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Legalism and Method-ism…

In a recent newsletter from the Free Methodist Historical Society, writer Howard A. Snyder gave his thoughts on the most recent General Conference from this past summer. After going over a few of what he saw as major things that happened (the switch from 4 bishops to 3), and then giving his obvious opinion on the music: “We have now fully adopted a liturgy based on the rock concert.”

He later gives his hopes for worship at the 2011 General Conference, which he calls “a blend of styles”. But in describing the service, he says “combining old favorites with new songs, classic Wesley Hymns, and other great music from the long history of the church. Free Methodism means freedom of the Spirit in worship, and enabling “everyone to hear the gospel in their own sound.”

He’s clearly advocating on behalf of those of us who would like more hip-hop infused into our daily worship. He’s a little offended that there were no turn-tables used, and hopefully we’ll get back on track by 2011. (or maybe his idea of “blended worship” simply means he wanted more songs that he liked)

We worship as a community. The aspect of worship we’re speaking of is singing. Honestly, and with our souls vulnerable to His Spirit, and to each other. This is possible whether I’m singing “Be Thou My Vision” to an organ, or “The Happy Song” through amps and distortion…although in either case it will not be our effort but Gods’ that makes this possible.

As someone in youth ministry, I see teens (and more adults than you might think) evaluating services and churches based on style of music. Giving up any commitment to discovering relationships and family and God…until they are musically appeased.

As much as I love music…and will (Lord willing) continue to contribute musically in any way that doesn’t make people cringe…I think there’s something to say for the time when churches (including the Free Methodist Church) didn’t allow music in their services. Maybe it wasn’t because they thought music was evil…but maybe some of them realized the issues/divisions/etc. that would occur once that can was opened, distracting us from other key practices in the life of the Church.

But then again, ever since it was opened…new and beautiful aspects of worshiping have continued to develop. As art/music/expression has grown and matured…I like to imagine God is excited about our discovering Him through new streams.

I think I’ve rambled all over the place. I guess what I’m sayin’ is nothing new or groundbreaking. Like I’ve said in the past, sometimes a dead horse deserves a new beating. So there it is. God seeks worshipers who worship in Spirit and in Truth.

The more important parts of his hopes for 2011 are encouraging. He hopes we will celebrate many more ministries to the poor. That we would extend our witness materially by showing we care for God’s good earth (recycling, etc). That we would have a renewed emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. That we would have a greater understanding of our history, and how it can impact our future/current efforts towards the Kingdom.

He also speaks briefly on a hope that we will rediscover a trend towards discipline: “After a half-century long reaction against Legalism…it is no longer our problem. It has been replaced by consumerism and me-first individualism.”

Although it’s ironic that he’d say that after his comments on his preference for worship styles, and although I don’t agree that legalism is no longer a problem…I do believe he has a good point. There are benefits to recognizing the “methods” once used by our founding souls, and although many of them could be viewed as “legalism”…they can also be positive ways of connecting with a disciplined walk.

Anyways….that’s a lot for now….I’m sure I’ll post again sometime soon. Have a great 3rd week of Advent!!



Husband, Father, Pastor, Missionary, Writer, Poet, Friend, reader, coffee enthusiast, hockey Wing-Nut, musical participator, etc...

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