Friday, March 4, 2016

Whoppers and Worship Music: freedom of self-expression and cultural relativity in our worship music

According to Fox News/ Associated Press, in 2014 Burger King dumped its 40 year old advertising campaign, "Have it your way" in favor of an updated version, "Be your way." In their brand new ad campaign, Burger King attempted to hit our cultural hot buttons: to live as we please, be who we want to be, and let our self-expression take precedence over everything else. (You can read over the article here). I have no idea if it was a successful campaign or not, as I typically only ever eat a Whopper under duress, but BK's campaign effectively reflects some of the culture that we live in. From Frank Sinatra to Bruce Jenner to Miley Cirus,  we as a society feel stifled, if not even abused, when we can't freely express ourselves and our personas. But what do whoppers and worship music have to do with each other?

I think that when it is so ingrained in society that we should be who we are, say what we feel, and have what we want regardless of what anyone else thinks or needs,  it's hard to keep that feeling out of the church. We just don't realize how steeped in culture that we are. And it isn't all bad, because we love our freedom in all its forms! It's just who we are as a society, and perhaps one of the reasons why we are so hated but other societies. Freedom is a good thing. But selfish freedom can be a bad thing. What if everyone came to church for a worship service and then sang their own favorite worship song, chorus, or hymn all at the same time for the purpose of praising God through our own self-expression? It would be a cacophony of sound, chaotic, and definitely not enjoyable. We have to develop a common ground for our worship services, even if that means setting aside some of our particular preferences for the sake of unity and cohesiveness.

I would never say that one style of worship is inherently better than any other, because I believe that God loves variety- look how He created us! But God also loves unity, so we need some kind of a consensus in our style of worship services. And since every church is different, it's going to look different in every church. For some, it may be more blended, for some, very traditional, for others, very modern.  That's ok! However, if we want to be reaching new people for the Gospel of Christ through our music, we might want to think about how we can be culturally relative - how we can relate to the music tastes of the people in our church's community - how we can be in the world but not of the world.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NLT, from Biblegateway.com) talks about using our freedoms for good. Look at this:



Paul sacrificed his freedom for the sake of others! Paul willing gave up his freedom of self-expression in order to fit in culturally so that he could help others know Christ. To him, self-expression and personal preference were nowhere near as important as reaching others for the Gospel of Christ. So do you think that this idea should carry over into our worship music? Should we give up our freedom of musical expression so that we can connect with the musical tastes of those in our church's community? Why or why not? 
Next time, we'll look at how we can get a feel for our church's musical culture and how to compare it to the culture of the people in your church's community. 

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