Sojourn worship leaderÂ Jesse “Jay” Eubanks joins us today for Guest Blogger Week here on sojournmusic.com.Â Jesse writes about how the music of churches often confines and separates us based on race and culture, and challenges music ministries to do something about it:
It’s been over 40 years since our government had enough wisdom to outlaw segregation in our schools.Â Yet, somehow our churches still largely operate under a cultural mandate of “separate but equal”.Â The music our churches play to worship our God alienates many of the very brothers and sisters in Christ we are called to stand beside.Â Our musicians are too confined. Â Our musical vision is too narrow.Â Our theology is too self-serving.
The fear of white musicians coming across as “wannabees” or disingenuous is a legitimate fear.Â It would be terrible to come across as insulting or hurtful to fellow brothers and sisters.Â But let me be honest.Â I would rather see musicians who are trying to help unite the church come across as fools than musicians who reinforce racial homogeny come across as masterful.Â We need to keep first things first.
Interestingly, much of the Pentecostal movement has embraced musical styles that incorporate rock, gospel, folk, R&B and pop.Â I often notice this when I am flipping through the channels and stumble across televised church services.Â I once even attended a Catholic mass where the music mixed black gospel, a choir and hymns.Â The congregation was diverse across the board — perhaps one of the most bizarre and refreshing worship experiences of my life.Â I can’t espouse for all the theology taught, but there was a marriage of racial unity and cultural relevance that I may not have seen since.
Geographic location has a great deal to do with the degree of this endeavor and the shape that it takes.Â Beyond any doubt, our church communities have a responsibility to the geographic location God has placed them in.Â We will answer to him one day for how we responded to this responsibility and it would serve us well to remember that he loves compassion and mercy above musical excellence.Â The point at which our musical stylings pin down our ability to be unified as the Church is the point at which we have allowed music to become an idol.Â Conversely, it is unfair to expect everyone to adapt to our preferred tastes.Â In short, musical diversity is important.Â To achieve cultural diversity through music is paramount.
Jesus’ prayer for us was that we would be one, just as He and the Father are one.Â “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17)Â My dream for our churches is that we would embrace racial and cultural diversity from the leadership to the laypeople and that we as children would raise our voices as one together – in the same building at the same time – to worship our Father.
The complexities of this issue are immense. Make no mistake: It is HARD. But it is WORTH IT.
“Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Amos 5:23-24