I’m not a worship warrior, but I’ve known my fair share of worship warriors. I’ve noticed that worship often seems to do more to drive people apart than to bring them together. I suspect that the term “worship wars” is familiar to each of us. The term is loaded with discouraging memories of churches ripped apart by competing worship styles. Those who want to maintain a traditional style accuse those who want change of desiring “repetitive songs with drums so loud you can’t hear the rest of the music.” While those who desire change accuse the traditional folks of “never wanting to change the old sixteenth century music styles we have in church.” I’ve heard it, I’ve lived it, and I have no interest in it. It’s a shame, isn’t it? It’s a shame when those who share “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5-6) can’t even share a sanctuary together without resenting one another.
Let’s think, just briefly, about what causes the worship wars. James says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (Js 4:1-2) James says the cause of quarrels is selfishness and covetousness. Therefore the antidote to the worship wars must be selflessness and love.
The reason I’m writing about this is because I want to commend First Church on the selflessness and love I see in action each Lord’s Day. We have a “blended” worship style. Do you know what “blended” means? It means that no one is completely satisfied. Those who want a more traditional style don’t get their way all the time and neither do those who want a more contemporary style. But you know what else it means? It means that we love each other enough not to always get our way. And that, brothers and sisters, is a mark of a healthy, loving, and selfless church. What is, perhaps, most remarkable to me is that in the 14 months I’ve been a part of First Church I have not heard a touch of grumbling about this compromise.
I’ve been in churches and contexts with a great variety of musical tastes and worship practices. I’ve been in very traditional churches, I’ve been in churches with rock bands, I’ve been in churches with a country feel, and I’ve been in tiny churches which were led in worship by a CD player. You know what binds all those folks together? They worship the same God, they have the same Savior, they believe the same Bible, and they are indwelt by the same Spirit. True worship is not a matter of sound, rhythm, and instruments—true worship is a matter of the heart. Let’s always keep that in mind as we gather together to praise King Jesus.
So, let me encourage you in your love for one another and for the Lord! If you are one who loves the beautiful hymns of the faith let me encourage you to sing with the same vigor when the contemporary music is sung. Why? Because your God is worthy of the same vigorous praise whether the instrument is the guitar or the organ! If you are one who loves the contemporary songs let me encourage you to learn to love and enjoy the older hymns played on our beautiful organ. Why? Because our God is worthy of your utmost worship even if it’s not your preferred style.
I’m thankful for the testimony to our love for one another that is displayed each week, and I hope you are too.
For His Glory,