Worship. Is there a word that evokes more emotion and division in the church today than this word? The term “worship wars” did not come out of a vacuum, but it came out of a reality that a lot of churches have experienced. For some churches, that battle is a distant memory and they thank the Lord for that! But for many of our Association churches, this battle is raging and continuing to divide. It’s sad, isn’t it? Something that is supposed to be all about God, ascribing worth and value to Him, has become all about us and the styles that we like or don’t like? The very practice of worship, which is to make us the most humble, is the thing that often makes us the most arrogant and selfish.
What exactly is worship? The verb “worship,” translated from the Greek word, “shachah” (shaw-khaw), literally means, “to bow down.” It is an action verb. It requires movement, as well as participation. A person bows down before a king or ruler, which shows respect, submission, honor…worship. This is what we are supposed to do in our hearts before our God. But today it has become about us. The “how” has become much more important to us than the “what”. We have relegated “worship” to mean “music”. Worship is not necessarily music. Worship is not simply a part of a service. Our whole lives are to be an act of worship (Romans 12:1), an act of bowing down our hearts, will and resources before our God in submission to Him and His will. Yet today we focus on the “worship” time of our service, what we want that to be like, what we feel connects us to God. And it has become about us and that is not worship at all.
Is it OK to have preferences in music style and words? Absolutely! All music and artistry flows out of Him who created it all. For He is a God of great beauty and variety. There is no one color or one sound that He created by itself, He created them all. Personally, I prefer blues to yellows or pink. But God made the rainbow of colors and I suspect He likes them all. I also suspect that God is not caught up with a certain style of music or specific sound of an instrument, I am sure He likes them all. What He longs for is people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). I think if we would focus on Him, worship Him with all of our heart and life that we would all find a lot more grace for one another as we gather to sing His praise and exclaim His glory. Grace for the contemporary, grace for the traditional, grace for all those in between, because it is not about us and our preferences, it is about Him, the Alpha and Omega, the Lord God Almighty.
So how do we cease from the worship wars? Reality is, we do also worship God through music and because of that, we do have to pick songs and styles to sing them in to use in our congregational gatherings. Perhaps what we should settle on is not what we prefer, but what would be most known and engaging to our surrounding culture. Think about this: when those who don’t know Jesus come to faith in Him it brings Him great glory and praise – correct? If we focused on what brings Him the most glory and worship, it might lead us to use the style that we think would best connect the lost people around our churches to the Savior that loves them. If they would hear our words of adoration, songs of praise and stories of grace in their language, could that be what ultimately brings the greatest honor to our God? Could that humility in our spirit, of not demanding what we want but what could possibly be used to reach or engage the most for Him, be the ultimate sacrifice of worship?