And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5.9).
Last week was a study in contrasts for me. The church we attend has very lively music. They have a full “swaying” choir with an R & B swagger. They use everything from horns to drums. You will hear the latest in “top 40” Christian music. It’s loud.
This past week I also attended an protracted “meeting” of a local Primitive Baptist Church. There you will find no instruments and hear only historic hymns. Every stanza sung joyfully in their respective harmonic parts. It’s loud, too.
Neither is high church, but they are both ordered.
I risk offending friends on both sides of the mic. My Primitive Baptist friends will think me liberal for enjoying a little backbeat from time to time. My “modern” friends will think me a fogey for enjoying 200-year-old songs and the congregation’s voices more than the live performance of K-Love radio.
We Americans are quite spoiled. We bicker over amplifiers and bass lines while much of Christendom struggles to meet in peace, with smuggled Bibles and tattered song sheets. I doubt they would be jealous of us.
While I do lean far more toward simpler, quieter, congregational-friendly music, I must express appreciation for the diversity in the Body of Christ. I am thankful all the lines we’ve drawn around music styles and all the definitions of “true worship” will soon give way to Zion’s “new song” (Rev 5.9). I’m not sure what song will be able to unite every tribe, tongue, people and nation, but rest assured Jesus will be able to conduct it. How glorious must sinless voices sound! Until then, it is remarkable people from every walk of life find a way to gather and sing praises of their Shared Christ.
There are biblical parameters for congregational worship (see, for example, 1 Cor 14). We gather to edify one another, not perform for each other. There is a how to the what and who. I do think a principle of simplicity (not busy, loud, stage-heavy theatrics) should govern congregational worship and serve the preached word and sacraments. I realize that is probably more subjective than I’d care to admit. In the end, the New Testament doesn’t give us as much how as we might like. But it does gives us all the Who we can stand in this life. If Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached even in spurious circumstances (Phil 1.18), then we can rejoice Jesus is sung in less-preferable ways.
So strike up the band (but not too loud) and let’s sing all the stanzas.