How Contemporary Worship Music Became Sweet to My Ears

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When I came to be in ministry with the congregation where I now serve, we had three worship services on Sunday mornings: two traditional and one modern.  Our sanctuary is a place of incredible beauty and holiness, resplendent with stained glass windows, pipe organ, hand bells, and beautiful guided liturgical worship.  I knew this ministry appointment would be a wonderful fit for me, having spent the first 35 years of my life as a classical musician, an organist and hand bell director.  This promised to be an easy transition.

God had something else in mind.

As Pastor of Inviting Ministries, my week always began with conversations with our many guests.  We were in the middle of the ’08 financial crisis and recession; people were flocking to church.  It was normal to have 100+ guests each Sunday.  I soon learned that many of these people were looking for two things:  a way to find purpose for their lives and faith, and a less-structured worship style.  

Our Inviting Ministries team was well-trained to help guests find the worship service style that they wanted.  Traditional worshipers were taken to the beautiful sanctuary; modern worshipers were taken to the Family Life Center (gym).  Although only a few feet apart, there seemed to be a great divide between those two worlds.  I sensed the challenge and opportunity to be a bridge between the two worshiping groups.  

Through conversations as well as written teaching, we learned to cease referring to our modern worshipers as “those people in the back.”  I encouraged members to rotate between the services in order to have a better understanding of how God works through both.

I was not where God needed me to be.

Our modern service welcomed a rotation of five different pastors each Sunday.  It was a wonderful way for our many pastors to stay connected to this rapidly-growing segment of our congregation, but it was not wonderful for the worshipers.  “We need some continuity with a leader who feels called to be the primary pastor of this service.”  Shortly thereafter, I felt as though God were saying to me, “If you just would, you could transform that service.”

If you just would…

I tried to plead my case that I was a classical musician; I did not know the language of modern worship music.  But the worship team of musicians and technicians captured my attention with their passion for serving God.  I would later tell them, “When I first came to the modern service, I felt like a missionary to the natives!  But now the natives’ music has become sweet to my ears.”

Within a year, we had added a second modern service and began maximizing the seating capacity of the space.  The more we expanded, the more we welcomed new worshipers and members.  Today there are architectural drawings for a permanent modern worship space and plans for a new service on Saturday night.

Willingness to learn a new language put this pastor into a place where God was already at work.

Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine!

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Rev. Miriam Seyler serves as the Pastor of Inviting Ministries at First United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro TN. A MS native who graduated William Carey College (University) with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, Rev. Seyler has been a TN resident for 25 years. After a 35-year career as a classical musician and educator, Miriam attended The University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee TN, earning a Master in Divinity degree. She has a passion for bridging the generations and cultures within the church.

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