The Worship Quote of the Week for (07/18/2006):

The Limelight of Christian Worship
When seminary students turn in exams, book reviews, or essays that include the phrase "traditional worship," I usually circle the words and write "Whose tradition?" in the margin. Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is Harold Best's way of making the same comment—traditions change.

Traditionalists have much to answer for in their reluctance to understand that tradition does not mean stasis but change. In their reaction against contemporary styles, they fail to understand that what they have gotten used to was once contemporary and often objectionable. Contemporists likewise fail to understand how blunted their tastes are when only "their music" seems to do the trick and when what they are doing has, ever so quickly, frozen itself into a tradition. So we end up with two kinds of shortsightedness, one supposedly old, the other supposedly new, and both wish fulfilling. The separation of worship into preference groups is everyone's fault, in that narrow musical satisfaction has turned out to be more important than style-proof outpouring. I encourage people of all practices to become intently and intensely curious about each other's ways.

The church desperately needs an artistic reformation that accomplishes two things at once: first, it takes music out of the limelight and puts Christ and his Word back into prominence; and second, it strives creatively for a synthesis of new, old and crosscultural styles. A deep understanding of the arts, coupled to the understanding that at best the music of corporate worship is simple, humble and variegated, would bring something about that would make all churches into worshiping and witnessing churches that happen to sing.

—Harold Best, UNCEASING WORSHIP: BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES ON WORSHIP AND THE ARTS. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 75. ISBN 0-8308-3229-7

[You can look at the quote index ( and tell that I am pretty enthusiastic about Harold Best's writings on the subjects of music, worship, and the arts. That last phrase in today's WORSHIP QUOTE, however, "churches that happen to sing," makes it sound like the singing is optional or coincidental; but the Bible speaks about songs of faith with quite a bit more intentionality than that. I think that the last sentence might be stronger if it ended " . . . churches that happen to sing in a particular musical style, or even with a particular collection of styles."]

Have a great week.

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or view a complete
index of worship quotes, please visit