Wednesday, July 21, 2010

10 Common but Bad Arguments for “Contemporary Worship”
and 10 Quick Rebuttals

1. “You Traditionalists aren't interested in outreach”
A: This is simply not true. We simply disagree on how it should be done. Worship should not be “targeted” to the unbeliever or “seeker”.

2. “You Traditionalists are afraid....”
A: If by fear you mean concern, yes. But too often the “fear” argument is used to diminish valid concerns without having to address them honestly.

3. “It's just your preference”
A: No, in fact, my preference for music is quite different than what I believe is appropriate for worship. You should be glad that my preferences aren't the standard!

4. “It's style, not substance”
A: There is much about style that affects and effects substance. I know a sad or happy or angry song when I hear it. “The medium is the message”

5. “Contemporary is more user-friendly”
A: There's an argument to be made here, but not without some holes. For one, user-friendliness is not without a cost. Also, user-friendly to one may not be to another. Finally, why not educate people about worship “bring them up?” instead of “bringing it down” to them?

6. Claiming Martin Luther's Mantle
A: Because Luther made changes, contemporary worship proponents must be like Luther? This ignores the reasons for and the substance of the changes Luther made.

7. “Traditional hymns are old”
A: Easily dis-proven by the existence of very new hymns in traditional settings. Conversely, many so-called “contemporary” songs are decades old.

8. “God is my buddy – so I can be casual”
A: While Scripture does teach us God is our friend, it also teaches us to worship reverently. How does a casual approach to worship express reverence?

9. “Traditional worship is boring”
A: Even if we concede this point, so what? This assumes its purpose is to entertain, which is not true. However, I don't concede the point. I'm still very interested in and learning about our rich liturgical worship life.

10. “The Holy Spirit is on my side”
A: This rebuttal takes longer, but often the argument comes from deep misunderstanding of who the Spirit is and what He does. Often, it's a confusion of human emotional experience with the work of the Spirit.

The purpose of this list is not to reduce all discussion on Contemporary vs. Traditional worship to simple statements and rebuttals. I've simply observed that many of the discussions hardly get much further than these types of bad arguments, which are easily answered.

I believe it's time to get started having the long, hard conversations about the nitty-gritty of what divides us most in the LCMS - worship. But perhaps to do so we need to first get past these kinds of shallow soundbytes and canards.


Rev. Jim Roemke said...

How do I share this on Facebook? Great article! Glad you put your ideas out there and I agree completely!

dakotapastor said...

Here's another solid argument:

pastor fred said...

hey dude - i can only speak for myself, but i don't use those arguments. Whatever we use in worship starts with the Word and goes from there. I don't know anyone doing contemporary who strive to entertain. It would be cool if proponents of hymnal-only worship would stop assuming that those who use other styles use them to entertain. It is insulting and in many cases just plain wrong. There may be guys who are going for entertainment - not me. True, style isn't always neutral and i agree that not everything is appropriate in worship. I have prayed about this and have we ever stopped to consider that the music we use might convey a different message than we think. I love hymns and use them every week. Yet to say it always has to be the organ (which is relatively new tech wise) just seems to miss the point. I am not for throwing the baby out with the bathwater but i am for keeping Christ the focus and using music and instrumentation that has power, passion and brings the Gospel to the hearer. I believe that to be the spirit of the Reformation - not uniformity. You see, I trust that you preach Christ and would love to think that you and others trust that I do the same and with integrity. Just my two cents.

Preachrboy said...

Thanks, Fred. I appreciate your comments.

1. I didn't say that everyone who uses contemporary worship uses these arguments. I'm glad you don't. But plenty do. I have heard them many times, and recently. (or slight variations thereof)

In fact in the last "discussion" I had with someone on this topic (which really wasn't much of a discussion but them lecturing me), these were the very arguments used. I simply condensed them for this little article.

2. Perhaps another point in which we talk past each other is something you mentioned: the "Organ Only" argument. I honestly don't know anyone who makes this case. Now I have heard many on "my side" say that the organ is the "best" for worship - because it supports congregational singing and is "most like the human voice". Ok, I don't know whether I agree with that or not, but that's not the same as saying "organ only".

Having said that, I betcha the "other instruments" we use - trumpets, flute, violin, cello, handbells, chimes, etc... are not the typical "other instruments" as commonly found in contemporary forms - guitars, electric guitars, drums, tamborines. There's a "why" to all this, but I'm not sure I am the best to articulate it.

3. I think where you and I would disagree, Fred, is on whether we should seek, in worship, "unity of practice". I think neither of us is absolutist - you don't want total "anything goes", and I don't want total lockstep. But "where are the appropriate lines" would be a fruitful discussion, perhaps -and better, "why?", I believe scripture and the confessions speak to this, by the way... So does the word "synod".

4. The "Trust Me" argument is perhaps one I left out. :-)
If "trust me" means that we can never question or criticize another pastor or congregation's practice, then I can't see how that's scriptural. We are repeatedly told to bear one another's burdens, watch our teaching, gently restore someone who is erring, etc... It may not seem nice to criticize another, but it can be the loving thing to do.

That said, those of us who warn against contemporary worship are certainly mean or harsh at times - and I can only say that I try hard not to be.. and if/when I am I ask your forgiveness.

pastor fred said...

Hey Tom - thanks for your thoughtful response. I have had too many pastors question my motives and integrity - so I get a bit defensive with all of this. I love what I do and maybe that means some kickin electric guitar on Sunday morning. I have found that there is some good stuff out there. The cartoon appraisals are what I resent most. I had a guy who questioned what a
Member in my church would have in a time of
Crisis because I obviously gave that person nothing to hold onto. I have also been worried about the stuff
Surrounding the convention. I know you are a great pastor but there are folks out there who have to watch what they say. I found the Jesus First video to be positive and the response - the Kia commercial rip to be a rip. Sure be clever and creative but pray that God helps these guys to assess what flows from them. I am filled with hope for out church because it is HIS church. It's not this ones or that ones or Grandpas church. It's HIS church and that is what I hope will Hyde all of us as God moves us forward. I will pray for you in this and I ask for you to pray for me. God is way bigger than my petty problems. Peace brother. I agree with one of your items - if I had my way we would be thrashin it up every week. I figure you'd be doing some D Mode - am I right?

Preachrboy said...

Well I had mixed feelings about that video because I do feel there was a clear choice in directions between the two candidates, and I'm certainly in frequent disagreement with Jesus First. And I do think sometimes we need to laugh and not take ourselves and each other so seriously.

STILL, I can see how something like that could ruffle some feathers. I've personally tried very hard in my public support of Harrison, for instance, to stay far away from "bashing" anyone else, or being disrespectful of those who disagree.

Likewise, I think we can all agree it's unhelpful to question motives. We're all doing, obviously, what we think is best for our people and for the Gospel. There are times when different approaches are equally wise, or equally godly. Other times, maybe not. But questioning motives doesn't help.

I think that one of the things that makes it so hard for us to have meaningful discussion about worship is that we all take what we do very seriously, and personally.

This is also what excited me most about a Harrison presidency - the main point of his proposal in "It's Time" is that people on opposite sides of the fence would get together and actually, uh.... TALK about what divides us. A ten-year-long conversation working toward unity could really untie some of these knots - a conversation grounded in the Word, of course. Listening first to Him, and then to each other. I pray this happens!

Yeah if church was set to my personal musical taste it would be something 90s alternative-techno melange. Thank God it's not!