I just listened to an interesting talk by David Crowder on the Future of Worship. Please listen to it first because my comments will spoil his presentation.
Actually, his talk was more of a look into church history and tracing a trajectory for which we can project and predict what is to come. I really enjoyed listening to his perspective and the way he presented his thoughts.
I don’t know if I necessarily agree with his assessment of where the church (I assume he is only referring to the American church) is presently and what is to come. But, he is definitely on to something with recognizing a pendulum swing back in forth. But, instead of it being between “order” and “chaos,” it’s more between “unity” and “diversity.” He likened the melodious arrangements to a shift towards”chaos” or “limitless,” while it is better understood as a different kind of “order.” So, I would say there was a shift from uniformity of one kind of “orderly” worship to simply another kind of “orderly” worship.
I make these comments because he seemed to be making an argument for chaos in embracing irrational, “true sound” (abolishing good/bad distinctions) music. And, he even explicitly acknowledged the philosophical underpinnings of this shift with the changes in science and the loss of certainty.
My response: focusing on “chaos,” and “irrationality” was not the issue for Church’s historical use of music. Rather, the issue for the Church in the past, and the issue for Church today (or the future Church) is to embrace diversity.
Western Church (and also the non-Western church) worship is becoming uniformly dominated by Western pop music. I believe the future of worship is in creating worship services that are unique and organic to their own local context, and with its own cultural expressions. And while music is a universal language, the future of worship may not be in fact be limited and restricted to musical expression. Worship will embrace other mediums and modes of expressing praise, humility, and obedience, both individually and corporately, to the triune God who reveals himself to being of unity and diversity.
1 Corinthian 12:4-20 illustrates the unity and diversity dimensions of the church, which is to be embraced without excluding one over the other!
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work….7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good….12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body… -1 Cor. 12:4-6, 7, 12.
Notice that Paul is talking about the “Worship Service” of the local church, and he doesn’t talk about music! Very interesting eh? Music is great and biblical, and embracing diverse forms of music is needed both cross-generationally and cross-culturally! Yet at the same time, perhaps God wants a “Worship Service” where the Holy Spirit can work creatively through his people to bring God’s healing and grace both to the Church and through the Church to the world in diverse ways?
So be it. Come Holy Spirit and make your kingdom present!