All of us have personal preferences. Some prefer blue over green. Some prefer a trip to the beach over a trip to the mountains. Some favor grits over hash browns, country music over rock, and almost everyone favors the home team over the visitors.
But whereas we smile at some of our preferences, our religious preferences are often quite a different matter. For some reason, our own special religious traditions and experiences tend to concretize our ideas of what God’s preferences are and aren’t. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of worship styles. How quickly our preferences become biases. And how easily our biases become walls which keep us from the larger Body of Christ and from fuller expressions of worship.

How a classically trained church musician and pastor changed his views on contemporary worship.

(Note: This was originally a personal letter written in response to an inquiry from a Northwest pastor about worship style; it has since been slightly revised and published. Many pastors, church musicians and even seminarians have reported it to be useful in their own journeys.)

by Rev. Michael Zehnder, pastor and church musician

One of the things that I’ve been so sad to see all over the world is musicians on the fringe of the church carrying so much pain. For many musicians church has become the most uncomfortable place to be. Then as pastors, we wonder why some musicians get into trouble and fall into sin. And we say, "Ah, you see? Everything I said about him turned out to be true." Actually we’ve driven them to the edge. There’s something in them that knows that their creativity is given by God, and they can’t really worship God unless they use their creative gifts. And yet when they do, we tend to marginalize it. We also don’t allow musicians to make mistakes...

   
© G. Baltes / T. Schröder