Sunday, January 16, 2011

Keeping Church Flexible

At church today it occurred to me that though our church is more than 100 years old, we really don't have big fights about music, and I got to thinking about why.

First, I think the reason people get upset about changes in church music (or how communion is served, or any of a hundred activities that take place on Sunday morning) is that they become used to a particular way of doing things and it bugs their socks off when you change it on them.

I'm not innocent. For example, if I hear a remake of a classic song (Christian or otherwise) in which the artist has made some change, it grates my nerves. Logic can tell me all it wants that it's okay if the artist wants to try something a bit different, but all the time my mind is saying, "That guy is totally messing up that song!"

So how do you prevent grumpy people like me from getting bugged by changes at church?

Well, what my church does - and it seems to be fairly successful - is to make a point of changing things just a little bit almost every Sunday.

We don't sing exactly the same songs all the time. Sometimes there are new songs. We don't always play the organ or piano. Sometimes there is a choir and sometimes there isn't. We don't serve communion the same way every time. Sometimes people come up front; sometimes they are served in their seats; sometimes we take the bread and cup as a group and sometimes we take them when we receive them.

I think this flexibility helps me remember that it isn't the form that should be unchanging, but the Gospel itself.

So I guess if I was in charge of a church that was stuck in a debilitatingly rigid pattern, I might introduce one small change in one area for one Sunday, and tell people that it will be changed back the next week, perhaps saying, "Let's just try it and see how it feels." The next week it would be changed back and I'd introduce a small change in another area, again, just for one Sunday. And so forth.

The point here is not to say, "My way of serving communion is better than your way." After all, is it really a good idea to replace one rigid pattern for another? Rather, the idea is just to limber people up a bit and help them be a bit more receptive to new ways God may have of doing things.

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