August 19, 2017

A Rant from a Loser in the Worship Wars

By Chaplain Mike

UPDATE: I’m not sure if some of you did not read the post carefully or if I communicated poorly, but I want to clarify something. This post is NOT about music styles and what styles are better or worse. This post is ultimately about how today’s evangelical church has changed the definition of “church,” “pastor,” and “worship.” The so-called “Worship Wars” have been part of context for these changes, but they are not the real issue. If the comments continue to take the track they’ve taken, I will write a follow-up post and try to make myself perfectly clear.

I will admit it from the beginning: I’m on the losing side in the worship wars. As such, I feel a little like what I imagine a southerner who’s still fighting the civil war in his heart must feel, calling it “The War of Northern Aggression” and still clinging to the Confederate flag as a symbol of his rebel nation’s pride. When it comes to evangelical church culture in the United States, what we loosely call “contemporary” worship has won. Hands down. The score wasn’t even close, and it’s been over for years, decades in many places.

Oh, I know some of you will argue that there has been a publicized renewal of interest in the “ancient-future” path, a restoration of liturgy and a movement by some evangelicals back to mainline Protestant churches as well as Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Let’s not fool ourselves. This is a distinctly minority movement. Most evangelicals today know less about the history and traditions of worship than they did when I was in seminary in the 1980’s. And my highly respected evangelical seminary had never even had a class on worship before I attended!

The fact that a few of us have found a place to talk about worship here at Internet Monk merely confirms my position. It’s not being discussed in the churches in any terms other than who has written the new hot worship song and whether our band is better than the one over at Living Waters Church. To evangelicals, worship = music. And music = “praise and worship” music—from a stage, by a band, with projected words. It all follows certain rules, and with a few variations here and there, it has become the “liturgy” of the evangelical church.

And here I sit, having seceded from the evangelical Union, still whistling “Dixie.”

So, while waiting for the service to begin in my small Lutheran “word and table” congregation on Sunday, I had a discussion with a woman who identified herself not merely as a loser like me, but as a casualty of the worship wars. Confession time: this conversation set my blood a’boiling. I know I said awhile back that anger never helps, so I’ve waited until I got home, had some time to decompress, poured myself a glass of iced tea, and took a deep breath before beginning to type.

Still, I’m warning you—I’m going to rant here.

The woman I talked to today spent over 40 years of her life teaching music in public schools. She is gifted, experienced, knowledgeable, and loves to serve. I had not seen her in our services before, so my wife, who had met her, introduced me. Turns out she is at our church because she wants to sing in a choir. We are a small congregation but we have a talented choir director (also a teacher), some fine instrumentalists, and a good group of singers. She knew our director as a teaching colleague, and so decided to come and sing in our choir. And then…

And then she would return to her church later in the morning to attend their service too. They no longer have a choir, and won’t consider a choir ministry. She’s out of job. Without consulting her and others like her, the leaders simply determined choral ministry didn’t fit any longer. Not wanting to leave behind a church family she had been part of for many years, yet gifted and trained musically, she is now shuttling between congregations on Sunday morning, trying to have both.

Her church would be called a megachurch around here. It is part of the independent Christian Church denomination, which has a strong ethos of outreach and evangelism. Nothing wrong with that, but as I set forth in an earlier post, I might be tempted to call them more of a mission than a church. It’s all programs for all ages all the time, with huge facilities designed to attract the community and keep them busy. They are a family-friendly, full service Christian activity center. It perfectly represents white, middle-class American suburban culture, evangelical style.

Their “worship” is also defined by this ethos. It is a pragmatic, attractional, upbeat, performer/audience style program, the antithesis of the historical meaning of “liturgical” but just as highly scripted and consistent. Their church growth mentality has subsumed and thus changed the meaning of “worship.”

If the way we approach public “worship” services is based on a mindset of reaching out, then one principle determines everything: Know your audience. And the next step is: Conform what you do to attract that audience and satisfy them. Thus, if we are trying to reach young suburban families, then we adjust our “worship style” to suit their tastes and preferences and do things that will “speak” to them and keep them coming.

So, to get back to my friend, in her church, choirs are out. Singing hymns is out, except for the occasional contemporary adaptation. Style of music is limited to a narrow range of “praise band” tunes and sounds that may be folk-rock, light jazz, contemporary pop, alternative, or some such style that represents whatever church leaders and the high priests of the music ministry decide will have “impact.” In a lot of churches like hers, having people on the stage who are past their 30’s (with the possible exception of a pastor) is rare.

Apparently, these leaders assume there is no need to “reach” the older generations anymore. They must think they are already there. Except, in reality, they are not—I can’t tell you how many people from 50-80 years of age I visit every day as a chaplain who are not in church—what makes them any less important to reach than young families? And since many of today’s leaders grew up in the a-historical, non-traditional, nondenominational, “Bible only,” parachurch-influenced, children and youth-focused, pop-culture saturated churches of the past 30-40 years, they don’t know anything else. They know what they like. They know what other young people like them like. And the only thing they can imagine might possibly be better than what they like would be something even newer and more “cutting edge.”

So here’s a woman, immensely talented, gifted, and eager to serve, who has always delighted in using her musical expertise and ability to serve God and encourage the church, and there is simply no place for her in that role any longer in her congregation.

In corporate terms, the company has withdrawn support for her department, because it no longer contributes to the company’s revised business plan. The leadership has decided to go another direction. Her job was eliminated when the corporation restructured. She is collateral damage.

It really is as heartless as that. She told us the leaders said to her and others like her that decisions had been made, the style of the worship service was set, and if they did not like it, they should find another congregation.

This is how the church treats faithful, gifted people. Cutting edge? Or cut-throat?

So, here are the questions by which I rant against this anti-Christian way of treating people (yes, you read that correctly). Even if you don’t share my exact perspective on worship, these questions still apply:

Where is a proper understanding of the church? If the church is God’s family, made up of all different kinds of people, all ages, all generations, all backgrounds, all ethnic groups, all social classes, then why do we insist on this narrow, mission-focused emphasis targeting particular groups and building our ministries around them? The church growth ethos has completely overwhelmed the way church leaders approach ministry and I for one utterly reject it as in any way representing a sound NT ecclesiology.

If the church is a family, why do we tolerate practices that dishonor our elders? If the church is the Body of Christ, why do we restrict the gifts God has distributed and think we can retire some of the Body’s members? Who set an age limit for priests in the priesthood of all believers? If our God is a God of infinite variety and creativity, why are our imaginations so limited that we cannot figure out ways to include the contributions of others who may not fit into our narrow little models of “worship”?

I would argue that we ought to find ways that people of all ages could be included and represented in a variety of ways in our worship services. When people come to worship they ought to see the whole family of God in action. They should not see a group of people that fills a market niche. That includes children, teens, college age young people, singles and family members of all ages, and adults from every available generation. We ought to learn to appreciate music that reflects what has been spiritually meaningful to people down through the years, as well as learning new songs of praise. Our church leaders should be courageous to challenge their congregations to obey the Scriptures and “accept one another” in these matters. We ought to see people from all generations “up front” and involved in the public ministry of the church.

Programs and specific ways of doing things will change, but no one should be left behind in the name of pursuing the church’s mission.

Where is the creativity to find ways of including all people? Are you telling me that in a congregation of two or three thousand people, you couldn’t find some exciting ways to make use of a choir and other forms of more traditional music ministry? I’m not a big fan of split services, where some are traditional and others contemporary, so I don’t think that’s a long-term answer. I’ve got to believe with all our emphasis on “creativity” and “innovation” today, we could easily imagine ways to include the older folks and the ones who appreciate more traditional forms in our worship services and in other important ministries where their gifts could be honored and used.

Where is the courage to be counter-cultural? Last Friday’s post on the Epistle to Diognetus quoted a strong challenge to today’s church. “Christians are recognized when they are in the world, but their religion remains unseen,” its author wrote. It seems the evangelical approach in this culture is exactly the opposite. Our religion is recognized in the world, but we remain hidden. The attractional philosophy tries to make our religious services and practices enticing to our culture, while we fail to teach people how to actually live in the world day after day as followers of Christ.

You will find little, if anything, in the NT about attracting people to the faith through the gathered worship of the church. That is simply not what worship is about. Worship is an activity for God’s people. We should certainly be hospitable and welcoming to those who may come among us, but the NT church is not a “temple” designed to draw people in. The NT church is a community of people, who worship together and then scatter, in order to penetrate the world by fulfilling our various vocations in the world, testifying to the Good News face to face, person to person in all the contexts of daily life in the world.

Any gifted showman can attract a crowd. Any gifted program director can design and run an organization that will get and keep people involved in activities. It is being done all over the country. But who is forming the community in which Christ is central and spiritual roots sink deep, where people are being encouraged to have quiet hearts that pay attention to what God is doing, sensitive hearts that pick up on subtle signs that a brother or sister needs attention, thoughtful hearts devoted to study, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, hospitable hearts that welcome the neighbor and are open to the stranger? Who is encouraging the kind of worship that forms such hearts? Who is providing the grace and space, the otium sanctum—the holy leisure—the silence and intimate conversation by which they are formed?

Church leaders have traded their calling as pastors for jobs as showmen and program directors, and that is the essence of our culture, not counter-cultural. The people we are trying to win should be getting to know us, not our religion. But we wear our religion on our sleeves and hide ourselves from the world. We have rejected the kind of worship that would include someone like my friend because she’s of no use in the show anymore. She is like the aging Hollywood starlet who can’t find good roles because the producer thinks people won’t want to look at her wrinkles. She’s not marketable any longer. She has become an outmoded commodity, not a respected elder who can speak and sing and serve with credibility and gravitas in God’s family.

Where is the wisdom and love of Christ in relating to people? For my friend, years of involvement, friendship, and service in a local congregation were summarily dismissed in a single sentence: “This is the way things are now; if you don’t like it, you should find another church.”

Now, I am fully aware that I am only reflecting on her report, so don’t jump on me for that. I have heard enough similar stories over the years; have heard pastors themselves tell about such conversations, to conclude her report accurately represents what happened. Those who have won the worship wars are not going back to the way things were before, and they have little imagination for other possibilities. In their view, the “old ways” of my friend were ineffective in reaching the world for Christ back then, and they certainly wouldn’t be effective now. If we’ve learned anything, it is “change or die.” Besides (here comes the theological justification), isn’t the Holy Spirit always doing new things? Isn’t it our job as church leaders to spot the next good wave and catch it?

And I would say, no. No. No. Your “job” is to love God and love people. And if you are entrusted with leadership in God’s family, that includes paying attention to what God is doing in the lives of the specific people God has brought your way. Your job is to work with God to create an environment through which the Spirit can form Christ in them. That does not happen by “catching waves.” And it doesn’t happen by this or that particular program or method. It happens by listening, having conversations, and being with people in the context of their lives—”walking” with them through life. It happens through spiritual friendship which, multiplied, is community.

If you find you have to change something in the church that affects people, you work with them personally in a spirit of forbearance and patience. You don’t dismiss them. You don’t treat them like consumers who might just find the product they are looking for somewhere else. If you want a congregation full of ’em—consumers that is—that’s the way to do it.

Before you complain that this post is one-sided, let me save you some trouble. I know that. I have been around awhile and have seen most every permutation of the “worship wars” since the mid-1970’s. I realize that churches did not always act with imagination and grace toward those who wanted to introduce contemporary music and other elements into the church’s worship. Certain traditionalists fought long and hard to resist change. In the process, they dismissed people with different views, and sometimes looked down on younger people and did not honor what God was doing in their lives. I’m sure it’s still going on in some persistent enclaves of resistance. At times older generations did not act Christianly, and I am not here to defend them. Even my friend, in the midst of our conversation, acknowledged that she has the responsibility to be forbearing of the changes in her church. She is trying, but I know from talking with her that she also feels she got slapped in the face. I hope she’s asking God to help her turn the other cheek.

But this is today and I am speaking to today; and I am speaking especially to church leaders and music directors and worship leaders. This is not ultimately about music styles or technology or architecture. It is not about choirs vs. praise bands. We can talk about all those things and never get the root of what’s going on here.  I am concerned that our ecclesiological foundations are being washed away in a tidal wave of capitulation to culture.

The bottom line for me involves what it means to be the church, what it means to be a pastor, and what it means for God’s people to gather for worship. Through the years of skirmishes and battles, I have tried to approach the worship wars and guide churches through them from those three perspectives. And my conversation with the woman in my church on Sunday brought all these issues to the fore for me again. Her testimony shows me that many evangelicals have forgotten what it means to be a church for everybody. Many of their pastors have perverted their callings into something other than pastoral ministry. And many have no clue at all regarding worship, who and what it’s for.

Lacking a rich Biblical, historical, and theological imagination, we have surrendered unwittingly to our culture and followed its lead in all three areas. I may be on the losing side of the worship wars, but it is the church that is truly losing, as well as a world that needs more than another place to entertain them and keep them busy.

In the short term, I’m not optimistic.

Comments

  1. I could care less if nothing was sung at all – as long as we worship with humility, sincerity and Love. But such worship isn’t possible if we do not – a priori – struggle together in Charity to become the Body of Christ. No viable Body of Christ = No authentic worship. Christ is not a commodity to be peddled with such pious marketing concepts. Christ is only evinced into the world through individual hearts inflamed with Christ’s Spirit/Love. The Body of Christ is a collection of people who gather together giving praise for the Love they have found and share through Christ’s Passion and in Christ’s Name. The only thing that we should be known for is “See How They Love One Another.” Is Mother Theresa known for how she worshiped?

  2. average joe says:

    Chaplain Mike – thanks for the article. You nimbly navigated some of the topics that trip most people up eg. race and the premise of church. But there is more on your “Counter Cultural” point. In the Bible we find no such example of preaching in worship service, and very little on the role of music in formal worship service. Yet what are the main to pillars of most evangelical worship services? Preaching and Music. Yeah, I know Jesus preached a bunch of times and some early christians sang a hymn to encourage each other, but show that to me in a context of a worship service. It’s not there. So why even get all worked up about this stuff in the first place? God certainly didn’t find it important enough to dictate a formal mandate of what a service should include. Not to mention this whole argument is based on the western scale (but you already knew that) which is basically just a few hundred years old anyway and we’ve essentially exhausted the 12 tones so our accepted tonality will probably be completely different in a few hundred years anyway, completely dismissing this whole discussion.

    But enough with the compositional theatrics. On a more practical level, “Why did hymns lose the worship battle?” I’ll tell you why. Hymns lost out to guitars and praise bands because of the phonograph was invented. No not the phonograph itself, but the ability to record music and play it a later time is what eventually knocked off the hymnal. And the best part? It really wasn’t the fault of Keith Green, or your spikey haired worship leader, or the impromptu decision made by the deacon board, or any Christian for that matter. By 1950 and 1960, most of the mainstream new recordings that were being released and played on the radio where not traditional sacred music. Most of it was this new thing called rock and roll. But more effective than the enticement of a “new style” of music, was the ability to but out a product that sounded perfect, or polished – recording allowed the music industry to put out a product that didn’t have mistakes.

    In the 20 years or so that followed, your typical american heard perfection in their car, supermarket, at home, jogging, basically anywhere they went. And then they’d show up to church on Sunday and get slaughtered aesthetically with an out of tune piano, or an over zealous organ player, or an “I used to sing solos at my high school 40 years ago” soprano.

    I will argue that churches that produced a good musical product survived. Another way of saying this is “Excellence breeds excellence.” And most churches were caught flat footed. You mentioned your exposure started in the middle 70s, and mine like yours, started in the early 80s. Many churches were coasting along on mediocre musical execution, mediocre sound boards and mics. Many barely tried to be creative within the music that they did know. Many song leaders (now we call ’em worship leaders) thought creativity meant: “ladies on the 2nd, men on the 3rd, all together now on the 4th!” But the other 6 days during the week, congregants heard excellence on the radio and on their recordings, and as humans tend to be, they were inspired and wanted to recreate this excellence.

    You mentioned deacon boards making rash decisions (true) and older christians acting rather non-christian-like in order to preserve their preferences (also true). But the main reason for the hymnal losing its influence is not because congregants were looking for the latest fad or the next big thing, it’s because those charged with communicating the hymnal to the church failed to maximize it’s potential.

    I know, I know, there’s always a church or a minister of music who is the exception. Show me that person and i’ll pat him/her on the back. But it/ they still remain the exception.

    That’s why they hymnal lost.

    • sarahmorgan says:

      “In the 20 years or so that followed, your typical american heard perfection in their car, supermarket, at home, jogging, basically anywhere they went. And then they’d show up to church on Sunday and get slaughtered aesthetically with an out of tune piano, or an over zealous organ player, or an “I used to sing solos at my high school 40 years ago” soprano. ”

      This is so true. Most Americans are conditioned to abhor mistakes and are pretty intolerant of amateur music efforts, sadly enough.
      There is another effect of this…..I once had the misfortune of participating in one evangelical church’s worship band that was thoroughly demoralized by the fact that the pastor put so much pressure on the band and the sound engineer (all non-professional volunteers) to sound “just like the CDs” (and no, they weren’t live CDs).

      • black cat says:

        So very true that in churches, the standard of good musicianship has slipped. Great Christians of the past used to write oratorios. Now, anything will do. Many of the simple praise songs don’t communicate the theology that the old hymns get across, either. One church I was in that had excellent teaching but lousy music actually thought that good music detracted from the teaching, and members would point out all the churches that had orchestras and beautiful music but were dead spiritually, as if there was a connection. We don’t have to sound like the New York Philharmonic, but we should strive for excellence, no matter what kind of music we prefer. When asking about intonation and rhythm, I grew tired of being told that “it’s good enough for church music,” as though our standard should be lower.

        And I agree with Chaplain Mike that there needs to be room for different types of music. Sometimes that need can be met with different services, but it can be incorporated into the same service.

    • As far as the musical aspect of this (I know your post, Mike, was more on the heart than the music… but the music was definitely a part of it), youth worship is incorporated in youth groups, kids worship is incorporated in kids class, adult worship is incorporated in the main services. Maybe in your church they all sound the same… Or you think the adult worship is the same as the youth.

      You’re right that in these major churches, the old style of worship (ie hymns, choirs, and organs) have been abandoned in a way that hurt many people who were prefered that. In the same way, churches who are stuck with that style of worship have negatively affected the people that come who would much prefer more contemporary music. We could try to balance all of these.

      We could try to combine children, youth, hymns, organs, and electric guitar into one service, but that could turn into an ugly three hour monster. You mentioned that we should have the creativity to solve this problem. You’re right. We should. However, if there is only one person in your church who prefers style A and all others prefer style B, there’s not significant enough support to keep style A going. Who will sing it? Who will play it? The one person? Who will attend.

      If there is a fair percentage or number, yes, we should find a way to make that work. But honestly, THEY will need to be the ones to make it work. They will probably need to be the one to go to the worship pastor and say, “Do you think we could have a night of hymns once a week, led by me and betty-lynn? We’ve been practicing, and we know there’s a lot of people who really need this ministry.”

      Times do change, and some people don’t. They will not receive ministry from modern music, and need to be ministered to still.

      On the other hand…..

      Someone commented here and said that they were rescued by this movement. They’re not alone. And it’s not just in a missional sense.

      I have seen countless teenagers who were “Christians” really come to desire God through VERY modern worship services. I’ve seen these same youth come home from camps hungry to experience more only to find that the worship at their church simply could not lead them to God.

      “They should be focused on God, not the music!”
      -Yet we have music. Why?
      –To minister to God? Then why should we allow anyone – old, young, hymn-fanatic, rock-a-holic – to complain about WHATEVER style of music it is? It’s not for you. It’s for God!
      –To minister to man? Then they are right. The music is not ministering to them.
      It’s really both. We minister to God in our music, but we also use music to help us in this act of worship. The music affects us mentally, emotionally, and event spiritually (ie Saul).

      I can totally understand what you’re saying about balance. There’s not just one style of worship. Worship is not merely contemporary. Merely rock. Merely pop. (These three will probably all be called the same though: Contemporary) Merely hymnal. Merely choiral.

      But that is part of the reason there are different churches. No one church can cover every style, every preference. Satisfy ever “immature boy” or “old woman”, “selfish man” or “spiritual man”.

      If you’ve found a church that you think models this, I think you would still find somebody who feels out of place, or whose talents aren’t used.

      Another thing, not everyone that WANTS to minister (singing, speaking, whatever), needs to do it in a church building, and certainly not all during the same service. Take your gift into the world. Take your gift to your neighborhood or your closet. Take your gift to the mission field. I’m not saying get out of the church, but get over the “I MUST BE ON STAGE” mentality.

      I know so many people who won’t go to a church unless they think they can minister in the church. Seems silly to me. But truthfully, I’ve always had an opportunity to minister. So maybe I can’t talk when it comes to that.

      Some parts of this may sound cruel, but I hope I was clear in my little return rant. I certainly understand the pain that woman went through. It was obviously handled wrong. But it doesn’t mean that not having a choir anymore was wrong. That depends on a lot of things.

  3. Christiane says:

    Maybe it is important for people to remember that the Church is ‘like a family’ with people of all ages.

    A memory:
    My husband and I, for many years, sat patiently with my Pop and watched the ‘Lawrence Welk Show’ which Pop dearly loved . . . ‘it’s the only good music left’, he would say. We didn’t love Lawrence Welk’s music, but we loved Pop, and we enjoyed seeing him happy for an hour, amidst all of his medical difficulties. That was a ‘holy’ time, you might say, in our week. Can’t explain that exactly, but it was.

    Old people like the old ways, the old songs, the old hymns.
    Sometimes, it’s good to remember that. It is ‘in giving, we receive’, when we give up our own preferences for what pleases loved family members.. The pay-off? It brings JOY, to everyone involved.
    How is a Church not like a family where there is love ?
    And we are not called to make a JOYFUL noise unto the Lord.?
    So let the old hymns be sung for joy from time to time: those older voices among us will be stilled soon enough. 🙂

  4. For me worship never has been about going to a specified place at a specified time in specified attire to behave in specified ways and sing certain specified songs. Apparently that is a religious experience for some, but not me.

    For me, worship is using my body, my time and what I have to please God. This includes loving others, especially those who are lonely, grieving, poor, cold & hungry. I don’t need a million dollar temple with stained glass windows and a pipe organ. God gives us the street, the cafe, my neighbors house, the parking lot at the grocery store and a thousand other places where I find people and they find me.

    Today I spent most of my day in a third world country. I rubbed shoulders with the very poor. How can I form relationships with people whose language I can not speak? I must learn their language. God loves them. How can I help but love them? May I use my body as a living sacrifice, pleasing to God. May I tangibly love those He loves, caring about what breaks their hearts and pains their bodies. Yes, God loves them very much, as God loves me very much. May I share God’s love in how I live my life. May I show it to everyone whose path I cross each day.

    This is my worship, to conform not to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed to the mind of God, as shown in His love for all people.

    • Sam, that is a form of worship. But there is a gathered worship of the people of God as well.

      • This describes how our group of believers worships, sometimes together and sometimes not. This is our paraphrase in life of Romans 12-14, especially Romans 12:1.

        As we read in Michael Spencer’s book, there are those of us who have the the church building for good. We found lots of stuff there, but not Jesus. Whether or not Jesus shows up there is a matter of opinion I suppose. Perhaps Jesus does show up sometimes in some church buildings.

        But this I know – Jesus is out there among the people. That is where I encounter Jesus. That is where I walk beside Jesus. Loving and serving the people Jesus loves, whether with other believers or by myself is how I ascribe worth to Jesus.

        I understand that most of the people on this forum are deeply embedded in the culture of church buildings, meeting there to worship, hear sermons & have someone watch the kids for an hour and so on. That just doesn’t work for lots of us any more. Millions of us, I suspect. Thankfully we have other believers we meet with and talk with almost daily. Frightfully, many who have left the building do not.

        • There really are a ton of dechurched people. The “Frightfully” bunch you’ve mentioned are definitely very different than what I think your talking about. A lot of the Christians are beginning to move out of Churches and into more of missional communities (a few Christians who live and work in the world, but meet together for encouragement, fellowship, worship etc… but not as church and not as a significantly growing body but as missionaries in their community).

          If I ever leave my current church… I have a feeling I may move this direction myself. But I do love my church, and I know for a fact that my Pastor was called here for a reason and I want to support him, while he fulfills it. Plus, yes, I probably have “churchdom” a little ingrained in me.

          I think the danger of “leaving the church” is that most who have left the church have never replaced it with a good community of believers or any sort of sound spiritual input or support. They’ve not only abandoned “churches” but largely abandoned their fellow Christians. This will hurt them and their fellow Christians (who need them too).

          It sounds like you’re probably one who has pursued the community and is really being the church without the building.

          On a sidenote – Worship as a lifestyle and worship as music are not completely different, but they are not exactly the same either. Psalms is pretty clear, I think, about the importance of worship. That doesn’t mean it has to be in a church building, with a band, or even set songs though.

    • Concerning your feelings of cultural displacement, I spent years working in dysfunctional countries and can appreciate your frustrations at reaching out. Somehow along the way we’ve gotten the narrow idea that passing out tracts and extract a verbal decision out of a reprobate sinner is what Jesus commands. Although I failed repeatedly in learning local languages, a smile is the same in any culture. Like St Francis said, share the Gospel and sometimes use words. My objective was to make the love of Jesus shine transparently through me. The fruits of the Spirit translate globally.
      One of the most regrettable legacies of parachurch fundamentalism is how it has accustomed us to private, personal worship in front of the television, as if its the real deal. But being a Christian couch potato is a poor substitute for partaking in a worshiping community.
      Meanwhile, it is often difficult to find true koinonia overseas, and it can be so frustrating on a Sunday morning to look for a fellowship and not know where to start. It seems maybe you’ve thrown in the towel on that one. I’ve found in the spirit of Hebrews 10:25 that lone wolf Christianity doesn’t work; we are called to community for encouragement, learning, giving, and discipline. If you are satisfied with your status quo, great. I loved my alone time with God, but was oh so hungry for fellowship and eventually found it,

  5. Adrienne says:

    Good Morning Chaplain Mike & Family ~ this is not a comment but a prayer request!! Today, after several years of journeying and in large part because of this website, I am going to meet with a local Lutheran pastor to talk about joining the church. Many emotions – including some guilt – you know Lutheran’s are not really believers etc. So I am joyful but sorrowful at the same time. I was a member of a megachurch for the past 20 some years and finally just couldn’t take it anymore. I am 62 and I too lost my job serving the church. So pray for us as we meet and hopefully I begin another chapter of my life. I desire more than ever to worship my Lord, Savior, Friend, Husband, Brother – my ALL – Jesus Christ. Thank you.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      We’ll be prayin’ for ya!

    • This is wonderful news, Adrienne! I hope the church will be a blessing to you and you to the church.

      • Adrienne says:

        Thanks Isaac and JoanieD ~ we had a good talk. I don’t see myself becoming an official member of the church though. I disagree with some fundamentals. Came home with an armful of literature. People are very, very warm and welcoming. The church secretary greeted me at the door and when I left she gave me a Fasnacht!! Pastor had Eugene Peterson as a professor for a class years ago which to me was just awesome. Peterson is one of my favorite authors. So thanks for you prayers and kind words. I will keep journeying and worshiping and see where this goes.

  6. Looks like success sets us up for failure. If you go back and read this rather excellent post as a description of the natural outgrowth of a historical trajectory that began in the 1970’s, one can easily see both where we came from and why we are here. Those of us in our 50’s remember the rise of Youth Groups in the context of the Jesus People movement – a countercultural push to throw off stifling fundamentalism and/or the inauthentic institutional Christianity of the mainline denominations. And we succeeded.

    These youth grew up and thought that what worked in Youth Group should be extended to Worship as a whole. I would suggest that most of the new growth in Evangelicalism in the 1980’s and 1990’s sprang from successful youth groups that set expectations that have now become ingrained and embedded into our Evangelical culture. This is oversimplified, but I suspect we could trace almost every recent innovation back to its roots in the youth group.

    Basically, it’s all Larry Norman’s and Keith Green’s fault.

    OK, not really, but you get my point.

    And that may be nice for helping us see where we came from, but what does that do for where we are headed? Probably the same thing. Look at what we are doing with the Youth and that will be the church in 20 or 30 years. If you say it hasn’t always been thus, might I point us back even further into the 1800’s with the rise of the Sunday School movement. It will take some digging, but read what churches were like before there was Sunday School and then see what happened to congregational worship in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There was a reason Primitive Baptists in the 1920’s and earlier were opposed to Sunday School and Mission Societies – they were contemporary innovations that altered the ecclesilogical landscape beyond recognition.

    My opinion? Welcome to reality. Change is inevitable (except from a vending machine). Some will get hurt. In the 1970’s in Fundamental churches, it was the young people. In the 2010’s, it is the old people. We cannot please all the people all the time.

    And to be honest, should we be trying?

    • Luke 5:36-39 KJV
      (36) And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
      (37) And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
      (38) But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
      (39) No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

      The challenge is to keep the WHOLE body as one family WITHOUT alienating the old OR the new. This is just LIFE!

  7. Yes please clarify. How has the church today redefined “worship”. I posted earlier on this but yea, it seems like the tack is more about music style. As I said, that is not the right question at all. God does not desire our sacrifice of music. He desires worship.

  8. I think you make some really good points. But I am one who was rescued by the “worship wars”. I came to know Jesus through people at a “seeker-friendly” service with a rock band.

    I’m posting this just to point out that many discount contemporary worship – your comments about churches using such being missions rather than churches, for example. I could just as easily discount liturgical churches as “going through the motions”; many of the liturgical services I’ve attended have been all about the ritual and not about Jesus. But I don’t believe that is true of all liturgical services and I know that what you are saying is also untrue of all contemporary services.

    • Yes and I know a false prophet that God turned around by having his donkey rebuke him. I’m not about to start a ministry on that basis.

      • This seems like a major attitude shift from the post itself. :/

      • I suppose it would be futile to point out that this kind of comment and attitude is likely to cause division and even push people away, all over a non-essential.

        As for me, I’m currently re-reading Viola’s Pagan Christianity and am (once again) realizing the silliness of arguing over liturgical vs. non-liturgical or contemporary vs. traditional.

        • One reason I commented as I did is because you are all missing the point. This article is not about “liturgical vs. non-liturgical or contemporary vs. traditional.” It is frustrating when people do not read the post and then comment based on what they think I said. It is exactly this kind of failure to listen and think that needs to be confronted.

          • No, I read the article.

            While I enjoy most of what you write, this post came off as highly critical of contemporary worship.

            You say it’s not about “liturgical vs. non-liturgical or contemporary vs. traditional” but then imply contemporary worship services are analogous to Balaam’s ass. That’s not critical?

  9. Mike, tying in with your post a few weeks ago – a Suggested Program For The Church –
    You envisioned the musical portions of a worship service as simple and participatory. You also suggested that people be more “vocational” outside of church, with the example of participating in a community softball league rather than forming a church softball league.
    Is there a musical equivalent to the community softball league for your friend who likes to sing choral music?
    Or, as some posters have implied, should the church facilitate every musical interest and expression as an act of kindness?

    • If I were this woman’s pastor, I would certainly have listened to her concerns and tried to help her explore alternatives. I doubt that was done. And yes, I would love it if churches would encourage community involvement of all kinds. That’s hard to do, though, when you are trying to be a megachurch.

      • The way she told it, the person who dismissed her was definitely wrong in the way they handled the situation, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all made mistakes. I don’t know the person who said it, the wording they ACTUALLY used when they said, the tones, or that person’s relationship with the woman.

        I understand that this one event is a picture of a wider problem, and it’s definitely making me think about how I treat people.

        But I think you’re taking too general of an aim at “Megachurches” as the enemy.

        Let me point out too that I am not a part of and have never been a part of a megachurch. The largest church I’ve attended was as a child (400?). My current church is usually under 40.

        Here you specifically mention that the community involvement is hard for a megachurch. But my sister attends a megachurch in San Antonio that has a very small community style focus. They set up and spread out community ministers to reach their neighbors in their areas. Not just to bring them to church. But to minister outside of the church.

        A megachurch in my area has a group that goes out and just fixes peoples homes and helps with disaster recovery type of situations locally. Sure. That’s in a church group. But it’s still community involvement.

        I know a lot of small churches that have provided great “family” experience for their group but have majorly failed (as groups or as individuals) at reaching beyond their “little family”. I used to be more critical of the “seeker friendly megachurch” but I’ve begun to see the good they’re doing and the opposition and insults they face from the smaller churches. (Not opposition as in competition, but as in trying to make it seem like they don’t really speak truth or don’t worship with their hearts. The megachurch in my area is considered a cult by many of the local churches. It’s not.)

        Some people honestly will never feel comfortable in a large church or with that style of ministry. I think I may be one of those (tho I haven’t tested it). That’s why it’s great that there are many variances of churches. But I’ll put more about the musical aspect in another comment….

  10. black cat says:

    I guess I’m lucky. I prefer the contemporary worship, but grew to really miss the hymns (even though I didn’t go to church much as a youngster, and so didn’t grow up on them). I do recall in college that the pastor thought contemporary music was “evil,” a la Bill Gothard. 🙂 But our church has 2 services, one more traditional and one contemporary, and it works. The music leaders work well together, and I play flute in the traditional service. The music director writes many parts for me and other musicians, and often accompanies me, and is also knowledgeable about musical styles. He is not against my playing something difficult, though he has cautioned me that some members attending that service might not appreciate it at times. So I have a chance to use my talent and attend the service with music I also enjoy. I often don’ t realize how unusual that is.

  11. Ethan Magness says:

    Thank you Chaplain Mike for this post,

    I want to learn from this so I am trying to be sure that I don’t focus too much on musical preference and attend to the issue at hand. It seems that one way to phrase the issue is this. How do we maintain the integrity of the church as the gathered family of God even while we must make decisions about the patterns of our common life?

    This question has particular application to our gathering for Sunday services, but of course it plays out in so many other ways. My grandfather (a long time preacher in Chicago and Tennessee) tells the story of a church that split over the fried chicken dinner. For years the fried chicken was cooked in lard, but many were excited about a new product called Crisco. As long as the older generation held a majority in the ladies home circle they insisted on using lard. And then at one meeting the younger group realized they were now in the majority and the next supper they switched to Crisco. The hurt feelings from that use of power formed a wedge in their relationships that ultimately split the church between traditionalists and non. I like this story because it makes it clear that the issue is about power not about fried chicken (or even drums vs. organ).

    Raising the issue of course is only part of the problem because the question still stands. Churches do make decisions about their patterns of communal life. (Even the decision to do the same thing each week is a decision.) And when we must make a decision that is not unanimous, we open ourselves up to the abuse of power. This is why Phil 2 and Romans 12-15 should be essential reading and regular reading for all those who lead the family of God. In my church, we regularly face the reality that patterns of communal life (programs, groups, classes, mission projects, music styles, worship formats, etc.) no longer serve the needs of the body or the purpose of the church, or that it requires resources that should be used other places. You can be sure that even when this reality is clear to many people it will not be clear to those who have loved and sustained these patterns of our family’s life.

    This is heart-breaking difficulty of being a family together. My heart breaks for this woman. And I am angry with the leaders of this church. But my heart also breaks for the leaders of the church. They are likely right that their choir needed to be disbanded. However if this action was done in a way that damaged the body, or failed to find the value for every member of the body, then they were wrong even when they were right.

    I have written too much for a blog comment so I will end with this suggestion. The key issues are how does God’s family makes decision about their patterns of family life and in this process how can we use power in a Christlike way that serves and builds up without dividing or tearing down.

  12. Jeff the Student Pastor says:

    I am a seminary student working on attaining my Masters of Divinity. This past summer I began my search for an internship site. I work full time for a university’s IT department, have a wife and 3 kids under the age of 11. I wanted to find a church close to my home that would provide me a good all-around exposer to pastoral ministry. (I would have been happy to continue at my little baptist home church but there are rules against that.) The final step in the process involved visiting two churches that had expressed interest in me and I them. The first was a larger Episcopal church with a variety of services including a very rocking contemporary service. The second church was a small Mennonite church who sang traditional hymns a Capella and in four part harmony. I brought my whole family to each church on Sunday morning in order to experience their worship and their sense of community.

    After experiencing each church I asked my boys (8 and 11) which church they liked better. To my surprise BOTH boys preferred the simple Mennonite church with their richly sung hymns! They told me that they thought the people were more friendly, and that they liked the music better.

    Both churches were very intentional about building complete worship services, but the stark simplicity and beauty of the Mennonite service moved them. (My wife and I were equally moved, but wanted to get their input before sharing our experiences.)

    I’ve been serving in this congregation since September and I’ve come to realize that worship is not something that can be approached in either a purely emotional way, or with a prescribed formula. It is not about the songs we sing or the way we sing them. Worship is what happens when we allow ourselves to experience an awareness of God’s love and presence. Corporately, worship has little to do with the music we sing, but requires that we set aside our petty passions and desires in a sincere attempt to please our creator. To this degree, I have found leading worship to be more challenging than preaching. Analyzing and exegeting scripture to present a contemporary message is far more mechanical an art than walking a crowd of people into the presence of the living God. God bless and God blessed those who are gifted that way!

  13. that is a long, sad, and negative indictment. I think it is mostly true though. Contemporary worship…. it’s just …. bland.

    I do not need a rock/pop band to worship God. I feel like the rock/pop band is more important than God in many ways.

  14. Hey, I appreciate your post.
    A couple of comments…
    I am a youth pastor at a church that is trying to meet the needs of people that prefer traditional and contemporary…
    It’s hard work. We do it because that’s who our congregation is…if we cut down our worship services to one style we would lose part of our congregation….not so much because they are consumeristic but because that is how they connect with God. We had to revive the contemporary service because I was losing many of the people that I’m in charge of (leaders and adults) because they didn’t connect to the traditional style in our church.

    However…I believe worship is more than music and we need to be pushing our people towards that.

    My main issue…and in my context it comes from the traditional crowd. Everyone’s wants to be one big happy family but only on their terms. We can worship together only if its done in the traditional format…then we can be a happy family. Completely ignoring the fact younger generations are really struggling in that service to connect to God through what the service is giving. But as long as we do traditional style we can worship together and be a family.

    Well…that’s a pretty crappy family.

    The family I want to he a part of sacrifices some of its preferences so that others may connect to God. Especially those who are supposed to be older and more mature in the faith. Wouldn’t you want to see younger generations to experience God in a way that draws them in?

    Tough discussions and the church is in an interesting place. I’m all for doing different styles if it edifies the body of Christ and encourages outreach.

    Good post.

  15. Thanks so much for your thoughts. Glad to hear there are more people bothered by this issue as well.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Question is, “When and how did Worship come to be defined as a pop concert-style music performance? With all the associated baggage and side effects that brings?”

    Because, just like the dismantling of the Red Cars and their replacement with freeways some 60 years ago (Cloverleaf Industries in the Who Framed Roger Rabbit movie was based on real Los Angeles history), we are now living after the side effects have reached critical mass and are choking off whatever advantages the original change might have had.

    My home parish (St Boniface, Anaheim) was built in 1961 and has an older-style choir loft above and behind the congregation. You don’t see the choir or musicians performing front-and-center by the altar, you just hear them echoing through the sanctuary. No up-front performance to distract from the liturgy.

  17. I resonate with this because it is true to my own experience. My church is what would be classified as a megachurch around these parts. Up until a few years back, we had a choir and I was actively involved in it. Then the choir was dismantled because they wanted to go in a different direction musically which did not have room for a choir. I believe in what my church is trying to do and I wanted to continue to be a part of it, so I was willing to “take one for the team” and find another place to serve. But I still miss being able to use my musical gifts there.

  18. Close the door and turn out the ights. You have made my house a den of entertainment.

  19. there are a zillion things to type here. But i just want to encourage you that this is not the case in all parts of the church in the world, or even the US. I’m in Dallas, TX, bible belt / land of programs etc, and I’m a part of a church that has very little programming beyond necessary structures to facilitate growth, intimacy, discipleship, etc. And we there is very little church politic. And the particular music we sing is mainly a reflection of our hearts (and some music written locally, and the ‘covers’ list is not the top 40 anthems, but ones that reflect our specific body’s heart). I do believe it’s important for the music to connect with people (or help them connect with God and each other). I think an issue is when it appeals to our flesh but misses our heart. It should be an extension of actual life change going on in the majority of a body, the cry of our hearts (thus it’s probably not going to be the same songs sung in every church across the globe), not random entertainment…

    The more people answer to God than statistics, and the more leadership is focused on releasing what God’s already doing in the hearts of the people in a body, the more worship will be a natural extension of that body. You hear more, “I love how Bob leads, it’s got a very specific flavor” type stuff and less stereotyped, boxed in options (hymns vs. choruses, upbeat vs. solemn, all these often false distracting dichotomies that miss the issue). This is the same as how your best friend laughs a certain way and everyone loves that and wouldn’t ask them to change it, it becomes part of the identity of the group. Like the way a Father is proud of his sons and daughters ‘quirks’, not asking them to fit one mold or another.

    How should we worship? That should be answered in part by scripture and in part by our hearts. God describes our best efforts as “filthy rags” (literally meaning menstrual rags -tampons). He says he’s not served by human hands. He says he desires obedience over sacrifice but also for us to “rend our hearts (internal) and not our garments (external)”. He does not judge by outward appearance. Neither should we with mere genres. Does the music help the people rend their hearts or is it shallow? (it can happen with any form).. It’s a relationship and Jesus wants an honest bride as well. So some ‘retarded’ly simple music can be appropriate. He’d rather relate with the true us (and move on from there, not leaving us as spiritual infants, but we must admit where we are first before trying to act as if our hearts are as scholarly as our words / doctrine / beliefs, etc), than a “correct” version of us. He expresses this in several parables. The woman who gave coins gave ‘more’ than the rich people. The man who beats his chest and says “I’m a sinner” is better in Jesus’s eyes than the man with flowing elegant prayers (if his heart’s not being expressed really). We have to give God something honest to work with. Part of the “worship wars” are from a pendulum swing of the younger generations in response to a rather emotionally detached generation or so before us (note- disconnect with our earthly fathers is a real issue and we long for a tangible connection with our heavenly one to fill that void, so we demand experience and emotion at times, not just correct doctrine). Emotion? Yes, it’s commanded all over the Bible. Serve with joy, weep with those who weep, etc. David was not reserved in his worship and that’s part of what a lot of churches need not to “understand” but be obedient to i.e. open to experiencing (and making people uncomfy if need be to get there). Again, not a matter of genre.

    I could rant all night, but I gotta sleep so I can wake up and work at a church (I’m an audio engineer) that pays me while I’m away from my real community (who can’t afford it). But, God is good and we’re seeing some headway in the church I work for (opening other parts of themselves than just the doctrine / logical side).

    Spirit AND Truth! Let’s go for both and not forbid either.

  20. PS. as to the whole choir / non-choir stuff, the church leadership should respond to God (not trends, not $$). What I mean is that it’s very illogical to say “the church should not act like a secular entity” but then still say “it should employ people fairly (in any sort of entitlement type way)”… I agree that it should be kind in how it lets go of people if it’s time, but I don’t think the church has a responsibility to employ people simply because they’re useful / talented (everyone is talented in something in God’s eyes and hopefully ours). It’s not a business, it’s a family.

    Church politics happen partly because we get boxed into super stable positions, not just employment wise but in all senses. We tend to congregate into larger and larger groups which doesn’t help the gospel advance if we’re not focused on sending people out to create new churches. And the added blessing is that people who have a different vision of some sort can move on and live out what God’s calling them to instead of everyone being crammed into a ‘tiny car’ of what’s too often one man’s vision (not a full enough slice of the full counsel of God). Multiplying churches into new areas, cities, nations, etc. is as healthy, Biblical, and non-optional as children moving out and getting married is.

    I say this as a guy who’s been fired without notice from churches and as a guy who’s often making a large part of my income working for churches, so I’m not just blabbing from the sidelines.

    peace and grace.

  21. wondering says:

    I’m not saying it’s right, but what did you expect when what was sowed was a total lack of openness on the part of the “older generation” in many cases?

    I’m middle aged myself, raised on hymns, scripture readings, etc.

    But I saw and lived through in many churches such a disproportionate response of disdain, anger and control when any attempts to engage broader worship forms than sitting an listening to a talking head and 19th C. revivalist hymns was even suggested, much less allowed in tiny little homeopathic doses.

    Has the pendulum swung too far? Probably. But people reap what they sow. And if you’re sub-par ecclesiology allows for “force of will” by congregation members around their personal preferences, then what do people expect things to look like?

    Another side of the issue is this: The proof is in the eating. Many a church that would not change and learn to speak the language of the next generation of its OWN people struggled and stagnates and dies.

    I think you’re bigger questions are dead on.

    I also think you’re not owning the simple fact that the cultural soup we all swim in has passed many of us by and we just won’t except it.

  22. Victor Knowles says:

    Good rant. Even a righteous rant I would venture to say. Rant on!

  23. Mike, with all due respect and humility, your view is the view I have fought for years. I suggest you go and plant a church to target the 60+ (I’m 55 and love contemporary worship.)

    After you plant this congregation, then see how much participation you get. Nada! “We’ve done our thing. It’s time for the young people to get out there and do the work.” Problem is, at 60+, the limitations of daylight, food, backs, energy, memory, cynicism, traditionalism, will choke the congregation into nothingness.

    The only Kingdom churches (those who make sure the next generation have the Gospel) which are targeted for 60+ are in “Golden Year” communities such as Sun City, AZ. Makes sense to plant one there.

    Until the sour grapes of the “Fanny Crosby” generation passes on, I pray the type of attitude you express will not destroy the great works… the Kingdom works… of congregations who have an ethos different from the denominational slop I oftentimes see.

    • Wow, Mark. Makes me glad I’m not your father! I’d be afraid for my future. Seriously, dude, you need to break out of the “cutting edge” youth bunker mentality and realize that God is not always about “the next big thing.” BTW, there are times I love contemporary worship too–when it is worship and not the stage show or manipulative feelings fest it is on so many places. My experience has been the opposite of yours–and we are about the same age. I can’t tell you all the ways older saints have blessed me.

      Church is for everyone or it is not church. We are either all in this together as God’s family, or the NT idea of church is meaningless.

  24. Truth Matters says:

    Followers of Jesus are human. We have our personal opinions and preferences. These often crash into others’ opinions and preferences. It was so with Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul was determined not to take him. Mark had “bailed out” as they were going into a dangerous ministry in West Asia and returned to Jerusalem — Acts 13:13. Paul saw him as he had been: irresponsible and unreliable. Maybe Mark was a bit too timid, at that point in his Christian growth, or maybe just homesick, or both. Paul was hardcore and may never had been a parent. He couldn’t relate to Mark’s immaturity, and maybe it showcased a little of his own immaturity. He was human too! It must have been discouraging to Paul and would be discouraging to the group when Mark turned back, perhaps declaring it was too hard. This was a dangerous ministry they were called into. It took determination, courage, and a unified group effort to succeed.
    So, in one of the great chapters on Christian unity, Acts 15, this little sideline note shows the other side of unity: the stress between conflicting opinions and preferences and the eventual split that occurred. This is the great chapter that records the monumental meeting of the greatest leaders in the Church of Christ at that time to try to squelch, once and for all, the efforts of jealous Jewish Christians to impose their outmoded and sidelined cultural and formerly spiritually essential laws on the uninitiated Gentiles. It helped to unify the Church. Then, to showcase the varied difficulties of maintaining unity in diversity, the chapter ends with two of the Church’s greatest leaders parting company because they could not agree! In fact, it says that their contention about the matter was “sharp!”
    Who was right? Barnabas was determined to help Mark over his weaknesses and fears and on to greatness in leadership. It must have worked! Mark did go on to write one of the four Gospels. Not bad for a kid who once had “jumped ship” at a time when he was needed. Paul, in his own way, was right too. It is a dangerous business to go into some foreign fields and risk your life, your everything, and especially unhelpful to that is the addition of a vexing problem in dealing with an immature, unreliable flake.
    What resulted? Two missionary trips, two outreaches, with more people involved in each outreach. Later Paul and Barnabas “patched things up,” and Paul eventually recognized that Mark had repented, matured, and was a useful servant of God (II Timothy 4:11). When challenged with differences of opinion, the people of God prayerfully work things out, and God allows for our personal opinions and preferences, either changing them, or working in spite of them, growing His servants on to greater maturity.
    Our church went through similar throes in the “worship wars.” As a parent of teenagers, I discovered that three of my four teens could not relate to the traditional music in the same way I could. They had heard the “other stuff” on the radio, music that sounded jangly to my ears, having been classically trained as a musician. To them, the “other stuff” was not just emotionally exciting. It also spoke deep into their hearts. It ministered to them spiritually. Because I loved them, I began to listen to their music, listening to the words, not primarily the unfamiliar sounds that offended my ears at first. I began to see why they were excited about this music. I saw that it was helping them spiritually, so I backed down. How glad I am that I did. They moved on to be fervent Christians. One is studying for the ministry, one married a young ministerial student. The other married a Christian and has settled down. The one who didn’t particularly care about the “new music” is currently not with the Lord (not that this is an indictment against the music.)
    Many of our young people felt the same way about the new music as my children did. They felt cheated, disenfranchised, if you will. A very talented young man saw the need. He rose up and became a preacher and started a new church in an adjoining community. Most of the young people flocked there, not just for the music, but for the message that spoke to their issues, their needs. I know. We went with them to encourage them and monitor the situation.
    Just like with Paul and Barnabas, two outreaches resulted instead of one! Both churches are prospering. The “older set” have their culturally traditional worship service and the new church is growing with a contemporary beat. There is much fellowship back and forth. God worked it out peaceably, as such things should be. My take is, crises of this nature will bring out the best and worst in people, exposing who they really are and where they need to grow in loving those who do not think like they do. Real, Christ-like love will become apparent, or the lack of it. There will always be these kinds of crises as long as there are humans with opinions and preferences. I choose to honor and love those who differ from my preference. And, amazingly, because it is being done in the Spirit of God, I found I actually like the contemporary worship service best of all! Yet, when I’m with the other group, I put my whole mind and heart into worshiping God even when sometimes the words or performances tend to hinder a bit. I agree with the person who stated that traditional music can sometimes become flat and dull and very unprofessional, or just “the same old same old.” There is so much love in that “traditional church,” that even if an unprofessional, stumbly bumbly guy gets up and does his best, we honor his best effort, his sincere effort to express his love for Jesus. I would recommend this kind of love, especially on a Sunday night or midweek when it is mostly the more mature Christians attending. Our worship services may differ, but our love and support of one another should not.

  25. Carolyn Mackey says:

    I have to admit I didn’t read this article very well because I find the name offensive. I hate that term worship wars. I think it is so sad. I am 60 and I love all kinds of worship but prefer contemporary. I have sang in church choirs, and a praise band. One church we were at during worship where an older lady played the organ you kind of expected someone to get up and say “All skate” it sounded so much like skating rink music.I know she wanted to use her talent but it was rather displaced. I think if people really wanted to find a place to use their talents they can. We have so much more to worry about than music styles or church choirs. I will say the biggest complaint I hear from people who only want traditional worship is that they want to sing 4 part harmony. I think a lot of people in church can’t sing at all, can’t carry a tune but people talented enough to sing well could probably sing that harmony while raising their eyes toward the Lord instead of in a song book. It just seems ridiculous to even talk about and I get so discouraged when I hear people arguing about music. Just praise God! Just worship God! Worship is so much more than music styles!