The War for Worship


The last time I wrote an article I was able to share the new direction our worship ministry was heading towards as we were moving to a single praise team for our worship services.  We are continuously encouraged by the way our church participates with us each week during the worship services.  It is a blessing to be a part of a church that enjoys worshiping together.  


This has been an interesting summer for worship on social media platforms and there has been a resurgence of articles written about “The Worship Wars.”  In many cases, these articles take aim at style versus style or method versus method in an attempt to argue for the side that the author thinks is right or frankly, and unfortunately, to stir the pot for no other reason than controversy.


What so many authors seem to forget and gloss over in their passion for one style or method over the other, is that worship wars have nothing to do with hymns versus choruses, projectors versus hymnals, or guitars versus organs.  A true worship war is self-defining: a war for worship.


Vernon Whaley wrote an incredible book, Called to Worship, and he outlines a biblical approach to Worship Wars in the early chapters.  What is important is to realize that our debates over style and method pale to the importance of what really matters in the kingdom.


The first worship war occurred before Adam and Eve ever looked at a piece of fruit.  Lucifer was an “anointed cherub” by God and would have likely been very beautiful to look at (Ezekiel 28:13-15).  He sat in a place of authority in heaven, yet he wasn’t satisfied with his position.  We learn in Isaiah 14:12-14 that he wanted more and that he wanted to ultimately steal worship from God for himself.  It’s interesting that he says “I will” five times in verses 14 and 15!  He initiated a worship war against God that has had catastrophic results throughout history.  


In the second recorded worship war we see a less-attractive Lucifer whisssspering (see what I did there) in the ears of Eve, shaking her belief about what God had really told them.  A true worship war is not about the how of worship, but about the who.


Style and method are two very important aspects of how worship is accomplished each week in churches all over the globe.  What we often fail to see is that our opinions are simply that: opinion.  I grew up on hymns from hymnals and it would be easy to argue that because of the musical influence in my life, those hymns and hymn books should be mandatory parts of every church today.  There is a genuine emotional tie to certain of those hymns as I can remember what was playing when I made life-changing decisions in faith.  Many people still remember what hymn was being sung as they approached the altar for the first time.  Many people can relate, while many others can not.


In a world where we strive to make our experience the right, or only experience, we miss out on a key point Jesus made in the gospel of John.  Our worldview is often limited to our personal experiences, which are not wrong, yet we forget that the world around us finds their experiences just as valid.  Some churches teach their music orally (or by rote) and find no need for hymnals or projectors; other churches write original songs born out of their experiences.  Jesus told the Samaritan woman that “the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”


Arguing over style and method only becomes a worship war when we stop worshiping to pursue the fight.  There is a war for worship, but it outweighs Crosby versus Crowder, paper versus projector, strings versus pipes: Who will you choose to worship?


We are blessed to live in an age where you can have almost immediate access to the music that speaks to you spiritually.  I encourage you to find time to worship God in that way.  We are also blessed to be a part of a church that gives us a tiny glimpse of “the coming hour,” though, where we will worship together with saints from all over the globe.  It means that while we may not hit your favorite style on a given Sunday, you can still worship God in spirit and in truth, even if just to worship him for the vast beauty of his kingdom.