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Does your church have a "worship issue" that it is seeking to resolve? Are people polarizing around different styles and expressions of music worship? Are the generations in conflict about what constitutes acceptable worship? For what they are worth, here are a few observations and suggestions that may or may not help.

We are not great "lovers" when it comes to our relationship with God. We western Christians are usually cerebral and ordered when it comes to how we express worship. "Passionate" is not a word that we would normally use in this regard. So, what are the factors that have been at work in our lives to shape and direct the way we experience and express worship? Maybe it's time to identify those factors.

1. Individual Upbringing.

The past is a great shaper of perception. Our view of reality is rarely (if ever) unaffected by the way we have been moulded by family emphases, peer groups, adoption of social standards etc. Without realising it, these values have been transmitted to us and have lodged in the deepest part of our being.

2. Biblical Understanding

This is most likely the product of the church tradition in which we were raised. We adopt these standard because, having been raised in that tradition, they must be right! To question those traditions can be seen as some kind of betrayal.

3. Cultural Ethos

This is to say that our Cultural Ethos exerts a powerful influence. If we live in a culture that is unashamed to show emotion, then we might reasonably expect that this will be true in every area of life - including worship. Some cultures are very expressive emotionally while others are more the "stiff upper lip" style.

4. Personal Preference

Differences in nature, temperament and personality should be recognized and accommodated. Variety and diversity need to be handled with care. When it comes to one's taste in music, the range of personal preferences is enormous. Any movement away from what has been the accepted tradition within that group can be quite threatening. However the goal is not to eliminate differences but to harmonize them.The Bible gives us no one, unchangeable pattern or form of worship.

A.  WORSHIP CAN BE SILENT/QUIET

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Ps 46:10 NIV  [Be still = Be silent, be quiet]

But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Hab 2:20  NIV)

B. WORSHIP CAN BE EXPRESSIVE AND NOISY

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.  (Ps 150:3-6 NIV)

C.  WORSHIP CAN BE MAJESTIC

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. In a great chorus they sang, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!"  The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke. (Isa 6:1-4 NLT)

D. WORSHIP CAN BE CELEBRATORY

So much teaching in the Bible about worship has a strong emphasis on celebration. We are celebrating the person of the Lord God Almighty. Many of the psalms in particular have a strong sense of rejoicing in the Lord and magnifying His Name.

As we consider the variety of worship expressions, it becomes clear that no one expression of worship suits every occasion. The challenge is how to sensitively maintain a balance as we seek to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and to the needs of people.

Finally, let me offer these observations.

1. A mature loving attitude will extend freedom to others to express their worship as is fitting with who they are. In every Church there are those who are very expressive people in all areas of their life. It will take love, grace and understanding to offer them the freedom to be appropriately expressive in their worship.

2. Equally, those to whom this freedom is extended will not misuse it but will exercise it with an equal degree of loving responsibility. We are not talking here about right and wrong ways to worship. We are talking about different ways to worship.

3. The key to freedom is for us to experience a growing God-consciousness without losing our awareness and care of others around us.

4. Whether we sing hymns or praise songs, they need to be Biblically sound and accurate. Sometimes a tune may be catchy for whatever reason but it can also be the means of communicating false doctrine, at worst, or shallow and superficial relationships at best.

5. The language and terminology needs to relevant and understandable. The truth is in the words, not the tune. If the music is so loud that the words cannot be understood, then what you have is a concert to entertain, not a Church at worship.

6. The question is not as to whether the song/hymn is old or new. The question is "Is it life-giving?" Does it provide me with an effective means of responding to the Lord as He reveals Himself to me.

CONCLUSION:

In the same way that it takes all kinds of Churches to reach all kinds of people, so it takes all kinds of music worship to accommodate that reality.

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