With One Voice

During recent decades, many a church has found itself foundering on the rocks when it comes to what kind of music to use in worship. Cultural change, like a fast moving tide, has left church vessels ravaged, split open, usually along contemporary and traditional divides, with the grey hairs and the pony tails parting ways. It’s a shame. In yesterday’s commentary, I alluded to what old hymns have to offer the Church. I was also careful to mention that I’m no despiser of contemporary music so long as it has good theological content. But after the outpouring of e-mails and letters I received when I aired the first commentary on worship music back in February, I can only imagine the ones I’ll receive now. Maybe I should learn to keep my mouth shut; my wife, Patty, who has heard me sing, would agree. But the truth is music matters. It has always mattered. U2’s lead singer, Bono, puts it this way: “Music is worship: whether it’s worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer . . . the smoke goes upwards . . . to God or something you replace God with . . . usually yourself.” So while I lament that some Christian radio stations have taken away programs for biblical teaching, that does not mean I discount the ways in which music itself teaches us and the way it moves us. Dr. Reggie Kidd, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and a worship leader for nearly twenty-five years, has written a book, With One Voice, that truly transcends the “worship wars.” Dr. Kidd talks about how music, or more precisely a community of Christians gathered in true worship, is a scaffolding for faith in a culture that has lost its ability to imagine. Believing in a Jesus whose bones cannot be found in a tomb seems to be just a little too radical for this generation; so, Kidd argues, “in the face of the deconstruction of the Christian view of reality, the great cultural task of Christians is the reclamation of the imagination. This needs to be worked out on a broad front,” Kidd continues, “from the way Christians conduct themselves in the marketplace and in politics to the way . . . they engage the arts . . . and, of course music . . . Music opens the imagination to the possibility that what we see is not all there is.” For example, Kidd relates the story of writer Anne Lamott, who was first drawn into a church by the sounds of a singing congregation wafting out into the street as she walked by. Lamott, who was then still a seeker, said: “Somehow the singing wore down all the boundaries and distinctions that kept me so isolated . . . standing with them to sing . . . I felt bigger than myself, like I was being taken care of, tricked into coming back to life.” Truth set to music, embodied in a singing community, can sometimes seep into the soul and convince us when spoken words fall short. Remember that it was the fiction stories of George MacDonald that moved a skeptical C. S. Lewis to faith; so it’s no surprise that music could also be a way to enlarge our narrow view of reality. So, okay, we have our differences. You might choose the guitar and praise music. Others prefer the pipe organ and old favorites. What we can agree on, however, is that the music we sing must open the imagination to the reality of God.
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: Subscribe today to BreakPoint WorldView magazine! Call 1-877-322-5527. BreakPoint Commentary No. 060711, “A Curmudgeon I Shall Be: Musical Mush, Part II.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 060206, “Musical Mush: Are We Impairing Our Capacity to Think?” Chuck Colson, “Of One Chord: Response to ‘Musical Mush’,” BreakPoint Online, 8 February 2006. Charles Colson with Anne Morse, “Soothing Ourselves to Death,” Christianity Today, April 2006. Reggie M. Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship (Baker Book House, 2005). Learn more about Reggie Kidd. Gary Peil, “Review of ‘With One Voice’ by Reggie Kidd,” Common Grounds Online, 9 November 2005. Read this interview with Reggie Kidd, and continued here in part two. “Psalm Like It Hot,” (introduction by Bono to The Book of Psalms) The Guardian (London), 31 October 1999 (reprinted by @U2).


Chuck Colson



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