Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Worship Wars' - Coming to a Church Near You? Let's Hope Not.

Worship Wars.  That sounds a bit harsh doesn't it?  I first heard the phrase nearly 20-years ago.  It was a phrase coined to describe the battle going on within congregations over music – praise choruses vs. hymns.  And for those over fifty, it appeared that the choruses were winning.

Over the past 15-years at C.C.C. I must admit that I've been far removed from the fray.  However, the sounds of warfare are within earshot.  Over the past two months I've talked with those over the phone or in person who are angry and weary from the fight.

"It's been 15-years since I've heard someone say 'Open your hymnbooks to page…I almost fell over when you all asked me to do so."  This was the reaction of one brother who visited us recently.   Another lady called and asked specifically about our music.  I could smell the smoke of battle.  "They're not even using the hymnbook anymore," she said.   Apparently for some worship leaders the battle lines have been drawn – and there's no compromise.

Now trust me, I don't live in la la land.  I'm sure there are those in our congregation who would perhaps prefer all praise choruses as well as others who would like all hymns.  But at least so far no one has drawn up any battle plans or launched any hand-grenades. 

I remember an incident nearly 13-years ago in our fellowship hall at the Fisher Lane location.  We had learned "Ancient of Days", a chorus that was a bit different for us at the time.  During one of our informal get-togethers, one dear lady decided that I needed to know that she didn't like that song.  I remember quite well what I told her:  "That's what I like about you (name withheld for the sake of my health), even though you don't like it, you're not insisting that we stop doing songs like that because you're aware there are others who do like them."  And not another shot was fired. 

I'm in an unusual position.  In addition to preaching I also lead the music at C.C.C., which means I'm responsible for song selection.   Being 53-years of age does have its advantages.  I feel that I, at least somewhat, have my feet planted in both camps.  I love well written praise choruses.  When we sing "Jesus Messiah" by Chris Thomlin joyful worship is expressed.  I love hymns as well.  How can you beat rich hymns such as "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "It Is Well With My Soul"?  I feel the church must have them both.  And this exactly what we try to do – as imperfect as we are.

I am truly proud of our congregation.  When they sing the hymn "We Have Come To Join In Worship" they mean just that – they join in, instead of waging war.  Perhaps it's because for them the unity of the fellowship, as well as sincere worship in spirit and in truth, (Whether it's a hymn or chorus) is ultimately more important than their own musical preference.   It's a pleasure to join in worship with people like that.

Pastor Van



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