The Brouhaha About Blended Worship
Does mixing worship traditions offer a little something for everyone? Or is it the way to make everyone mad?
And the worship wars keep raging. Who will win? Does anyone win? Is there a way out?
Worship style, and particularly worship music, is the most divisive issue on the church front today. What if there were a way to make everyone happy--or almost everyone--without choosing sides?
Many people think “blended worship” is the way for churches to avoid perpetual conflict over worship. Rather than choosing one style of worship to the exclusion of others, blended worship incorporates elements from a number of styles and traditions. Rather than segmenting a congregation into separate worship services of different styles, blended worship keeps everyone worshiping together.
Author Robert Webber, a longtime advocate of blended worship, says it matches the trend toward “convergence” in worship. As the world shrinks and more people are exposed to different cultures, people are more open to worship practices of other traditions. Traditional churches are incorporating the arts, liturgical churches are becoming more open and participatory, contemporary churches are drawing more from ancient practices.
The following dialogue is from two blended worship advocates--one a traditionalist who has come to appreciate new worship styles, the other a contemporary musician who has come to respect the historical traditions. They are also father and son. They meet in the middle, both advocating blended worship but for different reasons.
Resolving the destructive debate about which worship style is best
Bob Burroughs: There is no "best" worship style. Yet each church probably thinks its style is the best.
Blended worship simply means that the worship leader chooses to combine a variety of music styles--hymns, choruses and gospel songs--put them in the proverbial "blender," mix them up and serve them to the people in the worship experience. Many times, this is done without asking for advice or counsel from others in the church fellowship.
In a blended service, the worshipers can sing familiar hymns, gospel songs, and familiar and not-so-familiar choruses, perhaps in a variety of ways, including the use of different accompaniments and tempos.
Is it working? It is in some places.
David Burroughs: I'm not sure the destructive debate about worship will ever go away. But the only debaters seem to be church staff members. The worshipers just know they want things a certain way, and they squirm or complain when things change. But I say change is good. And so is squirming! Don't tell me the Israelites didn't squirm when Jeremiah delivered a harsh message designed to move the people to action.