And the Worship Wars Go On and On: On Music Genres

In an article entitled “And the Worship Wars Go On and On: Musings on Why Adventist Worship is Changing for the Worst” I presented R&B as part of the change that has happened in Adventist worship. What I didn’t do is present my views on music genres. For those that don’t know I’ve been involved in worship as a musician since I was about 12-13 years of age. This year makes me 34. So that’s about 20+ years of ecclesiastical worship setting experience. This doesn’t make everything I say dogma. My perspective is simply one of many with flaws and all. Take it with a grain of salt.

There will always be differences of opinion on how to do worship. That much is true. The issue is finding that balance that doesn’t conflict with Seventh-day Adventist belief and lifestyle. The either/or approach doesn’t resolve anything. It encourages unnecessary labeling, and in some cases, demonizing of those with opposing viewpoints. The best way to address the various issues in the worship debate is to be honest about what we can be certain of.

Does the Bible specifically address music genres? I don’t think so. If you see it feel free to share. A big part of the worship debate is music genres. To be honest I think that most people who are addressing this issue usually ignore evidence that contradict their perspective. The arguments are un-fair and un-balance. They exaggerate points which they have no evidence for. This happens to everybody, no one is excluded. What makes the difference is those that, from time to time, step back and evaluate their own perspectives.

I’ve watched myself literally transition from one perspective to another base on what I believe the evidence was saying. This article is my current perspective on music genres in the ecclesiastical worship setting. I will not address the individual worship setting for reasons that will become clear as this article progresses.

The music commonly labeled as “gospel” can easily be classified, or associated with, R&B. The older versions of this music genre and others (rock, country, etc.) are easily accepted as proper in many Haitian Adventist congregations. Perhaps at their arrival they may have been an issue but now they are generally accepted as fitting, proper, and holy. Any sign of initial opposition to these older forms of music genres seem to have long disappeared in the fog of time.

However, a change has come. The change is brought about by the usage of modern gospel music which in some cases sound very different then the older ones. This change has brought about much concern and a “back to classical” movement which is equated with “holy music” in the minds of some. We have one side that wants classical hymns and another that wants modern gospel. I’m in the middle. I think the church will do well with a mix.

Most that are in favor of more modern approach to things share my perspective. However, I think there is a reason to be concerned and to be cautious in what we use and how we use it. First let me present my perspective on music genres. I do not find sufficient evidence to support arguments that claim one music genre is better than another. If I’m in error please show me the evidence publicly or send me an email.

I’m well aware of Lucifer’s role as musician in heaven. I believe that is enough to argue that he can do destructive things with music. However, I don’t think that is sufficient to say that a music genre is bad. On what basis can that claim be made? What’s the rubric by which to judge? These questions are often ignored as arguments are made against a particular genre. If we are going to use something to judge one genre it should be used to judge all.

With all that being said here is where I think we would do wise to be careful. With music genres come culture and lifestyle. Ever heard the phrase “Hip Hop culture?” Music genres can promote a lifestyle. It’s not simply about the sound of the music, it’s also about the ideas and feelings it brings to mind. There are many that gain their philosophical perspective on life base on the words of Hip Hop and R&B artists. These artists selected music that they felt merge well with their thoughts.

Is all Hip Hop and R&B negative? No. Should those Hip Hop and R&B that promote Christ and scripture be allowed in the ecclesiastical worship setting? It Depends. Some of you may be shock at this point. The best way to deal with an issue is to think it out all the way through. The allowance of Hip Hop and R&B should be particular to the congregation in question. If it would cause an issue with the conscience of those people in that congregation then it would be a grave error to allow it. However, if all is in acceptance and the theological nature of that church is not affected then why not?

I won’t say that a Hip Hop or R&B song is bad simply because it is Hip Hop or R&B. I will judge it base on what is being said. But this is not where it ends. It is important to understand that music genres have different effects on people. For some hearing Hip Hop and R&B doesn’t create a longing or a pull for street life. For others a distinction can’t be made. This is where it can really be dangerous.

I’m not against Hip Hop Christ-base gospel and the likes. Where I think it can be really dangerous is when consideration is not given to the impact of a music genre on an individual. Just because you are ok with it doesn’t mean it will benefit the entire congregation. Analysis is required to understand the impact of a music genre on your person. We need to think of what is good for the spiritual development of the entire church and not just ourselves.

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I’m always glad to hear from Readers. Please leave a comment below.

And the Worship Wars Go On and On: Musings on Why Adventist Worship is Changing for the Worst

imgresFor some time now Adventism has been engaged in a worship war. Not too long ago it has reached the front steps of Haitian Adventism in North America and made its presence known. The conflict is base on differing views on the styles and methods of liturgy–”a fixed set of ceremonies, words, etc., that are used during public worship in a religion” (Webster). Since Liturgy, by definition, is already established, the arrival of a different one automatically presents an issue. The problem is not necessarily that there is a conflict, but what needs to be addressed in order to resolve the conflict.

Many have set out to resolve the conflict by submitting theological perspectives that they believe support their position. This is often found amongst the proponents of traditional liturgy. They are correct to begin the discussion on the principles of worship that can be obtained through sound biblical exegesis. However, there is a tendency to stretch the meaning of a passage to support pre-supposed assumptions.

 Proponents of emerging liturgy are not well known for basing their stance on biblical perspectives. Those that do claim a biblical stance seem to also overstate their arguments like their counterparts. It almost seems as if the argument is base solely on the need for something different.

Clearly these are over-generalized categorizations of the two groups. Both sides do contain individuals who have substantial arguments for their positions. However, there is no end in sight to the war. Instead, an augmentation is on the horizon. At this juncture I’ve decided to voice my opinion concerning why this conversation between the two opposing sides is necessary and what I believe is the cause behind the rise of the emerging liturgy, new way of doing corporate worship. My focus will be on new music genres into the divine worship hour(s).

The very thought of speaking about the way corporate worship is done can put a damper on things. The assumption behind the dropping of countenances is that the discussion will result in the stoppage of the emerging liturgy or modification of the traditional. Many have found it comfortable to take a neutral position where the emerging and the traditional can function together in the same place. In terms of the music some have argued that the best way to deal with the issue is by mixing the traditional with the new.

This laissez-faire stance is problematic. This is not said concerning their stance but in their handling of a major dividing issue. The worship wars can cause division in congregations. Anything that escalate to the point of potential division should face a great deal of scrutiny by all that are involved. The present church should not only be concerned about itself but also the impact that its decisions will have on how future generations respond.

I don/t believe that the new way of doing worship has it’s origin within Adventism. This is not to say that it never occurred in our past or that there weren’t individuals within our midst who wanted to do so. What I am saying is that in recent North American Haitian Adventism context the reason behind the emerging liturgy is a probably a desire by our young people (millennials) to have a worship setting like unto that of Protestantism. This is reinforced by the desire of some adults in the church who found the new way appealing.

We are getting the way we do worship from those with a completely different theological system then we have. What is motivating the change? Is it discoveries concerning God in scripture or is it simply base on what is seen? Protestant theology not only affects the words in their songs but also their music. For example a church that believes in speaking unintelligible tongues will have worship with music that reflects and/or allows for this.

It is only logical that if we are going to borrow from them that we are true with ourselves concerning why we are borrowing from them. Man is unable to see the heart but God knows if the borrower is doing so base on the conviction that the song is pointing to God or simply the “feel-good” affect of the song. Throwing God’s name in it doesn’t make it a godly song. It also doesn’t help that most of the singers that are being copied look like R&B artists.

Which brings me to my next point: looks like R&B, sounds like R&B, is R&B? I think this is a fair conclusion. The emerging liturgy in Protestantism seems to mimic the music and stage presence of R&B. It is mixing pop culture with Christianity. In this mixing the main focus seems to be on individual expression, excitement, emotionalism, and performance. This is a scary way of doing worship. Often times the emphasis seems to be on fun. Worship is not about how much fun we can have or how good we can feel.

By taking R&B styling and bringing it inside the church we participate in the secularization of corporate worship. This then lowers the standards of individual worshippers in their beliefs about how to react to secular society. Allowing our youths to be expose to this will eventually leave us with a generation that is very lax on principles. What kind of church will they have if we don’t instruct them properly?

I do admit that there are elements in my musing that are not altogether correct. For instance, my comments on how the new worship style got in Haitian Adventism is purely a guess. However, it is here and needs to be scrutinize. I do believe that we are borrowing from Protestantism, and that part of the reason it is appealing to us is that we are also becoming secularized.

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I’m always glad to hear from Readers. Please leave a comment below.

Worship and Work – Exodus 5

For years now I’ve been doing what we Christians call morning devotion or morning worship. Though there are suggested ways of doing it, most people follow a pattern that they have developed over the years. Mine is rather simple, I read the Bible and pray. This can be categorized as listening to God speaking through Scripture and talking to Him. I never know what to expect, but most of the time I find myself exegeting the text.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe in the separation of exegesis and worship. In fact, thinking properly about the text only enhances the worship experience, not demean it. Furthermore, I wonder why is worship often viewed as separate from Bible study. The big questions are, 1. What is worship? and 2. How should we worship? That is really a discussion for another time, so I will leave it for now (smile).

I’ve started reading Exodus a few days ago in my devotions, and today I reached chapter 5. My reflections were centered around work and worship. In a fast-paced, cut throat world, where financial entities are attempting to navigate away from the tsunami of economic doom, the Christian cannot lose sight of the importance of worship. The issues that usually come up are time and energy. Due to the hectic work load and the time that it requires, especially of those who work in the major cities, many say that they are too fatigued to maintain daily worship (or a beneficial form of it).

Though it is based on Jewish slavery in Egypt, Exodus 5 does contain some similarities to the modern world. In Exodus 5 Moses and Aaron’s attempt to gain religious liberty for the Jews fell on deaf ears. Pharaoh not only emphasized his lack of familiarity with their God, but he went on to the next logical conclusion in that sequence of thought, he will not listen to this God (Ex. 5:1-3). When a god is not viewed as your god, his demands will not be seen as authoritative to you.

Pharoah’s resolution was to increase the work load (Ex. 5:6-19). In a way, Pharaoh typifies the modern world’s unfamiliarity with God and its refusal to make adjustments for those who do. Sure there is religious liberty in America and other places, but they only reach so far. Religious liberty may help in the observance of the Sabbath but not help a single mother of two argue that she needs at least half an hour to pray with her children in the morning. When a government speaks about your rights, they are not referring to your rights as you see it or as God has decreed, but as is written in their laws.

Allow me to open a parenthesis here. There is another group of people who are not experiencing a conflict between worship and work. Though they may work hard at work, they still only have an 8 hour work day or less. The problem here, if they really want to have worship, is a lack of discipline. Simply saying discipline in this context is to draw attention to consistency in the action that needs to be taken, that of worship. However, in order for one to do what is necessary, then the necessity must be viewed as such, and that requires the awakening or the implantation of an ideology. To state it plainly, these people just don’t get it. What they are not doing reveals something about their true views of God. Close parenthesis.

In the modern workplace, religion, though it receives much lip service, is not generally viewed as meaningful. Even if a majority may claim that it is, they live by a code in which the all mighty dollar is the god behind the mask of their god. In other words, money making has become a religion, a religion that has made much inroad within Christianity. Employers are willing to deal with your religious musings and requirements but up to a certain extent. “Religion, Smuligion,”Everyone is content as long as their pockets are plenty with green.

Pharoah, in an attempt to cut down this religious movement at the roots, decided that he needed to have the Jews focusing on something. He figured that they had too much time on their hands for fanciful philosophy. He reasoned that the more work they had, the less time to think about “false words” (Ex. 5:9 NASB). His plan worked well, the spiritual leaders were shunned for the pain and suffering that their call to worship caused (Ex. 5:20, 21).

Not surprisingly, when spiritual leaders call for worship there is bound to be problems that will put believers at a crossroad between the faith and the norms of everyday life. What seems best to those under oppression is to attempt to relieve oneself of the misfortunes by reverting back to or calling for the secular norm, how things were before the call to worship. During these time, it is the same spiritual leader, who is shunned and despised, that heads off to pray for the trouble that has come upon the believers (Ex. 5:22, 23). Maybe it’s time we join them.