Worship Wars – Part 1

"It’s every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns"

 He Reigns, The Newsboys


Have you experienced it?  Worship Wars have been breaking out in churches for decades.  Sadly, music is an extremely divisive issue in a countless number of congregations. 


Before I begin, let me emphasize that I have my own opinions, but by no means do I claim to have the solution for this dilemma that has divided many churches.  I have been praying earnestly about this matter, and I hope you will take to heart what this middle-aged wife and mother has to say.


From the time my daughters were very young, I have made it a high priority to follow Proverbs 3:5-6.  "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."  In fact, when each graduated from high school, my husband and I placed a senior ad in the yearbook with several photos of them and this wonderful Bible verse.  I am grateful to report that they continue to cultivate their faith through college ministries, group Bible studies, and church participation.  To God be the glory!


It's been said that Christianity is just one generation away from extinction.  Are those of us who profess the name of Christ going to allow worship wars to propel us in this direction?


As I was listening to Christian radio yesterday, I heard a pastor discussing this very topic (church music).  He explained that an older congregant was bitter over the new style of music being sung in his church and sarcastically remarked:  "I hope I live long enough to see the younger generation have its music taken away." 


I have previously been a member of a church that would only allow traditional hymns to be sung, and I have a BIG problem with such exclusivity.  


Now before you get the idea that I prefer contemporary worship music, let me say that in recent weeks I have attended two of the hippest churches in our area.  I am fairly up-to-date with contemporary Christian music, but between these two services I may have recognized a total of two songs that were selected.  This is also a BIG problem!    


Tune in tomorrow for a hard-hitting post that will address each of these kinds of worship — traditional and contemporary.             


Worship Wars – Part 1 — 19 Comments

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    I always greatly appreciated members of an older generation in my concerts who would make a point to thank me for coming to sing for the, “young people.” Those statements told me that the person was an unselfish mature believer, not thinking about herself, but the young ones to whom our faith would be passed. I fully expect to adopt that view when I’m older and enter in with the young ones with their contemporary music.

    Having said that, I also appreciated singing in South Florida at a Baptist church that just sang hymns. But when they sang, they sang with all their hearts. It made me realize that worship is not a style, it’s a condition of the heart. When I’m older, I fully expect to continue that attitude, as well.

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    “It made me realize that worship is not a style, it’s a condition of the heart.”

    ~ AMEN!

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    I was raised in a nonChristian home so the idea of contemporary versus traditional never came up. The choice was church versus not church. I was first introduced to contemporary music and thought that was the only way to go-kind of like the top 20 hits on the radio.

    Then, over time I was introduced to hymns, gospel, and church music of the middle ages. I loved ALL of it. That is why I think it is great to have ALL of it blended into a service. My current church does precisely that. In the last few months we have sung a Gregorian chant, very contemporary music, a Swahili responsive hymn, praise choruses and traditional hymns. They keep my on my toes. I never know what I am going to hear and I love it that way.

    I look at church as a time for learning for everyone who attends-young and old. I say open the church to reflect all the glorious music-past and contemporary.

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    I was gently prodded towards humility by making some of the mistakes pointed out in this excellent satirical rant: http://firstthings.com/blogs/evangel/2010/08/rant-worship/. A friend in college pointed me to the psalms where I learned a lot more about the range of expression in biblical worship.

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    Dee – I’m with you. I love all of it. I love even the harder “rock” style of Jeremy Camp, I like the “pop” sounding of Matthew West, but I love the hymns and the choirs, and the soloist, etc. My time at First Baptist Church Jacksonville with worship leaders like Rick Stone, Rodney Brooks, and then Jim Whitmire helped build that love for ALL Christian genres.

    Who remembers the group “Truth” that toured back in the 80s? I even love that music.

    Love it all, if it speaks of God, Jesus Christ, the blood, service, etc. etc.

    A church should have a mix. As I pointed out on my blog last week, Mac Brunson and before him Jerry Vines did an excellent job of including multiple styles in the church, and teaching their people to be tolerant of music they might not prefer.

    I remember just a year or so before Jerry Vines retired, on a Friday or Saturday night we had a “concert” at First Baptist Church with Caedman’s Call, a somewhat “rock” style of Christian music, and Vines himself was there and introduced them. I was there with the family, and it was a wonderful worship experience.

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    How’s about a little trivia? Caedman’s Call”s lead singer is Ed Young Jr.’s brother. This should prove to all that I keep up with contemporary music while enjoying the chants of the Middle Ages. I think God enjoys all venues as well.

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    Hey all

    Thanks to KT for the above link at First Things. The article is interesting and has links to show what they are talking about. Here is the first few lines from the post.

    “Too simplistic, banal, lacking in depth, shallow, doctrineless: Consider that one that just talks about unity among brothers that only mentions God in passing at the very end.

    2. It’s so repetitive. I mean, come on, how many times can you repeat “His steadfast love endures forever” before you start thinking the song is going to go on forever? Examples: here and here”

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    Oooh. You’ve hit a sore point in my family. We’re looking for a new church, one where Grace is preached over works, and my DH is having a real hard time with the music (so are my kids, for that matter). We’re used to singing our worship through the traditional hymns, and are finding the contemporary music to be lacking (too repetitive, every song seems to sound alike). It’s a real bone of contention.

    It doesn’t help that I was bombarded with what would be called CCM when in youth group–the church moderator’s two oldest sons were CCM promoters, and we went to lots of concerts because of that. I remember going to a Larry Norman concert. He was a pioneer in CCM, but at this concert he left after the first set because he didn’t like the audience! My thought after that was, why listen to contemporary Christian music when the artists acted just like (or sometimes worse than) the worldly musicians. Why not listen to the real stuff?

    I’ll be waiting to see where you two go with this (once all the renovations are finished).

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    About 15 years ago I began to notice the word “worship” being used exclusively to refer to the musical portion of the church service. I didn’t like it. I felt it was such a dumbing down of such an ancient & intense concept — in the scheme of religious world history, reducing this ancient, rich and deep concept to a silly cultural format of 3 fast songs and 3 slow songs (which need to be rehearsed). “Are you coming to Worship Practice this week?” Makes me skin crawl just to think about it.


    The word “worship” conjurs up all sorts of mental images — of various body postures & a state of mind so completely focussed on the subject at hand — that subject being the Creator of the Universe.

    And then oneself. A grain of sand in the incoming and outgoing of humanity, daring to do one’s part in giving a gift to the Ultimate One which he deserves.

    And then again, the fact that the Creator of the Universe knows the name and face of this nameless and faceless blip in history, would part a literal or figurative Red Sea as well as sacrifice himself on their behalf. Because of LOVE (such an inadequate word for what it really means in this context).

    I find it hard to see how the established format does little more than a shred of justice toward what it is to worship the One True God, the Creator of the Universe, the God who gave himself up for the sake of his creations. And “what it is” is a question to re-explore. I don’t presume to really know – I just know that 3 hymns don’t do it, and 3 contemporary songs don’t do it.

    (especially when followed by announcements!) I’m going to be sick again.

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    Dee – that’s right, he is Ed Jr’s bro. I don’t know what Caedman’s Call has done lately, they have a very unique contemporary sound, but haven’t heard much from them lately.

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    Good points, Elastigirl. But can’t announcements be part of worship, too? Isn’t everything we do supposed to be an act of worship anyway?

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    As I said in an earlier post:
    We sing in praise of the Lord and we learn a lot of our theology from the hymns we sing, because the music sticks in our memory. I am not fond of “loud”, whether amplified guitars and drums or organ, because it covers up the words and the message of the music, which is the important part. I also do not like draggy hymn singing — I think a lot of young people would enjoy the hymns better if we sang them at a peppier beat. I think a lot of our older folks would like the choruses better if they were less loud, less repetitive, and if we had harmony parts for those of us who cannot sing soprano (oops, that would make them more like hymns).

    What we need to do is take the best from the hymns and the best from the choruses, sing them with joy and gusto, sing them at a pace that suggests we are happy and praising, rather than walking in a funeral procession. “Blended” does not capture the essence of what is really needed.

    BTW, 50 years ago, we sang choruses in Sunday School and as teenagers in Training Union. What is different is the choruses and the way we sing them. We do not need the repetitiveness of the never ending endings. Better to sing an additional one that ends quickly, than repeat the same thing five or six times.

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    Well, my view is that “worship” needs to be re-explored for what it truly means. I don’t mean redefined. If anouncements can be considered “an act of worship”, that has to be ultra mega collosal redefining of the word and the concept. AAAAAArg I’m getting sick yet aGAIN!

    “Everything we do be an act of worship”…. ha “everything” encompasses a number of things one does in their daily life (a few more than others) that I simply cannot reconcile with the concept of “worship”. It’s just ludicrous. Yes, we can stay thankful, make a point of acknowledging God as we go about our day, do our best to stay in tune or connected with God. But I don’t see how this is “worship”. It’s just being thankful and being mindful of God.

    I think “worship” is a whole different animal.

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    Once again, Wartburg Watch hits it out of the ballpark with pungent commentary that strikes at the heart of an issue: “It’s been said that Christianity is just one generation away from extinction. Are those of us who profess the name of Christ going to allow worship wars to propel us in this direction?”

    HOW TRUE! This current internecine quarrel between traditionalists and CCM aficionados is a travesty of time-wasting. How many souls are perishing ***by the second, *** going straight to the Pit because time was wasted on arguing that CCM is “straight from the devil” or that old-fashioned hymns are a waste of time???

    We have allowed Satan to wreak havoc on church unity and soulwinning over this stupid issue. I think arguments in certain quarters claiming that electric guitars are inherently from the devil make as much sense as stating that if you don’t believe in the Gender Gospel, “you’re going to hell!”

    Although I’m a long-time metalhead, I’ve been discovering the power and beauty of the old-style hymns such as “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” “What Wonderous Love,” “There’s Power in the Blood,” “Trust and Obey,” etc. My church has *only* old-style hymns with piano or organ–*no* CCM. Personally, I like my Christian metal, but there’s NOTHING WRONG with my church’s decision, and I wouldn’t dream of agitating for CCM when I’m learning and being exposed to such *wonderful* old-style hymns!

    We ought to, IMHO, recognize the quarrel for what it is: a satanic attack on our churches by instigating vicious, slanderous infighting that the evil one wishes to use in order to distract us from winning souls to Christ and preparing for the End Times. It shouldn’t even be an issue. The fact that SO MANY Christians are falling for this demonic distraction really disturbs me.

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    Thanks so much for your excellent comment! All I can say is WOW!

    One of my favorite hymns is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”. Maybe more of us who profess the name of Christ should be singing this beautiful song.


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    Sorry to make you feel ill. It is my understanding that the word most often translated “worship” literally refers to bodily prostration, and, by extension, the surrender of one’s heart and life to God. I know of no place in the Bible where it is equated with singing or music, as we tend to do in churches today, though the Psalms do speak of using those things as a means of worship. I base my view that all we do should be an act of worship primarily on Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

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    Awesome comment, Junkster!!!! I forgot about that verse. Thanks.

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    I saw them perform at a previous church and have always liked them. I, too, have not heard much from them lately.I’ll ask around!

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    I really liked your understanding of the word “worship”. It was nice to see it spelled out like that. Actually, a breath of fresh air.