Unified Diversity

If you’re reading this then chances are you are engaged in some form of Christian worship. Some of you are pastors, some are worship directors and many of you are Contemporary Worship Singers. Regardless of our role within the theatre of worship we are all united by a desire to bring praise and glory to our God. My recent research into the Contemporary Worship Singer and the subsequent survey of Christian Worship leaves me with no doubt that, despite the raging worship wars, there is a definite intent within the wider body of Christ to honour God regardless of the worship style.

This being said I note Bob Rognlien (2005) who writes, “we all have our quiet bias and subtle pride that not only devalues other traditions but also keeps us from experiencing the full power of holistic biblical worship” (p. 22). I think the key words in Rognlien’s above statement are quiet and subtle. Sure, we have open discussions about worship with our brothers and sisters who are engaged in worship styles that are different to our own. We do so with rehearsed understanding on our faces and appropriate conversational allowances such as “it’s wonderful that you can encounter God that way brother.” The tragedy of these interactions is there is no honesty or integrity – we are lying through our teeth (I generalise in order to make a point). If we are honest with ourselves we would find that we are convinced that our way to God, by virtue of our own understanding, is far superior to the other options available.

It would seem that our new found secular aligned postmodern niceties have caused us to become weak. We find ourselves shying away from any depth of relationship. Why? Because it’s too hard! Lest we be labelled arrogant or worst still – modernistic – we take a position that disengages from the conversation citing a desire for unity and peace. If iron sharpens iron, as the writer of Proverbs suggests (Proverbs 27:17) then how will we achieve a polished edge if there is no buffeting?

At this point you might be excused for accusing me of a contradiction. I started the article with the recognition of what joins us and now I am calling for active and heated discussion around that which divides us. Yes. It is not a matter of either or – we can have both. It is not that which we agree upon that unifies us. It is Christ Jesus that unifies us; through no intellectual power of our own – whether by agreement or none. To illustrate allow me to use a personal example. The Robinson household is an incredibly unified home – but it has distinct divisions. One example is our political persuasions. Jodie (my wonderful wife) and I disagree on which political party is best for running the country. Without revealing who supports who it is suffice to say that this disagreement is not something that I am embarrassed by. Moreover I celebrate our unified diversity. In our loving relationship we are able to have heated intelligent discussion which ultimately makes our love stronger; building understanding, respect and relational depth.

How much more do we need to engage in our discussions of worship with a humility that desires for God to be glorified albeit with a sense of allowable disagreement with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Every worship tradition can argue their case of superiority. It is only our sense of insecurity that causes us to respond to others strengths with a defensive stance. Perhaps a better way is to openly celebrate the strengths of another all-the-while sharing the strengths of our own practice.

To finish I would like to suggest a worship activity – yes, I am giving you homeworkJ. How long is it since you visited a worship style/tradition manifestly different to your own? I can sense some of you already squirming…come on – it’s time to place some practical meat on the theoretical bones. May I suggest during 2011 that you visit a church in your local area that is different to your own with the positive intent to join your brothers and sisters in Christ in worship. This is not a futile activity of spectator worship. You need to attend with the very intentional purpose of joining in. Yes – this will be a wonderfully uncomfortable experience, but I assure you the experience will be spiritually rewarding. You will experience the rich tapestry of the body of Christ and in doing so God will be glorified by your humility. I am certainly not expecting that you will suddenly be convinced that their way is better than your way – but herein lies the point of the exercise. You are purposefully celebrating the strengths of another in order to celebrate the fullness of our majestic God. In doing so you will offer a selfless offering of praise and I dare say it will be a pleasing fragrance of worship.

 

References

Rognlien, B. (2005). Experiential worship: Encountering God with heart, soul, mind & strength. Canada: NavPress.

 

 

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About Dr Daniel K. Robinson

Daniel is a freelance artist and educator. In 2011 Daniel completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. He has served as National Vice President (2009–11) and National Secretary for the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (2006–11) and was awarded the ANATS National Certificate of Recognition for service to the profession in 2012. Daniel is the principal Singing Voice Specialist for Djarts (www.djarts.com.au) and presents workshops and seminars to church singers across Australia and abroad. He and his wife Jodie have three children and live in Brisbane, Queensland Australia.

Posted on January 20, 2011, in Orientation, Styles, Tradition, Uncategorized, Unity, Worship, Worship Constructs, Worship Culture, Worship Wars and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bravo Dan! Like a good maestro you extol us to appreciate each other, and work together, just as the wind instruments should appreciate the strings (although one can never really understand the percussion :os) – all for the sake of the One in the audience.

    Maybe because I am sympathetic to your wife’s political persuasion, may I be so bold as to add to your views…

    I believe your proposed exercise may be enhanced by revisiting some of the themes you expressed earlier in your article. You reasoned that much of the lack of diversity is due to the fact that “We find ourselves shying away from any depth of relationship.” Is not this exercise then an effort in building relationships with fellow Christians with whom we would not normally associate, as well as celebrating the diversity in worship styles? And is this not the outworking of our worship to God, that we overcome our lack of honesty and integrity with each other by building those relationships of love and trust?

    Thank you Dan for your insights and integrity.

    Sam

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