We have been exploring the topic of worship wars for most of the last ten weeks. If you haven’t had a chance to read all the posts,begin with the first post of the series. In this post and next week’s post, I want to share with you many of my thoughts and struggles on the topic as I bring this series to a close.
There are many churches who are stuck in the past because they are simply afraid of introducing new songs or forms of worship into their times of corporate worship. Many of these churches are no longer engaging the non-churched culture around them because they refuse to embrace languages that speak the vernacular of the people. As I mentioned in a previous post,
Singing new songs is not simply for the sake of novelty. New songs are beneficial because they keep us out of a rut, bring us a new sense of freshness and enthusiasm, force us to think about what we are singing, expand our worship vocabulary, and help us capture what God is saying to the body at the time. Newer, contemporary songs generally will connect to today’s culture in a language they understand better than songs several decades or centuries old.
Further, churches that refuse to engage a missionary mindset (in worship and other areas of church life) may find that they will lose any ability to reach their community for Christ. I see church after church in North Carolina at the brink of closing their doors because they have for too long turned their focus inward to meet the needs of the flock and cater to personal preferences rather than to truly seek God’s heart for reaching the lost world around them. (I am not suggesting that merely changing their worship will cause a turnaround.)
So, you may be a part of one of those churches and feel the potential of creating a worship war is too great to risk making any changes. Realize that change does not have to bring conflict! Help your people understand the difference between the essence of worship and the expressions of worship. Help them understand the missionary mindset. Help them understand that God is still at work in today’s church as He was in the past, and that we need to recognize that in the music we sing. Help them understand that worship is about God and not about meeting our own personal preferences.
ONE DECLINING CHURCH GETS IT
The other day, a pastor contacted me after reading several of my blog posts. He recognized that his dear congregation was still engaging a 50’s form of worship and that they no longer seemed to be relevant to younger generations. Indeed, most of the congregation were senior adults. The pastor asked me to come and speak to the deacons and personnel committee as they were beginning to look to the future in hiring a new worship/music leader. Honestly, I thought that I might be thrown under the bus to go into a situation like this, but I agreed to go, leaning upon God for wisdom and strength.
What I experienced was absolutely amazing. I shared my heart and much of the material that I have been posting in this blog. We talked about the missionary mindset. We talked about the fact that we live in a very visually-oriented culture, yet their church does not do much at all to engage people visually in worship. After some time of discussion, an older gentleman took his hymnal in his hand and said that he certainly preferred to sing a hymn from that book, accompanied by organ and piano, but he was willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to reach people for Christ, even it meant giving up some of his personal preferences. Another man spoke up, suggesting that they consider taking some funds they had been saving for another project to divert to the purchase of a video system for the church. These men were amazing as I saw in them people who want their church to make a difference for years to come.
It is when we are able to help our people see beyond our own personal preferences and selfish desires that we can avoid major conflict in worship.
Next week, I will talk about the idea of offering varying styles of worship at the same church to avoid conflict and offer something for everyone. We see it all over the nation, but is it the best solution?
Please share your comments about today’s post.
Worship Wars: Next post in the series