Someone asked me recently what the current discussions were surrounding the “worship wars.” I told him that I honestly thought, despite there being pockets where this war was ongoing, the war (especially in the western US) is over. For those of you in the dark on this, the worship wars are essentially church disagreements over the musical style used in worship. Typically it is a fight between traditional hymns and contemporary choruses being used during church-wide gatherings.
Yes, I truly believe the worship wars are over.
But I don’t believe this is 100% a good thing.
First of all, part of the reason these wars are over is that fewer and fewer churches are making a conscious effort to bring new and old together. Many of these younger worship leaders who fought hard for contemporary forms of music left their more traditional churches in order to serve at churches where no war was needed. In many new church plants contemporary worship is being played and it is already engrained in the culture. Hence no struggle between traditional and contemporary.
We’re disconnecting from those with different stylistic preferences rather than forcing ourselves into the messiness of working with those unlike us. I don’t see any circumstance in which this is a healthy, long-term solution.
I like what Russell Moore said along these same lines:
Thankfully, we don’t hear as much about “worship wars” these days, but I wonder if that’s because of growing maturity or if it’s simply because we’ve so segregated ourselves into services and congregations that reflect generational and ethnic and class-oriented musical commonalities. Maybe we need to reignite the wars, but in a Christian sort of way.
Secondly, now that the wars are over, I believe we’re thinking and meditating far less about “why” we worship. The worship wars forced the ongoing conversation to always look at why we worship so that the entirety of the war wasn’t about “how” we worship.
It seems now that any guy who can hold a tune and strum on a guitar can lead worship. Yes, I just totally ragged on myself. But I sure hope worship is more than playing through some music at church. When I’ve asked other worship leaders why they do their musical worship a certain way the answer I usually get is “it works well for us.” I sure hope we have deeper convictions connecting our “how” in worship to the “why” we worship.
The Good Lost in the Bad
For all the bad of the worship wars, they allowed us to always come back into focus on the key importance of gathering to worship as a church. Instead of telling the church member who disagrees with how we worship to go find another church, let’s spend more time engaging these conversations. I find that the people who take time to complain are those who care the most. Don’t let them walk away because they’ll likely have an insight previously unseen.
I believe we’re constantly in progress, constantly working out our sanctification as believers and as a corporate body. Even as our worship changes to adapt to culture, we must never end the conversation that examines why and how we worship. We must continue to connect our “how” to our “why,” bringing into the conversation various perspectives–allowing church to be messy, gracious, and connected.
Without the war, I wonder if we’re more prone to wander away from the Person behind our worship to instead focus on our own worship doctrine of preference.
Check out my follow up post regarding this idea of bringing back the worship wars.