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Building a Community of Worshipers - Who Will Win the Worship War?

Raymond Sanchez is the Minister of Music at First Baptist Church in Weslaco, TX. He has served in music ministry for over 20 years and believes in Doing God's story in worship.

Why Are There Worship Wars?

Today there is often tension between those who want to sing the old hymns and those who want a more contemporary style of worship. In churches you can hear music that emulates pop, hip-hop, rap, alternative, folk, and the good old hymns. In the end people like what they like and often feel VERY strongly about it.

This might have something to do with the fact that music is ingrained in our DNA. Every human culture on earth has developed music. I had to dig out my old Music History textbook to sound academic, but in Greek mythology, music had a divine origin: “People thought it could heal sickness, purify the body and mind, and work miracles in the realm of nature” (Grout, 2). As crazy as that may sound, we have our own Biblical examples of David’s music “curing Saul’s madness (1 Samuel 16:14-23),” trumpet blasts toppling the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:12-20) and leading the Midianite army into a route of itself” (Grout, 2).

Since recorded time, music and religion have been closely intertwined (Grout, 2). Seeing the way music was used in Roman life, entertainment, and pagan religious festivals Christian leaders tried to separate themselves from the heathen Roman lifestyle. (Grout, 2 and 8).

We could debate all day about what is the best style of worship music. We could debate the role of music, and how much various styles should or should not affect our emotions. We could debate if music sounds too worldly or too churchy. We could even debate, as in the early church, whether music should be used at all. Instead, of debating about music styles, we might be better served focusing on God’s Story (Robert Weber's definition in Ancient Future Worship).

The question we should start with in worship is, "Are we doing God's Story?" When we worship, are we remembering what God has already done for us, celebrating what he is doing now, and eagerly anticipating what he is going to do when he returns to make all things new? The Bible exhorts God's people to join with all creation in telling His story (Psalm 96). Let's sing new songs. Let's sing old songs. Let's worship in the old ways. Let's worship in new ways. Let's celebrate victories. Let's mourn losses together. Let's NOT fight about music used in worship. The casualties from that battle do not reflect the unity that God calls us to in Christ.

My favorite line in the hymn, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," says, "and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace." We argue about music because it is important to us. Music styles feel VERY important until we can stand back a little and compare our love for styles of music with God's glory and grace. In light of God's love, grace, redemption and future glory, the style of music we crave should grow strangely dim while love for God and one another should grow surprisingly bright!

Let's show grace to one another. Let's "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil. 3:2). When we consider others more significant than ourselves, we can learn to appreciate others' perspectives on worship and life. When we focus on God's story, God's grace, God's love, and the need for our humility, our preferences quickly become a distant second to the primary goal of Spirit-filled worship - offering ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). There shouldn't be a lot of wars when we talk about worship in that context!

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