Not to be confused with Classic Gospel, Classical Gospel comes from the side pulpit, whence flows all the smooth “thee’s,” “thou’s,” “ye’s” and “Withersoever’s;” ─ye gads! Mostly during prayer, but sometimes in the preaching as well, pseudo-Elizabethan English appeals to the high-church crowd who sincerely believe God understands English better that way.
Being a kid on Sunday morning must be rough in Classical-style congregations. The rule is feet-on-the-floor, seat-on-the-pew, and hands-on-the-hymnal. And with the heavy, pipe organ music the larger churches produce, what kid would dare shoot a spit wad at another kid?
Just a bit of info for those who detest Classical-style Gospel: Many pulpits that favor it also preach God’s uncompromised Truth, so quit being snobbish toward a gospel-style you think is snobbish.
Here’s another one that could be confused with a different style, that is, R&B-style Gospel. They both project that soulful impression of guilt for having caused Jesus to go to the cross. “I’m cryin’ in ma beer ‘cause ma dorlin’ took oaf with another bronc-bustin’ cowboy, over-the-road trucker, or whatever,” becomes, “I’m cryin’ at the altar ‘cause I couldn’t keep the ol’ fly zipped and what kind of Christian is that?”
And lest we forget the ol’ time Foursquare, pew-jumping, slain-in-the-spirit, snake-teasing, dancing-in-the-aisle-style Gospel, Pentecostals believe in expressing the full gospel of Christ Jesus. Though most of us consider the unleashed charismata a bit much, what could be wrong with wanting all that God has for us?
So, whether your cryin’ at the altar or jumpin’ over the altar, there are as many variations on that Classic gospel refrain as there are cowboys and truckers. If we’re tempted to criticize, we must remember they’re at least honest enough to confess and repent of their sins, trusting that God doesn’t keep count of trips to the altar—or over it.
Just so we can keep track of the difference between R&B/Hip-Hop and Country/Classic-style Gospel, this one is distinctive for its Motown Sound. Which it gets honestly, since old fashioned Black gospel was the seed for today’s Rhythm and Blues. Trying to distinguish between the music and the preaching is useless, as the preaching so often becomes music when the Afro-American preacher gets wound up. Some of the best gospel singing issues forth from the pulpit during a sermon … when the preacher can hold a tune.
Both Country and R&B are heavy on the feeling side, as opposed to Classical, which is quite staid, tending toward the cerebral. Imagine the power of our preaching and worship if God could use both our hearts and our heads to advance His kingdom.
If the songs were penned before the mid-19th century or after the mid-20th century, they are not God ordained. Preaching issues forth from the center pulpit, from the mouth of a man wearing a suit from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. No ecclesiastical robes or parson’s collars here. This is the preaching that elicits the occasional, “Amen,” most always from an elder or deacon who wants the preacher to know he’s not in danger of being fired today.
Middle-of-the-road in every way, these folks believe there’s a ditch on both sides, lest they are tempted to get either too formal or too emotional. “Moderation in all things, including moderation,” is what they practice. Midwest Contemporary is the place for anyone who is worried about being offended. There’s something to be said for not getting distracted from simply worshiping God by loud music, flashy costumes or emotional displays.
Obviously, these generalizations and stereotypes are just that. Worshiping the Eternal, Self-Existent, Holy God is both universal and personal. In case you’ve missed it, the point is: Regardless how any style strikes the observer, most of the difference is just style, not necessarily content. So get off your high horse and listen to the message, discerning its Biblical truth without pointing fingers; you might just get something out of it.