Rethinking Worship Wars

The worship wars never seem to end.  Although they have slowed down in recent years, I remember in my own lifetime, during the 90s in particular, where the battle for worship style was intense.  In general, there seems to be two different camps: traditional and contemporary.  Although those two camps often incorporate a wider spectrum of style, the two camps gather together in an Us vs Them mentality.  Although these battles have been known to divide churches, I think we must confess that we have blown this issue way out of proportion. The New Testament does not prescribe a particular style of worship to the church.  In fact, the New Testament is shockingly silent in discussing how to structure worship services.  I think both sides of the debate need to come to the realization that there are far more important things to focus on than worship style.  You can have a piano, a organ, and a choir with pimped out lavender robes and be a Faithful church.  You can also have the same style of worship in another church and be found unfaithful.  What’s my point?  The litmus test for a faithful church is not observing the worship leader to see if he wears a three-piece suit or if he wears skinny jeans and toms.  Worship has nothing to do with music, but everything to do with the posture of the human heart.  

However, I do think worship style is hugely important.  Which one should my church do?  Is one more preferred over the other? Most people choose their style of worship based on which style of music they like more.  I suggest to you that your preference has little to do with which style of music your church should worship too.  Music in worship should stir the hearts of your congregation to worship and engage the lost person in your community.  The correct question for church leaders to ask isn’t, “Which style do I like best?” but rather, “Which style will help me engage non-believers with the truth of the Gospel”.  We must view the issue of worship through a missional lens.  So which is the best style of worship? Well it depends on where you live.  In a deep rural area in the south, a traditional form of worship might be the best way to reach your community.  In an urban environment, that same style might not engage the city so well.

When it comes to worship styles we must think like a missionary.  No one method is superior to another, but one method might better advance the Gospel of Jesus in your community. It requires careful observation of your people and careful thinking about how to clearly communicate Christ to them.  Maybe it is through a traditional style.  Maybe it is through a contemporary style.

The tricky part is most church members do not think this way when it comes to worship style.  Worship is about me.  It is about my tastes and my wants.  Many church members view themselves as consumers of the church, and when they don’t get the style they like, the grumble and complain.  As a result, we must carefully teach our fellow brothers and sisters to think missionaly when it comes to worship.  We must get our people to see that the advancement of the Gospel is far more important than receiving our personal preferences.  Indeed, we sacrifice our own needs for the sake of others (Philippians 2).  This can take a lot of time and a lot of teaching, but by God’s grace His Spirit will change the focus of the congregation away from themselves and out to a lost and dying world in need of Jesus.