Celebrate Diversity in Worship

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Babbie Mason

REFRAIN FROM JUDGING One thing that helps us to accept different worship styles is to avoid making judgments about them. We have to remain open rather than declaring, "I don't like that kind of music," when we hear something different from what we are accustomed to. Even if our first response is a negative one, we may find ourselves changing our minds as we listen.

Unfortunately, I have been misjudged as a singer numerous times. People have heard me singing a soft, easy listening ballad over the radio and assumed I was a white singer. They were surprised when they learned I am an African American!

Remember that old adage, "Never judge a book by its cover." No longer can we trust in traditions, uphold our stereotypes and put people in a box.

In recent years, you've probably heard white singers belt out a tune with the soul of a Motown singer. And you've probably heard African Americans sing beautifully sweet, tender ballads. If we will let God do His work in our hearts, we will see Him erase the lines we have drawn.

I started singing publicly more often when I was in high school. I realized right away that I had a unique vocal style. But most people thought that since I was black, I ought to deliver gut-wrenching, sweat-producing gospel songs.

When I was younger, I thought that, too. I was often frustrated by what I believed was a limited ability. I considered my voice too white for black people and too black for white people. I tried my best to sing soul-rending gospel renditions, but I'd always end up with laryngitis the next day.

The enemy pointed his long finger of judgment at me and said, "Well, there certainly is no room in the church for a gray singer. You might as well pack up your soundtracks and go home." For a long time I believed his lie.

But I don't believe it anymore! I realize now that what God did with my voice, He did on purpose for a purpose. He gave me exactly the kind of voice He wanted me to have. He gave me just enough of the traditional gospel music style to minister to my black brothers and sisters. And He gave me just enough of the contemporary style to minister to my white brothers and sisters.

In a Babbie Mason concert we all come together with one thing in mind, and that is to worship. Hopefully we can put an end to categorizing music based on whether it is "black" or "white."

STRIKING A BALANCE One of the most beautiful pictures of a balanced and harmonious relationship is the orchestra. Each section of instruments plays its part as written by the composer and directed by the conductor. The voices of instruments are all made from different materials. They come in all shapes and sizes, with tone qualities and timbres uniquely their own. Yet they make beautiful music together.

The heart of the listener can be deeply moved by the performance of a finely tuned symphony orchestra. But imagine how disruptive it would be if all of a sudden the French horn players stood to their feet and began to play loudly, each doing his own thing. We would all cover our ears in disapproval. Again, the key word is balance.

Some churches focus on the spirit in a worship service. The praise and worship must be spirited, the preaching must be exciting, and the response must be emotional.

On the other hand, some churches focus on the truth. Their approach to worship is purely intellectual. But Jesus told the woman at the well that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth (see John 4: 23).

In order for the human body to be healthy, it must receive a balanced diet. Too much fat, too much salt or too much caffeine can upset the body's chemistry and cause it to be weak, sick and diseased.

In addition, each member of the body is dependent upon the other members to remain healthy. The digestive system works with the circulatory system. Together they work with the nervous system.

It is the same in the body of Christ. The Bible tells us, "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Cor. 12:21, NKJV). In other words, we need each other. Each member of the body plays a vitally important part in maintaining the overall health of the church.

This truth carries over to different denominations and different congregations within those denominations. We need them all. God created the body perfectly balanced so there would be no schisms in it. In other words, God designed the church to function in perfect unity so nothing will be lacking.

I've seen positive signs that unity is on the horizon in the area of worship. But there's more to be done. Let's commit together to pray for the healing of the church. We must all accept the challenge as members of Christ's body to walk together, work together, serve together and especially worship together in unity, while celebrating our diversity.

Read a companion devotional.

Babbie Mason is a premier gospel singer and songwriter with numerous honors to her credit, including two Dove awards. She has been a featured artist for the Billy Graham Crusades, Women of Faith tour, and has worked with many other artists.

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