Winning The War of Worship

My pastor recently preached a sermon on worship.  He said that the scriptures state that we are all to open our mouths and sing to the Lord.

As he spoke the words, I could feel the tension in the sanctuary beginning to thicken.  Suddenly, attention had been called once again to the battle that our church, and many churches throughout the world, have been fighting for years now.

How to worship.

There are two camps: those who believe that the traditional way is best, and those who believe that a more contemporary way is best.  And a lot of times the battle boils down to a will of generations– those who prefer the tried and true way, and those who want change.

The arguments of both sides are valid.  The traditional camp believes that the hymns and songs of the faith that have been sung for years (in the cases of some hymns, literally hundreds of years) present the most reverent offer of worship to the Lord and connect the founders of the faith with the followers of today.

The contemporary camp believes that in order to draw in the lost and entertain worshipers, the songs should be new, raw, and most of the time accompanied with a band that consists of at least a guitar, keyboard, and drums.

But the real issue here is not traditional v. contemporary.  The real issue is about the intentions in the hearts of the worshipers. 

Worship isn’t about the how, but about the who.

Who is being glorified by the worship?  Is it the organist?  Is it the band?  Is it the singers in the choir loft, on the stage, or in the pews?  The correct answer is that only One should be glorified in our worship.

Reading carefully through the Psalms, it’s easy to see how David and the other authors glorified God with their voices and their instruments, not concerned about the comfort level of their fellow man; only concerned that God’s ears would be pleased with the sounds of his devoted faithful.

The scriptures say that if we do not praise Him, the rocks will.  Verse 12 of Psalm 96 says that the trees will praise his name.  We can be certain that the rocks, seas, mountains, hills and trees don’t care about what instruments are being used or whether the tempo of the song is too fast or too slow.

When we begin to fuss and argue over style of worship we are forgetting the true meaning of the word.    

When we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit, worship is a time for us to pour our hearts out to God in gratitude for his mercies and grace through the sacrifice of His son.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

When we think about just how amazing God’s mercy is and how it has changed our lives and adjust the attitude of our hearts, the worship will pour out.  No matter the format, arms raised or folded, tempo fast or slow, words in a hymnal or on a screen, God will be glorified.

And that’s all that matters.

Personally, I find amazing worship in all types of music within the church tradition.  There is no song more beautiful to my mind than How Great Thou Art.  And when I imagine what it will be like to sit at the throne of God and sing of His wondrous love, no song is more powerful to me than You Are Holy (Isaiah 6).

Share with me: What’s your favorite worship song or hymn and why?


Filed under The Christian Walk

7 responses to “Winning The War of Worship

  1. I'm one of those people who has a foot firmly planted on each side of the 'debate.' There is so much to learn from the older hymns ('It Is Well With My Soul' for instance) on one hand, and then on the other hand the newer generation brings an element of excitement, joy, and passion that can be missed (I'm not saying it isn't there, but that it can be 'missed')if you didn't grow up or get converted in/to that 'older' style. With that being said read 2 Samuel 6:12-23. I love that passage for obvious reasons 🙂 Where did that kind of worship go?

  2. I agree with you that the divide over traditional vs. contemporary worship music is often generational. I've attended the same VERY traditional Southern Baptist church since birth, and it's only been in the last year that we've begun a "contemporary service" for the younger crowd. Personally, I love both the old hymns and the contemporary worship songs.My absolute favorite worship music, though? Contemporary versions of old hymns, like David Crowder*Band's "Come Thou Fount" or Chris Tomlin's "O Worship the King".Two of the most powerful worship experiences of my life were at Passion '05 in Nashville. One night, Chris Tomlin was leading worship and at the end of "How Great is Our God", he led us into the chorus of "How Great Thou Art". The sound of a few thousand a cappella voices singing "How Great Thou Art"…I swear it was like a preview of heaven. The last night of Passion '05, the drums and keyboards went away, and in an auditorium lit by candles, Shane & Shane (with just a guitar or two) led "It Is Well With My Soul"…I still get chills thinking about the amazing worship that night.I'm going to go listen to the recordings of those moments now. Thanks for reminding me of them 🙂

  3. Having attended pentecostal, bapsist, AME, non-denominational, and charismatic churches over the last 30 years I have seen the "war of worship" play out before my very eyes, and while it can be intense among generations, it takes an even more tumultuous turn when treading into "multicultural" territory. One group wants Hillsong, the other wants Israel and New Breed. One group wants the Gaithers, the other wants Shirley Ceasar. Thankfully given my rich spiritual landscape I can worship in almost any setting, and my collection of favorite hymns and praise/worship songs is a testament to that. Here they are (no particular order)25. Lord I Lift Your Name on High24. How he Loves Us-23. Shout to the Lord22.We Shall Behold Him: Sandi Patti21. Lord, You're Holy: Karen Wheaton20. The Center of my Joy: Richard Smallwood19. Better is One Day18. If Not For Your Grace: Israel & New Breed17. We Speak to Nations16. How Great Thou Art15. Thou art a Shield for Me: Byron Cage14. Take my Life: Micah Stampley13. Here I am to Worship12. God of this City: Chris Tomlin11. How Great is our God: Chris Tomlin 10. Going Up a Yonder: Tremaine Hawkins/Georgia Mass Choir9. You Brought the Sunshine: The Clark Sisters8. We Fall Down: Donnie McClurkin7. Draw me Close: Donnie McClurkin/Sonicflood6. Moving Forward: Free Chapel Church5. Redemption Song4. Awesome Wonder: Trent Cory3. Glorious: Martha Munizzi2. Friend of God: Israel Houghton and New Breed1. Total Praise: Richard Smallwood

  4. If it ain't Gaither, it ain't gospel. Having now established to which group I pledge allegience, I will also confirm that I am of the geriatric generation. It is my opinion that if I cannot immediately distinguish a hymn from something I would hear on a rock station, then I cannot identify such clamor as worship music. I know Psalms says make a joyful noise unto the Lord, but if I cannot differentiate the song from one recorded by a heavy metal group, then I would be hard pressed to call that type of music anything but what it is……….noise. I come from the old school who does not believe the church should concern itself with "entertain(ing) the worshippers". If someone seeks entertainment, they should go to a concert or movie. As for the the milder (or civil) form of praise music, I find it to be quite juvenile. My 2nd grade granddaughter could write something of equal quality…………shoot, simply change the words of Barney's theme and you've got yourself a crackerjack praise song. "I love God, He loves me, we're a happy family". No, Fanny Crosby spent far more time composing her songs, and they are more condusive (to me again) to envoking worship. Besides, I've never been to a worship service yet where the invitational hymn was praise music. I wonder why?The other issue I have with most (please note I stated most) praise music is the necessity of having a choral group on "stage" "performing" the music because most of the congragation, both old and young know neither the lyrics nor the tune. I attend one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the metro Atlanta area, and we have left the old hymns behind. Even when we are afforded a rare opportunity to sing one of the old favorites, it has somehow morphed into a praise song and is bearly recognizeable making it all but impossible to have the congregation participate……….but have no fear, that choral group knows the new version and can perform for us. (And here I thought worship music meant everyone could participate). As an example, I think the last verse of "Amazing Grace" is the most powerful words ever penned to the power of the saving grace of Jesus. I do not think singing "Praise God, Praise God, Praise God, Praise God" for an entire stanza is an appropriate addition to the song once the last verse has been sung. I'm not completely opposed to all praise music, but I do not like the current movement towards a service where everything is praise music (except the invitational hymn………but at least I have some incentive to wait till the end of the service for the good stuff).

  5. Great post. I think the whole worship war thing is ridiculous. Strong words, I know. But it really, truly is. We worship because Christ is AWESOME. That is worship. An outpouring of our hearts – hearts the stand in awe of who He is and what He's done. The Lion and the Lamb. What an amazing God we worship!! When we start fighting over what "style" of worship is better, we take our focus off of the Great I Am and turn into petty people who give Christ a bad name. The outside world looks on and wrinkles their nose. We are so missing the point. I know I do every single day. Thank God He forgives my stupidity. Anyway – my favorite worship songs right now are: -Blessings by Laura Story- Beautiful Things by Gungor (my post I have scheduled for Wednesday is all about this song)- From the Inside Out and The Stand by Hillsong United- Give me Faith by Elevation Worship I could put them all on repeat and listen ALL day!Great post, Jenny!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing with me, everyone! Love your comments and views and I see how it's a very divisive issue, which is fascinating to me!My least favorite praise song EVER- I Am A Friend of God. I loathe that song with all of my being. Not only does it repeat the chorus 839 times, the words are less than good (I'm trying to avoid saying "stupid.") God does NOT call me friend. He calls me so much more than that, I pray. The song reduces our relationship with God to something so much less than what it should be.Yep- that's my least favorite.

  7. I like modern praise songs like "Shout To The Lord", "Our God Is An Awesome God", and "Sanctuary". I also like some younger singers such as Chris Tomlin, Mery Me, and Casting Crowns. However, I'm with Uncle Alec when he says that we are not there to be entertained. We were put on earth to praise God. I would have to say that the old style is my favorite. My favorite hymn would have to be "Victory In Jesus" because it gets to the point…"He sought me and bought me with His redeeming. blood", and it is upbeat and the words make me want to "Shout to The Lord" although I wouldn't say my voice is a joyful noise to others. Kathy Bartlett

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