Question: In the November 2000 issue, you state correctly, “The Christianity that is represented by most of the contemporary Christian music and attractions would shock the early disciples....” I couldn’t agree more. But you also classify “the way in which worship is conducted” as “pet traditions having no basis in the Bible [Jan 2001].” This seems to be endorsing the so-called “contemporary worship” and its “contemporary music.” The “anything goes” scene seems to violate the biblical principle of 1 Cor:14:40 [“let all things be done decently and in order”]. It has rather given credence to a phony “Christianity.” You should clarify your position.
Response: In these pages we have more than once mourned the replacement of the old hymns of the faith (filled with challenging, correcting and edifying biblical doctrine) by shallow, repetitive choruses in which the rhythm moves the feet and hands but the words too often offer little for either the head or heart. As for the style of music, I am not a musician and cannot comment, and specific “rules” would be hard to apply. However, it often seems that much (though not all) of what is known as “contemporary Christian music,” rather than reverent and worshipful and reflecting a wholesome awe before our God, must be loud with a raucous beat and played and sung by “performers” with dress and manner to match. The real question is whether the music we offer and the attitudes of our hearts would be acceptable in heaven before the throne of God and the Lamb. That criteria, I believe, is something which today’s Christian musicians (and their pastors and elders as well) ought to pray about and ponder seriously, whether performed at concerts or as a “worship team” in a church. Yes, too often it seems a performance to impress audiences rather than worship offered to God.
My comment about following tradition in worship concerned “the way in which worship is conducted....” Obviously, that is all I could address because I cannot look into anyone’s heart. A true believer led of the Holy Spirit could be worshiping the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (Jn:4:23), as Christ said we must, in spite of what everyone else in the congregation may be doing. I did not describe nor criticize any way in which worship is conducted anywhere as not being biblical, nor did I commend any way of conducting worship as more biblical. I merely said that the way in which worship is conducted is often according to a tradition that is peculiar to certain denominations. Unquestionably, various denominations and independent fellowships of Christians have their own traditional peculiarities in this regard.
Surely I would not then be suggesting that everyone adopt some “contemporary” way of worship which in itself has already become another “tradition.” New tradition is no better than old tradition. My concern for myself and for others is that “worship” can become more a matter or form than of the heart so that the form is all many know about “worship.” The Bible dictates no form. We are to remember Christ in His death in partaking of the bread and cup, which remind us of His body broken and blood poured out for our sins; and we do this “till he come” (1 Cor:11:26). We are thus reminded of His resurrection and His promised return to take us to His Father’s house of many mansions (Jn:14:1-3). But no order of service is prescribed, only (as you stated) that all should be done “decently and in order”—to which our consciences and the Holy Spirit in our hearts bear witness as well.