Worship Wars- Still?

In the latest issue of Christianity Today they take up once again the subject of worship wars- as in hoping once and for all they will end. I say “amen” to that. Included in this issue are four articles discussing music and worship- which always seems to be at the epicenter of worship wars. Here is what the Senior Managing Editor, Mark Galli, says about all of these articles coming together in the latest CT:

The confluence of articles suggests a few things. First, worship music continues to be a topic that engages us both emotionally and intellectually. I’m not convinced we’re still fighting “worship wars,” but we are still living through a tense truce, if my local congregation is any example. Second, this tense truce continues to prod people into deeper thinking.

While I have rarely been accused of thinking too deeply, reading CT did generate a few thoughts about worship wars- as they relate to my context and experience within Churches of Christ.

  • Who am I to impose my song preferences upon others? Sure, I have my favorite songs that connect in meaningful ways to me. If I had my druthers, I would prefer those to be consistently used in worship. But how selfish would this be? I worship regularly with 400 other brothers and sisters. They also have preferences.  If I am to truly “consider others better than” myself (Philippians 2:3-4) then I should rejoice that they also have the chance to enjoy songs meaningful and connective to them.  I should also greatly anticipate and appreciate how they will “speak” to and “teach,” and “admonish” me through the singing of these songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3;16- worship is also about listening). Trying to impose my song preferences in worship seems to me to be the antithesis of the spirit of worship. Since when did worship become all about me anyway?
  • Every generation has its own praise language. As I understand it,  praise songs, hymns and spiritual songs have been written by every generation of Christians dating back to the first century (not to mention the Psalms of the Old Testament). Isn’t this the way it should be? New songs celebrating God and his wonderful gifts continue to be written. We should be thankful that He is still being so remembered and honored in our secular culture. If we try to deny current and future generations their right to find relevent ways to create their own praise language in song OR if we try to dismiss the tremendous contributions to spiritual songs and praise language by past generations we are shortsighted. 
  • God is big enough to be praised by us all.  Just imagine being God on Sunday. All over the world- in all kinds of languages- in all kinds of worship styles- with all kinds of songs- his people are praising him! Are the brothers in Jamaica being irreverent because their songs are not from the 19th century and sung in the American church style? Are the sisters in China somehow worshipping less because they are unable to enjoy the latest PowerPoint worship and praise slides?  Is the church in Africa somehow being unfaithful as they sing a song written by one within their congregation? Before getting caught up in our own little worship wars maybe we should consider the larger picture. I must always be aware that the church is bigger than just me.
  • When we wage worship wars we all lose. There are no triumphant victors in this battle- just wounded and battle-scarred combatants. Hunger, poverty, disease, terrorism, depression, divorce, abuse, crime, hopelessness, etc.- these are among the very real, dangerous and crucial issues of our day.  How can we hope to effectively speak a hopeful word for Christ to these issues if our attention is taken up by what song is sung on Sunday? And if such issues become divisive- then we forfeit being a credible witness for Christ to our world (see Christ’s prayer for unity- John 17:20-26).

How about it? Why not call a ceasefire in our worship wars? Why not rather seek ways to appreciate all praise language represented in our songs? Wouldn’t that be a much healthier way to spend our time and energy and a better way to demonstrate who God is to our world?

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8 Responses to Worship Wars- Still?

  1. Sam says:

    Most worship debates represent little more than a consumeristic enterprise – people arguing for what improves their personal existence. Unfortunately, by transforming worship into just another product we pursue, the more important theological questions of what is God doing among us, how is God forming this community of faith, and how is God calling us to service are ignored. Worship, in these selfish pursuits, is reduced to a conversation about preferences rather than a reflection on how congregational gatherings call God’s people to appropriate a response to God’s presence among God’s people and in our ministry context.

    So, yeah, “worship wars,” as you claim, are extremely divisive and unceasingly destructive when our conversation is riddled with such self-seeking tendencies.

    Differences in worship styles, as you also suggest, can be significant barriers in creating community. But it is important we discuss these differences in the context of pursuing God and our task to serve in his kingdom, not merely attempting to appease various factions within the church. As we all understand, those factions will never be happy anyway.

  2. dannydodd says:

    Excellent comments. Thank you, Sam.

  3. TYRON says:

    It is my understanding that the Father’s greatest concern is the condition of the heart in which the worship is offered to Him. Praise be to God that singing on key is not a requirement, however, I can make a joyful noise!

  4. dannydodd says:

    Great point Tyron! Hope you are doing well my brother.

  5. Royce Ogle says:

    The only true worship war is the Spirit against the flesh. Romans 12:1,2 is worship too. I fear that what we call “worship” often isn’t.

    Royce

  6. Amen Danny! Lets have shalom in our gatherings. I have little doubt that should most of us be transported via a DeLorean to Corinth in Paul’s day all manner of worship wars would erupt. Most of the fighting boils down to the idolatry of self. So I second the call for peace.

    But while calling for peace I do not hesitate for also calling for a deepening of our theology of worship. Truly delving into some healthy writings on a theology of worship would enrich our “experience” of worship and perhaps help quell the fire in the underbrush.

  7. dannydodd says:

    I wholeheartedly agree Bobby! Thanks for the comment.

  8. Donna says:

    I love the visual imagery of God being praised in different languages and styles at the same time. I can imagine that it is a sweet aroma to Him. When His Spirit shows up mightly in times of praise it is an awesome experience. A bit of heaven here on earth. Our only fights should be about how to have that spirit among us every time we worship together!

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