by Motte Brown
I’ve witnessed several young couples in the beginning stages of a relationship become frustrated over each other’s worship-style preferences — one of them likes a more traditional service, the other prefers something more contemporary. It seems a silly consideration when framed like that. Surely compromise is the appropriate response. I mean, we don’t want the path to marital bliss to be disrupted by mere preference, do we?
But what if the differences go beyond preference? What if the way we worship says more about our doctrine than our tastes?
In a letter published in New Horizons, an elder writes a young man, “James,” in college about his courtship to a young woman who finds their worship service dull. But instead of giving advice about the prudence of compromise in such matters, he focuses on the doctrine of irresistible grace. And “if you’re wondering how this relates to worship,” he writes,
… think about the motivation for many so-called improvements in worship—changes designed to make it more engaging, lively, or moving. The argument invariably is that such changes will make worship more effective, as if our efforts in ministering God’s word will make the grace of the gospel irresistible. (The same logic seems to inform churches with lots of programs. Programs will seemingly be more influential than a narrow focus on ministering God’s word.)
Now I’m not writing this to promote the merits of the elder’s argument, only the weight he is giving the issue as he mentors this young man. He encourages James to carefully consider questions of worship and whether he wants to hear them the rest of his life if he marries the “person who is asking them now.”
I believe too many of us gloss over the motivations behind our preferences, particularly in a dating context when emotions are at their highest. But since worship is one of the most intimate acts in which married people engage, I would give it its due.
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