College Avenue Baptist Church (San Diego) is doing something radical this coming spring. It is combining it’s two Sunday morning services into one. No longer will there be a traditional service featuring the pipe organ and Sanctuary choir followed by the contemporary service featuring electric guitars and two complete drum kits. College Avenue Baptist Church currently is a divided church. Old people go to the first service. Young people go to the second service. The pastor preaches the same sermon in each one, but these two worship services clearly serve two separate congregations-one made up of people with grey (or blue)hair who still dress up for church, the other made up made up of people in flip flops, blue jeans and fashionably bald heads (as opposed to unfashionably bald heads like mine).
Everyone agrees that unity is a good thing, that an intergenerational church is desired. But the young people are afraid the worship services are going to turn dull and boring. The old people are afraid of the guitars and the loud volume. I was having a conversation between services last Sunday with one of the older members of the church and he expressed serious doubts that this effort to combine worship service would succeed, mainly because of the music. He likes the idea of bringing generations together but he doesn’t like the idea of having to give up singing hymns and hearing the pipe organ. “Churches are having to sell their pipe organs,” he lamented, “because nobody wants to hear them anymore. That’s a crying shame!”
I suppose he’s right. If you’re in the market for a pipe organ, there are probably some good deals to be had out there. I have no problem with pipe organs. I love to hear them when they are played well, just as I love to hear any kind of music when it is good. But I have never gone to church expecting to hear the style of music that I like best (which of course is bluegrass.) When I hear people complain about the style of music being played in their churches, I can usually relate to their disappointment because I have never yet found a church (in California, anyway) that features the style of music I prefer. But that’s not what I go to church for. I really don’t care whether I hear my favorite kind of music or not.
But I’m in the minority, I think. Most people choose the church they attend based on the music they hear in the worship service. And because music styles change with each generation, churches today are predictably very age-segregated, which is shameful considering that the Lord’s only prayer for the church was that we would have unity (John 17).
While listening to this church elder lament the pending demise of the pipe organ, it occurred to me that maybe our Church of Christ friends had it right all along. The Church of Christ (denomination) has never allowed instruments of any kind in their worship services. They sing all their hymns and worship songs acapella. I’ve never quite understood why they do this (since the Scriptures actually encourage praising God with musical instruments) but I think I’m beginning to see the wisdom in it. My guess is that the worship wars we are all so familiar with are not so common in the Church of Christ.
What do you think?