Worship (preference) wars 4 of 4

Of the many church problems one problem seems to always rise to the top. I have tried to emphasize the importance of Church unity already but this issue really needs its own blog. Why? Because music is a polarizing thing, it shouldn’t be but in the church it is. Some like classic, some like instrumental, some like country? Some like pop. Some like hip hop, Some like alternative, yes! Not only this but there are so many sub genres of music that the ones I already mentioned are already archaic, it is impossible to keep up. Some like this, some like that, some speaks to some and some speaks to others. This unfortunately bleeds into the church when it comes to worship. Some is more holy than others, wait, what the!?

Some churches are not even aware of it while some are fighting over how it should be done. Some don’t even realize that others do it differently. This seems to be the major problem. While some churches have the concert model down they don’t realize others are still struggling to get there, or to get somewhere. We have failed to realize that we have made our music preferences into a war of worship.
In our culture we have put our preferences of how it should work over what it actually is.
Biblically speaking worship is offering to God his due. On the most basic level worship is literally bowing down. Which person with what music preference would be more comfortable with a half hour of silence on your face in the sanctuary every week? In the Old Covenant part of this submission surrounded the offering system, this was worship, to offer his due of our allegiance, our repentance, our peace. But under the New Covenant we do not operate on the sacrificial system because Christ made the final perfect sacrifice of his Son.  So what do we do?
Well, another way Old Testament Jews worshiped God was through songs of praise. The book of Hebrews in chapter 13:15 affirms that this is what our worship looks like now instead of burnt sacrifice. In case that is difficult, we have a whole book of music written to bring God praise. We have a whole collection of songs to God in the book of Psalms. Not to mention that many instruments are often assigned to play them and a church organ isn’t one of them.  So we can safely agree that now worship looks like singing to God.

Here is one of my favorites from psalm 118:”A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.”

The first instances of praise is simply the Israelites praising God for his victories by recounting his deeds when God delivers the Israelites from the Egyptians from Exodus 15.

20 Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. 21 Miriam answered them, “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”

We have two camps of worship unfortunately, one that believes it is better to sing theologically thick words with little variation in meter and tone while reading from a book, while the other camp is a little more free-form with less theology and more emotion and modern instrumentation.
Sometimes the two meet but not always. I am not talking about content of the actual song. That is a separate issue, a song with bad theology should not be used despite it being a hymn or contemporary tune.  But this is part of the problem. One kind of music is assumed to be better which is simply not the case.  Just because a song is newer does not mean it is theologically bad nor does an aged song mean it is theologically sound. The issue is bad writing not bad genre, let’s stop confusing the two and making sweeping arguments for one over the other.
The argument usually begins from the older generation liking what they are used to and the younger generation likes what they can relate to.
Biblically however it seems to be a song either just reflecting God’s deeds and attributes. Sometimes it is a lament that cries out to God about the pain and misfortune they are experiencing. The great thing is that it always ends with joy and with a recognition of God’s greatness such as Psalm 73.

Worship is always about God but our wars over it have made it about us, our preferences, our feelings, our music. But worship is foremost about humility because without humility we can never ascribe to God his due worth. Without humility we are never concerned about anything but our self.

Let me add one more point to this which is hard to write. This unfortunately has ended up with old churches with little to no youth in them and young churches with little to no old people in them. With the mid-lifers having to draw lines in the sand of where to go. I have seen this many times across the country. Why? Because the music reflects the tone of the tradition and the tradition sets the tone of the decor. The traditional takes on the decor of a Cathedral and the contemporary takes on the decor of a concert hall. And the appropriate people report for roll-call. This is sadly a large degree of simply ageism in the church. Some churches wonder why they can’t attract/keep certain demographics into their churches without realizing they have tailor-made them for the people who are already there. Slowly the people who do not fit slide out the back door if they were ever there in the first place.

Now having preferences isn’t really the problem as I have already said, we should have different churches with different flavors. This only becomes a problem when we have churches with people who don’t want to share. But if worship is about God then it isn’t about what you prefer or what I prefer.  It is sad, but a blended service really should minister to us all, but it still bothers us if it isn’t completely about us.

Unless we can come to a cease-fire and make some sort of agreement, we will continue to not worship, because his people are not looking up to him. Let’s unfold our arms, un-clench out fists and raise up our hands to God.

The style will always be the issue when God’s glory isn’t. So let’s see about making worship about God again, then perhaps the style won’t be as big a deal, because it isn’t he is.



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