By Mark Roach
So...is yours a modern worship church? Or is it traditional? Are the messages there more relevant? Or more bible-based? Is your church based on a missional model? Or an attractional one? In your opinion, is worship for us? Or just for God? Ok, sorry...I’ll just stick to music-specific stuff. Try this one: is artistry important in worship music? Or just function? Ok, well, should we only sing new songs? Or just old ones? Which is most important in worship music, spirit or truth?
Ok, in case you don’t know where this is going...if you often find yourself wanting to answer ‘yes’ when presented with either/or questions, I like the way you think.
Now, before I start getting emails about over-tolerance or trying to be Switzerland, let me clarify: some either/or questions definitely have an absolute answer. I’m well aware of that. If you ask me if I’m aiming for Heaven or Hell, I’m not on the fence there. Ask me if Jesus stayed dead or was resurrected and I’ll take a side on that one. But even spiritually, there are some beautifully mysterious answers to either/or questions that the world asks. Was Jesus human or divine? Was the Bible written by God or man? (are we having fun yet?)
I would submit to you that pendulums spend far more time and expend far more energy mid-swing than at either side, and many answers to the questions above should live there, too. Over the last 14+ years I’ve spent in ministry, my church has tried a whole lot of things that could be described as bandwagon philosophies. We’ve implemented full-scale ministry models based on one book, and I would say we’ve come pretty close to annihilating a few based on as much. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in ministry, it’s that it’s often perfectly ok to live somewhere in-between. In fact, it’s odd to me that when we are savvy enough to realize that we’ve embraced a philosophy that’s caused an imbalance—when we are big enough to allow ourselves to be convicted of that and act on it—we often jump on the pendulum and swing ’til it stops on the other side before letting go.
Now, many of you may be reading this and you just think I’m crazy. You’ve never once embodied the lyrics of the old Billy Joel tune ‘I don’t know why I go to extremes | too high or too low there ain’t no in-between’...the phrase ‘all or nothing’ doesn’t even make sense to you. I get it. That’s awesome. But if you’re anything like the rest of us, this is my challenge to you: next time you’re faced with a compelling argument to one of your philosophies, ask yourself if you’re already on an unreasonably extreme side of the pendulum and need to open yourself to a nudge. THAT SAID, my secondary challenge would be this: remind yourself that there’s probably a lot of great reasons you live there, and consider avoiding a full-scale swing the other direction. You just may miss a whole lot of beauty and mystery that exists somewhere in-between.
Mark Roach is the Worship Arts Director at Morning Star United Methodist Church in O’Fallon. If you have questions for Mark, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.