My childhood home was located next door to a small strip mall that consisted of various shops and offices that included a pharmacy at the far end. My family was awakened one night by the pharmacy burglar alarm. After contacting the police, we watched from the darkness of my second-floor window as a thief hacked through the pharmacy roof with a pickaxe.
When the police arrived the burglar attempted to elude them by running across the rooftops toward our house. It was obvious that he intended to jump between the stores and our house to escape arrest. But my always-prepared dad temporarily blinded the intruder by pointing a huge flashlight in his eyes the moment he jumped.
From the street it appeared that our house and the strip mall were only one-story structures. But because of the slope of our side yard, where the thief intended to jump was actually three-stories high. The hapless criminal landed in a heap on our metal garbage cans and was easily apprehended by the police. He had swung wildly and jumped blindly without first considering all of the circumstances or consequences.
Changing our songs is often necessary as we consider worship in response to shifts in cultures and contexts. But in our rush to try something new, we often jump into radical musical change by completely demolishing existing practices. As a result, relationships are often left in a heap. Maybe it’s time to consider deconstruction instead of demolition.
Demolition is the most expedient method of destroying an existing structure in order to ensure that the ensuing structure bears none of the characteristics of the original structure. In an effort to initiate musical change, leaders often take a swing at existing practices with the finesse of a pickaxe. The consequence is often the complete destruction of relational foundations that took decades to build.
Deconstruction on the other hand, is the systematic and selective process of disassembling a structure while carefully preserving valuable elements for re-use. It focuses on giving new life to those materials that still hold value. Deconstruction takes the time to recognize and harvest usable components in order to reclaim their value as useful building materials in the new structure.
The automatic assumption is that change always requires incorporating something completely new. It’s possible, however, that some of the necessary new is for us to do what we are already doing…better. Chip and Dan Heath wrote, “We rarely ask the question: What’s working and how can we do more of it? What we ask instead is more problem-focused: What’s broken and how do we fix it?” So if we could learn to deconstruct rather than demolish when considering musical changes it could encourage us to add to rather than take from, offering a stable framework on which to rebuild.
 Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (New York: Broadway Books, 2010), 55.
Dr. David Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. His convention responsibilities include worship consultation and leadership development. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for 20 years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. David writes for various online and print publications and can be followed on Twitter @DWManner or on his Worship Evaluation Blog: http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner.