A PCS means looking for a new church home, and that’s one of the more difficult aspects of PCSing. We got lucky in Georgia, being invited to a wonderful church home within a few weeks of moving there. El Paso, to be honest, we weren’t as fortunate. We found a place to go, but it never really felt right. It was more the process of elimination than anything else.
So now we’re looking at churches here. One church we’ve visited twice. We first tried their later “contemporary” service, which was your pretty standard contemporary service. A 3-piece praise band with a 5 member praise team of teens. Praise and worship choruses. A scripture-heavy message on stewardship by a guest speaker.
We visited the early “classic” service this week. It was like crashing an AARP meeting. I kid you not, aside from the pastor, we were the only people under age 65. It was only a little awkward, and only initially. (I’ll say this for old folks: they are much more tolerant of a jabbery infant in the church service, even on a Lord’s Supper morning.)
There was still the same set-up, except the 5 member praise team was now made up of people in their 60s and 70s. And the electronic keyboard was set to “organ.” And, of course, we only sang hymns. And it was great. There’s a special kind of sweetness seeing the old folks singing “Jesus Paid it All” with their hands in the air. The pastor spoke about how Jesus demonstrated at the Lord’s Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane the necessity of putting our personal preferences aside in order to serve others.
The whole experience reminded me of my high school math teacher. (I went to a small private school in high school.) She was probably in her 60s when I was in her class, maybe older. I don’t remember what sparked the topic but the conversation was about worship music and styles and whatnot. And she said, “I make an effort to learn ‘your’ songs because they are still worshipful songs, even if they aren’t ‘my style.’ And you should learn ‘my’ songs, too. It’s not about style, it’s about whether or not they show worship to God.”
Of course, her point was clear: It’s not the form of service that binds us together as believers from various walks of life or various generations. It’s the Holy Spirit, who isn’t any more powerful in a meeting where hundreds-year-old hymns are sung than He is in a meeting where contemporary songs are sung.
Like I said, the message Sunday morning was about the importance of abandoning our personal preferences for the sake of ministering to others. The Bible says to minister to one another in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” (Col 3:16) Which tells me that there’s room for all varieties. Because no matter what tradition you follow, in 2014, your (and my) tradition is a human tradition that was formed at one time by people who were intending to show glory and honor to God in the way that enabled them best to do it.
It was a good reminder for us as we continue our church search, that our liberty of conscience in Christ allows for all styles of worship and teaching that honor and direct others to Him.