Style and function — Worship conversation with Hugh

How is it in your church? Is there a tension between the songs which the oldies enjoy, and the songs preferred by the younger generation? Do some want hymns, while other want contemporary worship songs? Are there some who want an organ or piano, while others want a band with guitars and drums?

So how do we reconcile these differences?

The easy way is to adopt a policy of generational apartheid. Let’s have a “traditional service” at 8am and a “contemporary service” at 10am, or if that won’t work, then we’ll sing hymns with the organ at a morning service, and contemporary worship songs with the band at the evening service.

I can’t buy that solution. Racial apartheid fractured the Old South Africa, and generational apartheid fractures the Body of Jesus Christ. There should be at least one occasion weekly when the whole Body worships together. I side with Jesus in that believers of all generations should “be one. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that the Father sent Me, and has loved them even as the Father has loved me.” — John 17:22,23.

The solution is to accept that there are differences and welcome them into united worship in the church service. The way to do this with integrity and honesty is to recognise the distinction between “style and function” in our singing.

I don’t care what style we choose for our singing but I do care what the function of our singing is. Whether we chant psalms, sing hymns, or prefer spiritual songs, is neither here nor there. The style doesn’t matter to God. What is supremely important to God is: That our singing in church fulfils the function He intended it to fulfil.

According to Colossians 3:16, the Function God wants to fulfil in our singing is five-fold:

a) The lyrics must be rich in the word of Christ
b) The lyrics must teach one another
c) The lyrics must admonish (correct, direct) one another
d) The lyrics must have wisdom, and not be superficial.
e) The lyrics must express the gratitude of our hearts to God.

Note that God does not prescribe any one style of music. He wants all styles to be sung during the course of any one service: “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs”. Old, recent and today. Seniors, middle-aged and youth. Each generation has its favourite style. Each must participate in singing in every style.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” — Philippians 2:4.

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