Worship Should Not Be Done in a Disorderly Manner Because The Lord Is a God of Order
Magali Pardo, Lieutenant Colonel of the Salvation Army, talks about relationship between church and people based on her previous work in several Latin American countries and current supervision of ethnic churches in three states.
This conversation was conducted by Jaime Lázaro in Spanish and translated to English. Read it in Spanish here.
Magali Pardo, Lieutenant Colonel of the Salvation Army, received us in her office in the city of Long Beach, California. Lieutenant Colonel Magali Pardo, which is an official/pastor of the Salvation Army, US West Territory, answered our questions with a candid smile and complete disposition.
Her work in several countries of Latin America and her current supervision of ethnic churches in three states grant her the necessary experience to speak on this topic.
Not only that, but if we go back in time, we see the Salvation Army beginning to use popular songs with altered lyrics that ultimately brought many people to the Lord’s ways.
Our dialogue brought attention to some points that we will underline below:
• The churches of the Salvation Army are careful to include permissions below the lyrics of songs that they project. This is quite rare among Latino churches. Could the lack of authorizations bring legal problems?
• Magali Pardo explained how they have guides that help obtain music and appropriate Bible verses for each song. This is done to stay connected to the true message. Does this limit the inclusion of other ideas or spontaneous spiritual expressions?
• Our interviewee argues that immigrants often come to this country with their heads down, and it is in the church that God lifts them and gives them courage. Is God the unnamed accomplice that helps Latinos succeed in this country?
Here is the interview:
Is sung worship important to the churches of the Salvation Army?
Yes, we Latinos love to sing. We can spend up to half our services singing. Often, we leave the pastor with little time to complete his sermon. With this I mean to say that it is important because it is something we bring from our countries. The Salvation Army divides this up into two groups; praise and worship. Praise comes in the beginning of the service; it is fast-paced and joyous. However, when we are approaching the sermon, we play worship music, which is slower. The Salvation Army has songs that line up with our doctrine.
Regarding the content of a song, what is most important?
It is most important that the song speaks to God. Our book of hymns classifies the songs into the categories of salvation, testimony, dedication, women, and evangelism.
Is this hymnal used by all of the churches of the Salvation Army?
Is it used at all times or is it combined with other songs that are often used by evangelical churches?
We used to bring the hymnal from Mexico, but now we bring it from Argentina. Amidst our large collection, we use many from “Aleluya,” which are recorded songs that can be used as the accompaniment. For us, the most important thing is that the songs have content, because in order to use songs from other churches, we would need permission. Whenever we project such lyrics, we need to include their copyright, especially in the United States. As of late, we have not been using the hymnal much. More than anything, we have been using songs from other churches, because they are better suited for group interpretation than our hymns. We are now encouraging our churches to use recorded accompaniments, and motivating our musicians to learn these songs.
Does Christian media cause people to seek out new songs?
Yes. Let’s say I go to another church that is not part of the Salvation Army; they will use many songs that we now use, songs that are being used in the general Church, such as songs by Marcos Witt, Marcos Barrientos, or Marcela Gandara. We use these songs for special numbers involving dance.
Is the use of dance a part of the Salvation Army’s tradition?
No, our tradition involves tambourine brigades, as we do in the Rose parade where we perform with a marching band and leading tambourine players.
Is this an element that you include in worship?
Yes, it is a part of our worship because we have tambourine players and the band present in our large events, such as commissioning, ordination, and welcoming of new pastors. The tambourine brigade uses traditional uniforms and varies in musical style depending on their native nation. For example, in Latin America we might use Caribbean-style music.
Then, you are open to adapting to different cultures?
Yes, we are open and have flexibility. Our time of worship can be a combination of the band and popular evangelical music.
The band interprets hymns, such as marches, right?
They interpret marches and even physically march. If you were to go to a Salvationist event such as an ordination, you would see more use of the band and tambourines players.
If we speak specifically of worship and the time that one spends singing, how do you teach people that this can also be experienced outside of the temple?
I understand that the church is a time of liberation, eliminating our anguish, and our problems through worship, because it is preparation for receiving the word of God. This is when we raise our hands, bow down, and speak to the Lord. During praise, we do this with joy, but during worship, we are quieter, sublime, and have more of an encounter with God. It is a special time between God and the individual.
Does worship have the same value to you as the rest of the service?
Worship is important because that is when I can speak to God with whispers and have a personal encounter with Him. The purpose of worship is to be in communion with God. Apart from the word of God, worship is part of a more personal encounter.
Is your church making an effort to include its own more contemporary songs?
Yes, we are hosting musical camps. That is where the new generation is composing music. That is where they learn of the truth. Soon we will have a contest that we call, “Encore.” This event takes nearly a year of preparation to reach a point with finalists who will receive prizes and trophies for excelling in music, dance, and tambourine playing. This contest can only be attended by those who qualify.
So, music is important in the Salvation Army…
Yes, our summer camps are similar to musical institutes. And soon, we will be opening a school of music for the community in California.
Do you use the same music for everyone or is it classified by age?
It is classified; for example, in the home leagues or women’s group we have different music than what we play on Sundays. In the hymnal we have specific songs. Additionally, if I give a testimony, I can use one specific song to develop my testimony. For example, if I am going to preach about salvation, I turn to the hymnal and there I find verses that I can use. It is an advantage. Therefore, this connection is important for when we are making a program. I bring the general idea of my message and we can find songs and verses that match accordingly.
It’s easier that way…
Yes, it is easier and more coordinated, because if this weren’t the case, I could be talking about love but be listening to a song that has no connection to what I am teaching. So, I begin with the theme of my message, but I keep in mind what songs could support me as I reach my final conclusion, so that everyone can take home a complete idea of my message.
How do you think your Latino congregants picture God?
We picture a God of power that can help us. We are learning about how in the time of colonization, the word of God was brought with a sword that would kill those who did not believe. Perhaps since then, we Latinos come with that suffering. Generally speaking, when we arrive in the United States, we do it with our heads down. But when we arrive at a church, it is God who lifts us up. I have seen this both in other people and in my own life. I have seen the Lord give me liberty. After being enslaved and humiliated, we arrive at a consciousness of God and that is where we find freedom. As a woman, I can say that Christ is in my life and I am worth something. I am not only useful for child bearing and being a housewife, but rather, I can also be an official, a pastor. I can take the word of God to the whole world. That is the liberty God gave me when I accepted Christ as my Savior and I am not humiliated or a weak person.
Do you think that the sexist culture prevents men from opening their hearts to the Lord?
Yes, we have seen many cases where men have not allowed their loved ones to be happy. There are women who cannot go to church because a man in their lives won’t allow them. Through prayer, God answers and liberates her, and she decides to continue to go to church with her children. I always tell my sisters to insist on coming to church because in coming they will take blessings into their homes. And then when that sexist man gives his heart to Christ, he may become even more faithful than his wife. That is what happens when God liberates the heart of a sexist man.
Do you think we promote or transmit sexism in our churches?
No, I don’t think so because the Lord is for everyone. Something I was reading in a book and personally found offensive was considering God to be feminine. I disagree; God is not feminine, God is powerful. God does not need to define its gender. But the author argued that God is uniquely feminine, which is a bit confusing. I do not believe in the liberation of women, but rather in the submission of women without being humiliated. When I preach, I teach that we must give our husbands a significant place in our homes, not because it is humiliating to me but because the word says so. This submission should be to God, and when I am submissive to God I will respect my husband. I am not in favor of feminism and I will submit to my husband.
Does sexism influence women to not come to worship?
Does sexism keep individuals from being liberated by God during worship?
Yes, there are even husbands that wait for their wives outside of the temple for two hours just to not go into the church. About two months ago I had an experience while I was praying for a man who was crying. I have never seen a man cry this much, but nothing is impossible for God. Sexism can be like a mask, but what worries me regarding worship is that there are many young people that are continuing with sexism. They have not let it go because it is passed on through the family. Mothers teach their sons sexism by not letting them do anything around the house; we have seen recent cases where young men, despite having been born in the States, have not lost this sexist culture.
Do you think that the people who come to worship are coming to receive or to give?
I think it is both, because we are giving God our worship but we are also receiving blessings, liberation, hope, everything. If I go only to request things and not to give, then God will not work within me; we must always be willing to give and receive.
Do you think that it is unintentionally taught that one can only worship in the temple?
Perhaps many churches or pastors that don’t know what worship is think it can only happen in the temple.
What differentiates worship in your church from that of other churches?
Perhaps the most important thing is to not praise in a disorderly way, like when someone is doing things with the sole purpose of getting attention, as we often see in the church. On the other hand, we sometimes make the mistake of not understanding other persons who have been touched by the spirit of God. We must respect that.
Must this be done in a specific way?
No, it is dependent on how the Lord touches them. If someone speaks in tongue, there must be someone who can interpret it, but it must all be done in order.
Are emotions important during the time of worship?
Yes, because the Lord moves in different ways. But if it is just emotions, it is not right because worship is not only something you are feeling. There are many people who are superficially emotional. When David would dance, he was giving his entire being to the Lord; we should infect ourselves with the desire to worship not only in the temple, but also everywhere. I must worship the Lord with my testimony, in my home, and during my devotional time. The spirit of God is everywhere.
Do you teach some techniques to connect with God through worship outside of the temple?
We teach every single one, in personal experiences and we also have seminaries of worship where we emphasize how to worship Him. I think it is about communion and a personal search. Many times, the same people that sing or play instruments don’t know how to worship, because they think it is just about singing. I think they should be the first to be subject to the Lord and go to Bible studies because they are the ones on stage performing for God.
Do you think that the lack of commitment to the Lord on behalf of the musicians can cause problems with the pastor?
In the Salvation Army, we believe that we are a movement of holiness. Therefore, those who are leading the way must be living a holy life. As Christian officials, we have to live as Christians. No one will fully know how I live, but they will be able to see the fruits of my lifestyle. As pastors, we have tried to make sure that those leading the way are living a pure life, and that their actions demonstrate who they are. The pastor is in charge of observing this, because the individuals leading the way represent the church during worship. I don’t think we can achieve a clean worship service when we are not right with the Lord. The pastor must also live a holy life in order to worship the Lord.
What changes when one worships: one’s heart or the heart of God?
I think the heart of a person changes. God loves us and he will create change in us. He doesn’t change; he continues to love us.
With this, do you mean to say that the first benefiter is the person who is worshiping?
Yes, because when we worship the Lord, we raise our voices to him and talk to him. He elevates us to his presence.
What are the results of living life as a worshiper?
The results are seen in a holy life; I find my own spiritual health by praising him. The songs remind me that he is good and holy, which motivates me to also live in holiness. Worship allows me to love my brother and learn faith. In order to achieve change in our lives, we need the word, prayer, and also worship. It is important for us to seek the Lord through worship and to desire change. Many people have found God through worship.
Is worship an evangelistic tool?
Yes, because when they reach the church they are cold. And what does worship do? It warms us; it draws us closer to Him. The people who don’t regularly go to church and want nothing to do with God can receive the word through worship. Many people associate the songs with the type of music they like, and then the spirit of God speaks to them.
Is it that God is music?
Yes, music is God. If we look at the history of the Salvation Army, they began with the music of the people and made the lyrics spiritual. There are many songs that helped people come to the ways of the Lord. God uses all means to approach an unbeliever. I think that worship is about the way we live.
Would you like to add anything?
Yes, I think that united in the Lord, we can achieve great things. I see many independent churches with unprepared pastors, and I begin to think that perhaps God brought this person here. But if he is unprepared, where is he leading the people?