My sister-in-law dug up a video from my days in college that brought back great memories of a week spent with nine other Christian young men. Unfortunately for me, the video is mildly incriminating since it contains actual footage of us guys doing the equivalent of a “flash mob” style dance party in different areas of campus (no alcohol was involved in the making of this film. ha). It is unfortunate because I have tethered myself to a denomination that was made notorious by films like Footloose and, um, Footloose (the remake) for its strong stance against dancing. I had a Southern Baptist math professor in college who told this joke: “Why are Southern Baptists opposed to premarital sex? Because it might lead to dancing!”
This post is the third and final part of a three part discussion (Part 1 and Part 2) on an article dealing with appropriate music in worship, and whether CCM ought to be discarded altogether. The author of the article argues that churches should “discerningly avoid all swinging sounds, sliding (scooping) sounds and all syncopating sounds.” There is no Scriptural authority to this claim, and I fear it is a Pharisaical fence, if you will, by which he and others wish to abolish any temptation toward dancing. As the joke goes, “Why does the Baptist oppose CCM? Because it might lead to dancing!”
However, as I reread the article this morning, I came to realize another fundamental mistake in the article. There is a blurring of the lines between what may be appropriate for private listening and enjoyment, and what is appropriate for corporate worship. Have you ever considered that everything on your IPod may not be appropriate or practical for corporate worship? Our author discards all CCM for all occasions because he believes it is unfit for corporate worship. Even if I tend to share his love for hymnody, I do not agree with his conclusion that all other music must be deleted from our music library.
I would recommend the book Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns by Dr. T. David Gordon. He explains why we should not expect church to be just like what we listen to in our personal lives. Private worship and corporate worship will look different, and that is okay, even proper. In our churches, many of our worship leaders encourage us to close our eyes and imagine it is just us and God. Why? Can’t we do that all week? The whole purpose of singing while we are with the church is so that we can…worship with the church. Why pretend we aren’t with the church?
Paul tells us that when we come together as a church, our hymns are meant for building one another up (1 Cor. 14:26). Additionally, we sing hymns as much to one another as we do to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Corporate singing is the only place where God’s people can actually unify with one voice; think about that. Singing ought to be an audible representation of the unity of the church. It is sad today that music style is one of the primary schism (pronounced “shiz’m” here in SC) causers in our churches. Churches break into two services over it. Churches break apart over it. Church members judge one another based on it.
Rather than thinking about what music in the church shouldn’t be, think about it what it should be. Corporate music ought to promote unity in the church. The one voice of the congregation must be heard in the service–why would you want to eliminate this amazing symbolism? Church members must see the music choices of their church as an opportunity to exercise 1 John 3:16 love for one another–we must be willing to lay down our preferences and very lives for our brothers. (By the way, if you are a pastor, I would encourage you to take seriously your oversight in the area of music.)
I am sure music will become a recurring topic on this blog, but this short post cannot turn into a manifesto on aesthetics, church order, and church unity. Besides, aren’t blogs supposed to be a medium of “light” dialogue? Gee whiz, I’ve got to lighten up.