather, Blended Worship offers a solution to the challenges that face a blended family.
Many good churches feel exasperated in the area of worship. In frustration, some have thrown money at those who want something different, sending them off to “do their thing in the gym.” At the same time, many “chronologically challenged” Christians have callously discarded the legacy of those who have gone before them.
A starting place for struggling churches is to agree upon their purpose. There can be no true blending of worship without a blending of purpose, because corporate worship will follow, not precede, corporate purpose (even if the purpose is unstated). When a church wants to work together, as well as worship together, they can move forward to deal with Blended Worship.
The blending of worship has a thousand shades of Grey, but should not be seen or used as an attempt to keep everyone happy. The goal is to keep worshipers focused on God, rather than the music. Blended Worship is meant to facilitate this; but what is it, and how does one do it?
THE BLENDING OF REPERTOIRE
The most common blending of worship is to mix traditional and contemporary church music (some churches also throw classical music into this mix). Choruses and Hymns can serve together in a worship time in the same way that pliers and a screwdriver serve on the same tool belt. One can use Hymns as proclamations or to impart deep truths, while using Choruses as prayers that are sung. There are, however, many Choruses which cross over to impart Truth (especially when singing Scripture), and there are many Hymns that give voice to the heart. There are both mundane Choruses and mundane Hymns. There are both textually weak Choruses and textually weak Hymns. Being really old or really new does not make something good, or inferior. Leaders must choose and use the best of both.
Minor modifications should be made to help Hymns and Choruses work well together. Worship leaders must choose biblically sound Choruses in singable keys, and refrain from endless repeats. Likewise, Hymns must be biblically sound. Hymns are not holy writ; it is not a sin to pick and choose a verse or a refrain, rather than singing all verses all the time. Obviously this doesn’t apply to through-composed poetry forms like “A Mighty Fortress” and “And Can It Be.”
THE BLENDING OF MUSIC
Combining various musical styles, like an appetizer sampler, is engaging, but not very satisfying. Scripture commands that we “Sing a new song to the Lord.” Fusion happens by updating the repertoire while maintaining the musical style. Updating your repertoire is like changing the oil in your car; it should be done regularly (many contemporary churches learn a new song each week). Some churches like their style, but still need some newness. Most musicians can make new songs fit in nicely with a church’s characteristic music. In this way, a church can add to their song list without changing their sound and style.
Beyond fusion is Synergy! This is the combining of elements to form something new and better than the ingredients were alone. The path to synergy is to update both song list and style, without losing the heritage of great Hymns. Reworking the Hymns to make them sound more contemporary takes some creativity, and works for many, though not all, Hymns. In this way a church can both “sing a new song to the Lord,” and sing an old song in a new way. The shades and variations of Blended Worship are endless, and are not governed by Scripture. By way of reminder, the Bible does not contain notetated music. Each of the five collections within the Psalms was played in the style of their day and region. The poetry, rather than the notes, is what God thought worth preserving.
THE BLENDING OF LEADERSHIP
A key element to Blended Worship is the church-musician. Some church-musicians are an incredible resource for growth, while others are a great obstacle to it. There are organists who believe that Choruses are beneath the dignity of their instrument, and there are guitar players who don’t want to learn any song that has more than two chords in it. If your church has a talented church-musician who wants to incorporate the total Body of Christ in worship, pay them well! If not, fire them quickly.
Leaders are responsible to keep the corporate focus on God; anything else is idolatry. A warning light should go off when people must have things a certain way (certain instruments, buildings, liturgies, or songs) in order to worship. Jesus forever changed this concept of worship (John 4:21-24), and we should not resurrect it. The most reliable way to keep the corporate focus on the self-disclosure of God, rather than music, is to use Scripture as a platform and stimulant in worship. The uneditorialized Word of God, creatively interwoven throughout worship, unites and enflames people who honor it above their petty biases. Leadership should employ the many Scriptural tools of worship, rather than restricting themselves to the confines of music. Scripture says that our unity, not our music, will prove Christ to the world (John 17).