Observations on Life, Faith, Media & Technology

Worship Wars

Have you ever heard the phrase “Worship Wars”?  It is frequently used to describe what has happened in many of our churches over the last couple of decades as worship styles have changed.

The two words that make up the phrase “Worship Wars” ought not to go together.  Worship is holy and sacred.  Wars can on rare occasions be justified, but most often they are the opposite of holy and sacred. “Worship” by definition is all about God. “Worship Wars” are most assuredly not about God.  Worship Wars are all about us, about our personal preferences and what we want.

For those of us who are students of church history, we know the current “Worship Wars” are nothing new.  As music changes in society, the music that is considered to be acceptable in the church changes slowly behind it.  If that process never happened, we would still be worshipping the Lord through the use of first century Hebrew tunes and rhythms!  Just think about it – at one time, Gregorian Chants were the new contemporary music being used in the church!

I read an article recently about a divisive incident that happened at a church in Canada.  This controversy wreaked havoc and division in this congregation for over a decade and it had to do with music and worship. Speeches were made. Petitions were signed. Meetings were held ad nauseam. Threats were made. Families were divided. Many people left the church.

Was it the older members rebelling against singing choruses or the younger members over having the sing the old hymns?  No. The controversy was over whether or not is was appropriate to use an organ in the worship services, and it raged among the members of St. Andrews during the 80s.  But not the 1980s… it was the 1880s!

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart because the vast majority of my ministry career has been spent as a worship leader. And as is usually the case, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

When we take our eyes off the One we are worshipping and focus on how we are worshipping, we have a heart problem.  When we cause or even participate in conflict in the church over what boils down to our personal preferences, we have a heart problem.

There are those who would say they are not fighting for their personal preferences, they are fighting to keep worship holy and acceptable to God.  I would say to you if you believe that your cultural preferences are tantamount to God’s will, you have a heart problem.

Nowhere in God’s word does it spell out to us our style of worship.  The closest it comes to that is in two very similar passages in Paul’s letters – Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 – where we are told to worship God and admonish each other using “Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs.”  Bible scholars and historians disagree on the exact application of those terms, but all agree they encompass a wide variety of musical styles.  In other words, God’s words tells us to use a wide variety of musical styles to worship God and encourage each other.

No matter what style of worship you employ in worship, God always focuses in on your heart.  Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the Father is seeking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:23)

Are you or your church embroiled in the Worship Wars?  If so, I urge you to surrender immediately… surrender your will, your desires and your personal preferences to God and direct your focus toward the One Who alone is worthy of our worship and adoration.  Worship is not about us, it is about Him.

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