I thought I was missing out

Photo: Michael Maasen, Unsplash.

I grew up Catholic in Indonesia, so there was a time when the only worship music I knew was hymns. I like to sing, so I joined choirs in church and in school. I love to worship God with music. 

But I felt something was missing. I didn’t know what it was until I discovered contemporary worship music. This was the music that spoke to me. It still does. Just having the opportunity to worship God in a band makes me excited. 

One of the reasons I love my Anabaptist church is we get to sing not only hymns but contemporary music as well. There is no one right music style to worship God, as long as your heart is right with God.

When I moved to Philadelphia and became the pastor of Indonesian Light Church — a member of Mosaic Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA — I learned something important about worship: It is the condition of our heart that matters, not the music style. 

When I began worshiping here, we only had one keyboard and only sang from hymnals. Part of me struggled, because I wanted to worship with contemporary music. But as a new pastor, I wanted to honor the traditions, so we didn’t change anything. 

When the pandemic occurred, we had to rearrange a lot of things to accommodate the online service. It’s easier for me to lead worship by playing guitar. We started to use contemporary music in addition to hymns, and the congregation accepted it. 

Today our congregation is growing. We have a full worship band every Sunday. But God keeps reminding me it is not the culture or the worship style that matters but the results that come from our culture and our worship. 

It’s all about Jesus and the condition of our hearts.

I think we need to answer several questions when we consider which worship styles are right for us.

Does our worship make us more -mature as Christians, or do we just want to keep up with the trends? What is best for another church might not be best for us. Instead of copying -others, why not create your own worship style? 

Is the congregation becoming more loving or just busier? It takes a lot of work to manage a full band, with all the equipment. We need to remind ourselves that our goal is not to put on a great show but to help the congregation love God and each other. If we are not seeing our community growing closer as a result of our worship, maybe it would be better, and easier, to only have one keyboard in the worship service. 

There’s a phenomenon in our culture called FOMO: fear of missing out. Something exciting or interesting might be happening without us, and that would be awful! 

I think there’s a lot of FOMO in contemporary Christian worship. People get excited about whatever is new. They’ve got to try it out or feel left behind. 

I think we don’t always have to update our song list with the newest song by the latest popular Christian artist. We don’t have to copy other churches’ music styles. We don’t have to have all the fancy music equipment. 

I admit that I had a fear of missing out at the beginning of my ministry in Philadelphia. While other churches were singing the latest songs, I was stuck with the old hymns. But now I’m grateful that God reminded me what is important: the condition of my heart. 

A song by Matt Redman, “Heart of Worship,” reminds me of the most important thing: It’s all about Jesus. Not fancy equipment and the latest songs. 

These are some of Redman’s lyrics: “I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear. You’re looking into my heart. I’m coming back to the heart of worship. And it’s all about you, Jesus.”

I believe Jesus doesn’t care whether we sing four-part harmony or move to the beat of electronic dance music as long as our hearts are with him. Jesus calls us to be transformed, not to conform to the culture, whether secular or contemporary Christian. 

Jesus wants us to bear good fruit in our lives, not keep up with the trends. When we fix our attention on Jesus, we’re not missing out on anything. 

Hendy Matahelemual

Hendy Stevan Matahelemual is an ordained minister in Mosaic Mennonite Conference and lives in Philadelphia. 

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