A Thought About “Worship Wars” In The Church
The good news is that many churches across American soil (and possibly beyond) today have long since made a peace treaty to no longer fight over genres of music, whether in their local assemblies and/or just as a member of the larger Christian community. Musically speaking, traditionalists (i.e., those who lean towards hymns, old-time gospel songs, high liturgical worship, etc.) have come to embrace, who I call, urbanites (i.e., those who favor contemporary Christian music, Gospel rap, or have a more eclectic taste) and vice versa. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold!
But the truth is there are still some who have dug their boots in the ground and refuse to lay down their arms. Some who advocate for more traditional Christian music continue to believe and propagate the caricature that contemporary Christian music is theologically light, sappy, worldly, even juvenile. While on the other hand, some who are proponents of contemporary Christian songs continue to push back and charge traditional Christian music as being archaic, stale, and borderline irrelevant.
Although there is some truth to these sentiments on both sides of the equation, it is by no means characteristic of or true across the board for all songs in either genre. At the bottom of this in-fighting lies deep-seated theological and/or pragmatic convictions, some of which are not solely based on the Bible but are mixed with a particular church’s historical way of doing things. For local churches still wrestling internally with each other over this issue, much prayer, patience, honest discussion, repentance, and teaching of God’s word will be needed so that the “warring factions” can peacefully co-exist.
I understand and have witnessed this type of worship war I just described to you, particularly in churches where the traditionalists were the superpower.
But what has puzzled me of late – to which I now have a bit more clarity on – are churches whose membership (and the communities in which these churches are situated) is clearly chronologically, socially, and, in some cases, ethnically diverse but whose worship music doesn’t reflect that reality. Why is that? I am sure there are a myriad of reasons why – some of which are valid (one would be that certain types of songs lend themselves to corporate singing better than others); others not so much. There is, however, one that seems to be at the root of the churches I have observed. And it can be summed up in one word: preference.
I am by no means arguing against preferences. We all have them, especially when we start talking about music. Yet, in my opinion, something is awry when a preference is so preeminent in the life of a diverse local assembly of believers to where other God-honoring musical expressions are not welcomed and encouraged.
One day a little girl was sitting on a couch in the living room. Her father came out of his bedroom and went to the kitchen to fix himself some breakfast. He grabbed his bowl of Captain Crunch cereal, walked into the living room, and proceeded to sit down next to his three-year old daughter. She quickly slid over in his direction, extended her hands towards him attempting to prevent him from taking a seat, and said, “No, daddy! Mine.” To which he replied, “Daddy just wants to sit down with you and eat his cereal. Okay?” “No, daddy. This is my seat. I was here first.” she retorted as she tried to push away his large frame. Ever so gently and firmly, he said to her, “Baby, Daddy is not trying to take the couch from you. So, please scoot over so daddy can sit down too. There is enough room for both of us.”
I think much of the tension in some of our churches concerning this issue would subside if we would adopt the father’s perspective in the story. No one is trying to take anything away from the other. There is enough space for both of us. So, please, scoot over a little bit.