Ken Myers, director of Mars Hill Audio and author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, spoke in our worship Colloquium recently on the shape of modern culture and how it relates to the Protestant Church. He points out that the church today seems to be more concerned about imitating the culture around it than sustaining the legacy built through hundreds of years of Christian worship. Because we accept the cultural styles into church life without any analysis, we dilute our influence on our people but also on our neighbors outside the church.
Myers asserts that congregational singing builds community in communion with God. The combination of unison and harmony in singing reflects both the diversity and unity in the church. He believes that as we worship God through our singing, we join with all saints past and present, in Heaven and on Earth.
As we consider all of the Christians that make up the history of the church, we need to remember that we share conventions and traditions with them. They are part of our community. Myers states that healthy communities establish and maintain themselves through memory of shared traditions. He asks why we would practice voluntary dementia and forget who we are as a community? We need to learn to live with a historical sense of the timeless and the temporal and be able to tie them together.
Myers states that although our culture is the first to repudiate the past, pursue novelty as a primary goal, and value only the contemporary, we still have a heritage. If the church imitates culture in worship, specifically in music, we mimic the confusion in the culture and offer people nothing more than they already know. By ignoring our Christian heritage we give the impression that God only works in the present and that our past embarrasses us. The new, the cool, and the sensational have replaced truth, goodness and beauty, and Christianity is watered down, having lost the ability to influence people and our culture.
You can watch the lecture below:
Lori Danielson is a PhD student in the School of Church Music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.