As I write the second installment of this article, I am in the East Bay area of San Francisco near Oakland, California, with Integrity’s Seminars4Worship. Bob Fitts and Tommy Walker are the featured worship leaders this week, and the registration for this event is very strong. As a guest clinician, I’ve been speaking today to capacity crowds on pursuing intimacy with God--certainly not something you can teach well in an hour or perhaps even a lifetime, but a worthy topic, nonetheless. The tenor of this event is a marked hunger for intimacy and reality in worship. As we look at three practical aspects of blending worship, let’s keep this truth at the forefront: people everywhere, in every church, in every city, state, and country are hungry for intimacy with their Creator.

Beginning to Blend
I say often in my seminars and workshops that my wife grew up Baptist, and I grew up “sinner.” It’s the largest church in the world, actually. We didn’t sing hymns in my former church, but when I had a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ, I joined a Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee, and began to discover the rich tradition of Christian hymnody. Over several years, I put down the Rock ‘N’ Roll of my childhood days and learned to love the words and melodies of Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, Thomas Chisholm, and many others who have left a legacy of song in the church.

As I began to develop my own worship ministry, writing my own songs of worship, it was easy to move further and further away from this deep base of hymns, but I found myself needing to tap into them once I started leading worship in a traditional church that was moving into worship renewal. As a writer, I had often studied the wonderful words of these hymn writers, but I had not spent a lot of time learning to lead these songs well in a public setting. Over the last four years, I have developed a deeper repertoire of hymns and a greater appreciation for many of them. The first key, then, to effectively blend worship styles for leading a congregation is to love and respect all kinds of music, modern and traditional. Until you can honestly appreciate the doctrine and legacy of the greatest of the hymns, you will only be tolerating them in your repertoire and not using them as true worship moments.

Seeking the Past in the Present
Integral to the first key of blending worship is the second key: embracing in love the generation of worshipers that have gone before us. We have the nasty habit in this country of shunning the aged and idolizing the young. This must not be true of the Church. It’s much too easy to look at the brass markers on the back of pews that say something like “In loving memory of…” and dismiss them as meaningless. But if we are to truly serve today’s congregation, we must learn to appreciate the heritage of faith that came before. Someone paid their tithes or gave sacrificially and bought that pew. Someone had a loved one for whom they dedicated that church pew and it is, at least in some way, a legacy, a memoriam for a life that has gone before yours in that place. What will you leave as a legacy? A disdain for hymns and for those who paved the way for your own worship? Our use of hymns in blending worship should be more than a gratuitous tip of the hat. It should be as meaningful an act of worship as any part of the service itself. Our efforts should aim for more than not-offending older worshipers; we should seek to engage them in every possible way.

The Musical Vs. The Spiritual
The third component of effectively blending worship is to realize that musical renewal is not spiritual renewal. Frankly speaking, people know when we’re faking it. The fruit of our worship ministry is borne out in the lives of our choirs, worship teams and congregations. If we’re just performing music—if we’re not really interested in leading people into the real presence of God—we’re wasting our time and theirs. To use the old and the new as tools of renewal is wise. To use them as tools to build our esteem in the eyes of others is foolish. We must discern the difference.