I really don’t like the phrase “worship wars.” Indeed, I was reticent to use it in the title. But it is the most commonly used verbiage to describe the conflict over worship style in our churches.
Unfortunately, the current challenges have been present in our congregations for at least four decades. Stated differently but sadly, we will be observing the 50th anniversary of this conflict soon.
Worship wars have divided churches. They have caused pastors and staff to be fired. They have pitted Christians against Christians. They have been the source of dissension, discouragement, disengagement, and depression.
Indeed, when I have addressed the topic at this blog, lively discussion inevitably ensues. Sometimes the discussion becomes rancorous.
So, with a bit of trepidation, I want to share with you the state of worship wars in our churches. As I see it, there are five key issues today.
- The Millennials are changing the tone of the discussion. This younger generation, as a whole, does not insist on one worship style over another. To the contrary, most of them quickly abandon churches that are still fighting over this issue. There will soon be fewer people to carry on these battles, because the Millennials will not be a part of it.
- Intolerance exists among church members in all the preferences of worship style. Within each preferred worship style, there are numbers of people who are intolerant of any other worship style. They believe their preference to be the correct style, and they are not open to any discussion otherwise. Though they are likely a minority of church members, they are the ones who keep fueling the fires of dissension.
- The intolerant church members stereotype worship styles other than their preferred style. Such is a characteristic of intolerance. It refuses to see any redeeming value in another perspective. It creates straw men to characterize those who have a different worship style preference.
- Within the worship style debate, the volume of the music is an area of dissension as well. If you have any doubts, view the comments on worship volume in an earlier blog post. The article was written a year and a half ago, and people are still commenting on it.
- The worship wars have moved many church members from the Great Commission to a great distraction. I was working on some statistical data for my own denomination just prior to my writing of this post. I noticed that many of the challenges we have experienced are concurrent with the worship wars in our body. While correlation does not prove causation, I have to believe Satan has taken great pride in causing us to be divided, and causing us to lose our focus on reaching and ministering to people in the name of Christ.
What is your perspective on the worship wars? How do you think we can move forward in the midst of this ongoing battle among Christians?
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4, HCSB)
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on Sept. 8, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.