This was brought home to me by two recent happenings. The first was an invitation by Valerie Welsh to attend her service of baptism at a house church. It was a very meaningful service. Valerie and Andy first came to attend the house church by a friend who described it as “more like a 12 step meeting than a traditional church.” So it was. The baptism service was a joint meeting of several house churches. There was scarcely a person older than aged 29 in attendance. There was a lot of beautiful singing but nary a guitar, drum, or any other musical instrument. I found the service to be extremely meaningful. This way of “doing church” was the exact opposite of the megachurch model.
The second thing that brought this home to me was an article in the current issue of Newsweek, “Vienna’s Newest Boy Band.” The “boy band” in question is not on the model of the Jonas Brothers or the Backstreet Boys but is instead the Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz who live in a 12th century monastery. Their album of Gregorian chants is now number 7 on the pop charts in Britain. Their CD is not yet available in the United States, but it made its way to the top spot on the U.S. classical chart last week due to downloading on iTunes (watch & listen to them on YouTube). The article pointed out: “Gregorian chant is popular among young people because ‘there's a big harmony with those melodies.’ The article noted that the modern soundtrack for the futuristic, science fiction game, “Halo,” which is popular among teenage males is modeled after Gregorian chant.
What is the lesson we are to take away from this? I think that the main lesson is that there is no one right way “to do church.” Worship and church can take many forms. We certainly should not become slavish to the latest fad. As one writer puts it: “I would rather belong to a Church that is 500 years behind the times and sublimely indifferent to change, than I would to a Church that is five minutes behind the times, huffing and puffing to catch up.”
The form of church and worship should always be secondary to the experience of church and worship. As Jesus said, “...every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)
©2008 C. David Hess