By Mike Augsburger

She was a dear old saint of the church. The auditorium swelled with friends and loved ones to celebrate the life of “Grandma.” In over 50 years of teaching Sunday School, she had shaped the lives of countless people. Grandma was always greeted warmly by church rug rats eager for a piece of butterscotch candy.

The pastor fiddled with his notes, remembering both the sweet and the bitter parts of Grandma. Though she was mostly supportive, no one was more rascally than Grandma when the church transitioned to modern music. Technically, she was sowing discord among the saints. However, the church lovingly overlooked this blind spot in Grandma’s life.

“You can do that music in church,” she declared to Pastor Jim, “but I’m going to have my music—good old-fashioned conservative music—at my funeral.” Pastor Jim just smiled and consented. At the funeral, he smiled again as a soloist began crooning Grandma’s favorite “hymn,” “In the Garden.” He smiled because in Heaven, Grandma knows what he’s known all along: “In the Garden” is not actually a hymn, it’s not actually conservative, and it has zero theological value! Pastor Jim giggled to himself and proceeded to eulogize Grandma for the godly saint she was.

Land Mines

The opening story paints an all too common picture of people’s explosive emotions concerning church music. I have appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with Pastor Michael Riley on this brief writing project about corporate worship, and our six affirmations of agreement (see page 10) serve as the starting point for any discussion on music. What are the best practices for choosing church music? How can we find more unity in the Body of Christ and disagree without calling into question each other’s faithfulness to Christ, to orthodoxy, and to orthopraxy?