For Father’s Day my wife bought me “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was written while Bonhoeffer was leading an underground seminary in Nazi Germany during WWII. The purpose of the book is to give the seminary students a picture of what is would look like to live in a true, healthy Christian community, especially during such an adverse situation as Nazi occupation.

At one point in the second chapter Bonhoeffer brings up the practice of singing hymns together as a community. He spends a great deal of time talking about the beauty of a community uniting in one voice to sing praises to God. But then he said something that I didn’t expect:

“There are some destroyers of unison singing that should be rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in singing.”

He then went on to completely tear apart the idea that people would do things like sing in harmony or sing solos:

“…the improvised second part… attempts to give the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone. There is the bass or the alto who must call everybody’s attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling, blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the glory of its own fine organ.”

Wow. That is intense.

However, it makes me really think about the way we do worship in modern, evangelical churches. I am not so quick as to assert that all worship leaders are pride-filled soloists that drown out everything else to the “glory of its own organ”. However, Bonhoeffer does hit a nail on the head here.

There is definitely a tendency to become prideful because of your musical talent (or video talent or preaching talent). It makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful from time to time to take brief Sabbaths from our talents for the sake of our own pride. Just throwing that out there.

So this is how this would look:

If you are talented with video, have a service where you do no video work at all. If you are talented with singing, have a service where you do congregational singing instead of led singing. If you are talented with preaching, bring someone else in to preach that Sunday that isn’t an intellectual equal. I’m sure that it could be extremely healthy to be regularly reminded that church will still happen regardless of our involvement.

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