Worship Style and Culture
Calvin B. Rock
The principles of dignity, harmony, symmetry, education, and, most of all, reverence expounded in the Word of God and in the counsel of Ellen White should characterize all forms of worship, including music.
While in the minds of some, jazzy and Pentecostal-like music is associated with black culture, not all Black Christians enjoy this type of church music. Many also find it offensive. Further, as most Sunday scanning of television and visits to even some Sabbath services will show, Pentecostal-like expression is not exclusive to any one ethnic group.
Worship style is influenced more by social class than by color. The antics of Ozark hillbillies who pray frantically while handling rattlesnakes and the histrionics of ghetto Holy-Rollers who dance frenziedly while their preachers pound the Bible are not driven by genes or skin color, but by socioeconomic realities.
But there are well-educated and affluent individuals in both the middle and the upper classes who not only enjoy Pentecostal-like music, but who finance it faithfully. Does this mean, with respect to worship, that "anything goes"? It does not. The principles of dignity, harmony, symmetry, education, and, most of all, reverence expounded in the Word of God and in the counsel of Ellen White (see The Voice in Speech and Song) should characterize all forms of worship, including music.
One can understand how the socioeconomic background of some provides preferences that violate these principles. And since there is a greater percentage of Blacks in the lower socioeconomic class than Whites, a greater percentage, of this group perhaps gravitate to this music. What is more difficult to appreciate is the reason so many of our pastors, parents, radio station operators, and others whose background suggests a more sophisticated expression, are willing drift with the rising tide of neo-Pentecostalism.
Calvin B. Rock is a General Vice-president of the General Conference. He holds doctoral degrees in ministry and religious ethics.
These observations, originally printed in the June 12, 1997 Adventist Review, were reprinted with permission in the Autumn 1997 issue of Notes, a publication of the International Adventist Musicians Association.