Though most of us would say that the “worship wars” are for the most part over I sometimes wonder if we haven’t arrived at a simple truce rather than true reconciliation. The March 2011 issue of Christianity Today has supported my uneasiness by publishing 4 articles on worship. I encourage you to read those articles and discuss them with your ministry team or committee.
The first article suggests that at issue is the direction of our worship. We think too much about ourselves and what we want rather than recognizing that worship is a response to what God is doing and not so much about our favorite songs. The second article bemoans the influence of pop music on today’s choice of worship music. The third challenges us to learn about and sing each other’s music to bring about reconciliation. The fourth is the results of a survey as to which hymns have had staying power through multiple hymnal editions. (Of the 27 songs listed 24 are on long list for inclusion in the next CRC/RCA hymnal Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.)
Underlying all these articles is the fact that there is much un-comfortableness with the current worship climate and there is room to improve even if we acknowledge that we won’t get it perfect this side of heaven. It is hard work, these discussions. I hope we are beyond digging in and putting up camps for or against certain styles; in some ways that is the easiest thing to do. Much harder is trying to discern with all that is available what are the best songs or hymns to help our particular congregation join in the worship already occurring before God’s throne, and to help each other out with that task. Harder yet is to learn to sing each other’s songs with gratefulness for each gift.
To quote John Koessler the writer of one of the first article: “When the church gathers for worship, it engages in a heavenly activity. The worshiping church does not merely imitate what goes on in heaven. It participates in heaven’s worship.” (Christianity Today, March 2011 p. 21). I don’t think heaven’s worship is split between organ and band, major, minor or pentatonic modes, or children, youth, and adults. So, what does make a song worthy of heaven’s worship?