REJECTING COOL: THE RADICAL ACT OF INCLUDING THE “UNCOOL” IN WORSHIP
By Scott and Vonda Dyer
There is much wisdom to be gained from Scripture as it relates to inclusion within the worship ministries of a church. We are given consistent pictures of a church leadership environment that span Old and New Testament alike. From the leading of the Temple in Chronicles to the Church in Acts, we see a diverse and divine assembly gathered together, functioning well within spiritual gifts, roles given and delineated by God-given aptitudes and spirit-infused calling. These people came with their collection of unique qualities and were woven in to the fabric of the grand story, not by their merit, great ideas, preferences, or even their most obvious strengths. Rather, God himself was the central reason and initiation for gathering. He was and is the unifying factor in all actions performed by the assembly of believers.
One body, many members, one Lord
Biblical inclusion creates an environment where everyone can be valued, not by gifting or stature, success or beauty, popularity or relevance. Being united as a body of believers is a normal action for those who see their central value wrapped fully in the person of Jesus and held together by the Holy Spirit, whose very nature unifies rather than divides.
In 1 Chronicles 6:33, we read of the Temple musicians, “Here are the men who served, together with their sons: From the Kohathites: Heman, the musician, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel…” Old Testament Worship in the Temple was a picture of a “together with” kind of worship. The leaders/fathers invited the sons to work with them in their designated roles of leading in worship among the congregation. Together, they entered into daily life, into battle and into worship unified in purpose and in sync as they went about their tasks. Fathers and sons from many different generations served and led together. No doubt they played different roles, according to their gifting and experience, but they did the ministry together. There was not a separation, but rather an inclusiveness and community inherent in how they performed their service of leading worship.
Too old for “cool”
By contrast, leading worship in today’s church sometimes feels like an “instead of” approach, rather than “together with.” Leaders often get a 10 to 15 year window of leading worship, and then become culturally irrelevant or “uncool,” and then are nudged into (or forced) to hand the baton to someone 15 years younger, get off the stage and find something else to do. Then, that person has a run until they’re done, and so on, and so on. Instead of doing the ministry together, and complementing one another, one worship leader does it “instead of” the other. In the Temple, there was a sharing of ministry throughout life, and when new generations arose, they simply joined in the work. There is tremendous power in the church when people that are different serve and lead “together with” each other and not “instead of” one another.
What happened to endless variety?
One of the great misconceptions in the modern Church is the adoption of the idea that programmatic relevance will supernaturally draw people to God, initiate transformation and unify believers. It is the idea that being cool or trendy or on the cultural cutting-edge at all times is the highest value, and that only certain people who fit that mold are fit for leadership and the stage. Could it be that we have slowly adopted the secular idea that “what we do,” “who does it,” and “how it gets done” is paramount, and that God cannot or will not do his best work if it doesn’t “look, and feel and sound” a certain way? This can cause us to exclude whatever and whoever does not fit the mold.
The Church is a glorious invention of God. It is intended to be a diverse community of wonderfully imperfect, authentic believers in which Christ is the focus and all activity driven by his love. All of our stories are important. And our weaknesses and imperfections are part of the redemptive beauty of the Church. We’re all “unfantastic” in some way. We’re all beautifully different. But because Christ lives in all of us, by his Spirit, He has the power to unify us as he transforms, lives, and ministers through us. Inclusion is more than a great idea; it is central to all relational aspects of a believer’s life and ministry in the church. We have One Lord, one Spirit, but different gifts, different expressions. Praise God that this is so!
Match gifting, call, & skill
This doesn’t mean that anybody can serve in any role that they want to. In the Temple and in the early Church, people served according to their giftedness and skill. Putting people in positions of service that best fit their gifts and passions is not exclusion, it is following the biblical mandate for the body to serve, each one according to their gifts. When eyes want to be ears and ears want to be hands, the church doesn’t function right.
But the distinction here is that we don’t prevent people from serving in a particular role because of external things that the world values above godly character, wisdom and gifting.
Together in love
Worship in a “together with” mindset is a lifestyle born in the love of God and extended to others. This kind of leadership naturally manifests itself within the sanctuary, and is not just a Sunday morning configuration of leaders or musicians on the platform. This picture of inclusion is one that invites and draws. Older generations bring their wisdom and experience, and pour their lives into younger leaders. The younger generations come bringing their new perspective and energy and give honor to the leaders who have paved the way before them. It is leaders from different cultures, different church backgrounds (or none at all), different musical preferences and influences, different personalities coming together, bringing their unique contribution, to serve the needs of the Church.
As worship leaders, we love Sundays when one or both of us gets to lead with our student worship pastor, Rob. He is a gifted young leader, and brings a different perspective and stylistic flavor to our worship. Sometimes he leads on his own, but on those Sundays when we plan it together and do it together, sharing the stage, at times taking the lead, at times stepping back into support roles, there is great power, because it’s a multifaceted picture of the church: people functioning fully within their clear areas of gifting, regardless of role and preference. “Together with” worship can be rich, multi-textured, beautiful…. Just like “the Church”.