I don’t recognize my church anymore, but no one cares.

7 Mar

In his book, Worshiping with Calvin, Terry Johnson writes about contemporary worship.  He has much to say on the matter (how it displaces us from our common heritage, fails to unite all of God’s people in worship, distracts and entertains, ignores, reduces and oversimplifies theological content, etc.).  But he also points out that it leaves many worshipers behind and marginalized.  He writes:

From 1975 to 2000 Chuck Fromm was the head of Maranatha Music in Costa Mesa, CA, the birthplace and source of the contemporary genre in the early 1970s…. [Fromm explains how Christian Rock resonated with him in a special way, as the music of his people and his culture, rather than something he felt came from a “different universe and imported.”]  Much as Fromm’s testimony resonates, it is also rich with irony.  He seems not to recognize that the church music environment that was a “different universe” from what he calls “my culture,” was in fact a familiar and comfortable culture for many others.  What he came to reject, many others continued to embrace and love.  For some, their familiar and comfortable church culture had deep roots, reaching back to the Protestant Reformers to the early church.  At the same time, the importation of his culture into the church was inevitably deeply alienating to those in the church for whom it was new and foreign.  How many times have we heard older people say, “I do not recognize my church anymore.”  After forty years (or even 450 years) of relative sameness they walked into their church service one Sunday, saw a “praise band” up front, heard strange music played with non-traditional instruments (electric guitars, drums, tambourines, etc.), and were profoundly disoriented and disturbed by the experience.  If they dared to express concern, they were cautioned not to obstruct the progress of the gospel.  The church, it was explained, was reaching the unchurched.  They soon learned that the only people to whom the church cared to minister the gospel were young people, or so it seemed.  Apparently older people, who were put off by the new, did not need gospel ministry.  Sot it was in with the youth culture, and out with whatever preceded it.”

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