Pop-Rock Worship: singing your "mother tongue"

(This is part three of a three-part blog entry on a consultation around pop-rock worship that took place at Calvin College, May 19-21, 2014. See part one and two here. The following is the second half of a brief reflection I offered to the group on the last morning of our gathering. It is in rough draft form. In it I explored the way in which pop-rock worship might make the gospel both familiar and strange. I also suggested that while every congregation possesses a liturgical mother tongue, for ecclesiological reasons it should also be open to other, adjectival tongues.)

2.     The Church: if God has made us the body of Christ and enabled us to discover true unity, true fullness and fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit, what does it look like for pop-rock worship to give expression to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church? How might it strengthen our sense of connectivity to the body of Christ across time and space? And what do healthy partnerships look like in this work of pop-rock worship?

My first year of seminary I took a course with Eugene Peterson, titled “Biblical Spirituality.” Not once during the entire semester did he offer us a piece of advice. There were no practical suggestions, no how-to’s, no handy helps for living into this so-called biblical spirituality. At the end of the last class of the term, sitting at the back of the room, I raised my hand. I asked him how we could live out this rather expansive vision which he had laid out for us. His answer, after a lengthy pause:

“Read outside your tradition.” 

Translated for our time here: “Relate outside your tradition.”

What sorts of questions might we ask ourselves in light of this?

What good fruit might be borne in the collaboration of songwriters with fellow songwriters?

What good fruit might be borne in the collaboration of songwriters with pastors, poets and theologians?

What good fruit might be borne in the collaboration of songwriters with believers outside of one’s immediate ecclesial tradition?

What good fruit might be borne in the collaboration of songwriters with members of the global church?

This litany of questions could go on and on, but a deeply good thing could come, I suggest, of these sorts of “together-ing” collaborations.

3.     Discipleship: if the Father has given us Jesus as the image of the true disciple, and if the Father has also given us the Holy Spirit that we might have the power to become like this true disciple—learning new things, adopting appropriate disciplines, conforming our lives to the pattern of his life, seeking to become mature in all things and thereby to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ—what does this mean for pop-rock worship?

If we can assume that corporate worship is a primary place for discipleship of God’s people to take place, what does it mean for your church always to be growing into new things, while also receiving the grace to be particular? If your church’s worship is characterized (broadly or narrowly) by pop-rock music, what does it mean for you to flourish in your particularity, contextually rooted as it is in the people and the place that mark you as a distinctive member of Christ’s body, while also being willing to grow in new ways or to be exposed to new musical, lyrical or liturgical ways of being Christ’s body?

Put otherwise: What does it mean for your church to have a mother tongue and a range of adjectival tongues that not only enrich your mother tongue but also open up a way for your church to become attuned to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church spread across time and space?

The $64,000 dollar question is: How exactly do we do all of this well, with humility, intelligence, courage and joy?

The exceedingly simple answer: we do it together.

Liturgical historian, Lester Ruth, held up by a small cloud of witnesses.

Zac Hicks, Jeremy Begbie and myself.


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