If you are in a church that is in the midst of worship wars, this article may seem to be built on an unlikely premise. If your church has experienced worship wars in the recent past, you too may question my sanity at even suggesting such a thesis.

For decades church members have been fighting, splitting, and lamenting the state of music in our worship services. But when it’s all said and done, it’s largely about preferences. And no issue seems to bring out the worst in us as our preferred music style.

Many worship leaders should get hazard pay.

While I’m not crazy enough to predict the total cessation of worship wars, I am willing to say that they will be ending in many churches. Here are three reasons why.

Fewer Churches with Different Services with Different Styles

Though this observation is anecdotal, my travels to churches across the United States the past several years bear out this factor. Some worship wars were put on a tenuous hold by offering different styles at different times. In some churches the approach was successful. In other churches, it created a culture of us versus them.

I have heard from many church leaders that they have successfully brought the factions together with one style of worship. I think you will be seeing less of two styles in one church in the years ahead.

Resurgence of Hymnody

Led by the gifted Keith and Kristyn Getty, churches are awakening to a renewed delight of hymns, particularly modern hymns such as “In Christ Alone,” “The Power of the Cross,” and “Speak O Lord.” This hymnody is bringing together multiple generations and those who prefer diverse music styles.

Modern hymnody has become a great unifier in many churches. Its influence will continue to grow.

Unifying of the Boomers and the Millennials

These two generations really seem to get along. The research that Jess Rainer and I did on the Millennials confirmed our speculation. There is a mutual trust and respect between these two large groups. They just seem to like each other.

Keep in mind the age differences here. The Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. The Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000. On the average, there is a 30-year difference in the ages of individual members of the two generations.

But they desire to be together and spend time together. The Christians of these generations desire to worship together. It’s already fascinating to see worship styles meld as Boomers and Millennials come together. Admittedly, it’s still a strong contemporary style, but the Boomers introduced secular culture to rock. Boomer Christians were among the first to embrace a more contemporary style of Christian music.

Hopeful Signs

So much time and energy have been wasted by Christians fighting over something that is a matter of style and preference. Anger, bitterness, and church splits are the results of these worship wars.

I am hopeful, for the three reasons noted, that we will have fewer and fewer worship wars. I am hopeful we can worry less about our own preferences, and more about the unity of the body of Christ. Jesus Himself said in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

“Love for one another” means we will put others before ourselves—even in music and worship preferences.

Maybe, just maybe, the worship wars will fade away.


  1. Rose says

    Good to know boomers and millennials and come together. Will help me get over my “old” feeling here at 54. Surprisingly, a boy (20) my daughter (21) has been trying to reach who was totally unchurched says he likes hymns and has enjoyed visiting a catholic church for their music. Hmmm.

  2. Sheryl Minns says

    I think if your focus is on the style of worship, the rituals and traditions, then you’re in trouble. The focus should be, both hearts and minds, on the one being worshipped. When you allow the congregation to set an agenda that is about them, the future of that congregation is grim and predictably sad. Congregations should be both taught and led that the worship style is seriously UNIMPORTANT, only the ONE who is worthy of that worship. Attending a worship service is about giving to God, not getting from Him.

    • Pastor says

      As a pastor, I would have to respectfully disagree. The highest form of praise we can give to God is to receive the very gifts He gives us – forgiveness, life, and salvation. Yes, it is good to praise God and to thank Him for all His benefits to us, but we should look at worship in the proper context – it is about receiving the forgiveness of our sins. It was the whole point of the Old Testament sacrifical system, and is the point of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Too often, we as Christians consider the message of the cross as something for “unbelievers,” and that after we’ve “made our choice” then that message no longer applies. It still applies very much so, to all of us. And any form of worship where the focus is placed on what I do and what I give to God is wrong focus. The focus should be on what God has done for us – giving us His Son. Worship and music in church is not about us, it is to do what John the Baptist did in John 1:29, point to Jesus Christ and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

    • Pastor says

      As a pastor, I would have to respectfully disagree that the point of worship is to give to God. The highest form of praise we can give to God is to receive the very gifts He gives us – forgiveness, life, and salvation. Yes, it is good to praise God and to thank Him for all His benefits to us, but we should look at worship in the proper context – it is about receiving the forgiveness of our sins. It was the whole point of the Old Testament sacrifical system, and is the point of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Too often, we as Christians consider the message of the cross as something for “unbelievers,” and that after we’ve “made our choice” then that message no longer applies. It still applies very much so, to all of us. And any form of worship where the focus is placed on what I do and what I give to God is wrong focus. The focus should be on what God has done for us – giving us His Son. Worship and music in church is not about us, it is to do what John the Baptist did in John 1:29, point to Jesus Christ and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

      • says

        Pastor, this is the most honest, true, and clear expression of biblical worship I have come across in a long time. And I think people who are truly saved would agree that worship is not about what I give or get from God, but the comfort and strength that comes from the truth of what He has done for us. It is true that there are fewer churches offering multiple styles of worship services. But it is also true that there are more churches started and/or split from existing churches, and worship style is one of the reasons. I think consumerism and narcissism are to blame. Nevertheless, in spite of our immaturity, Jesus is still building His church.

      • Melissa says

        Thank you Pastor for explaining so well! It isn’t about style!
        Worship in the Melting Pot is a book about how we as a church has redefined worship. It is very well written When I started reading, I was surprised how the author spoke to how I have been feeling over the kind of music that dominates our churches.. I think the authors name is Peter Masters.

        • Andrew says

          Melissa, I also have that book – but a lot of it is all about style. It’s a rather feeble attempt by the author (yes, Peter Masters) to provide a theological justification for his particular (reformed baptist) views, and it doesn’t really succeed. He has a well-known problem with contemporary worship music and bases his conclusions on inaccurate stereotypes taken to extremes. I could say a lot more about it but don’t really have time here. And, in case you are wondering, I do have many concerns about contemporary music and would always recommend a selective approach. But I cannot oppose it completely in the way Masters does.

      • says

        @Pastor, who wrote:

        “The highest form of praise we can give to God is to receive the very gifts He gives us – forgiveness, life, and salvation.”

        Someone in the comments above astutely observed that worship is about more than music. I agree. Pastor’s comment about receiving God’s gifts is also on target, and that true praise involves remembering these gifts.

        One element of worship is the breaking of bread and sharing the cup of the new covenant in His blood.

        In addressing the “worship wars” of the 1st century over this part of worship, Paul admonished the Corinthian church to partake while “recognizing [discerning, KJV] the Lord’s body.” I believe that, contextually, this reference to His body at the very least includes the church, which is His body. I say this for 2 reasons.

        First, the immediate context (1 Cor 11:17ff) contains admonition for those who refused to tarry but went ahead with the meal filling themselves to the point of being drunk. The apostle said that in this they were despising the church of God and that “…it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat…” but is instead one’s “…own meal….” This resulted in factions and humiliation of others in the very spiritual feast of which Jesus had said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

        Second, in the previous chapter (10:16-17) he had written: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Here “body” obviously refers to the entire Christian community.

        Also in the following chapter, 12:12ff, he says, “…the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body….” Here again “body” refers to the community of believers, the church, which he purchased with his blood.

        So, “recognizing the body,” in context reasonably must at the very least include recognizing other members of the body who are bought with the same blood by which you have received God’s gifts. It is not mere reflection on the pain and agony of the cross, though it may include that as part of remembering Jesus.

        Perhaps this is why another author wrote, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together….” The Christian assembly is to be a time in which all of us collectively stir one another to love and good works.

        These would be the same works spoken of in Titus 3:8 – works that God’s people will be eager to maintain when “these things” are stressed. What are “these things”? Read Titus 3:4-7 for a sampling of the things God has done for us in Jesus.

        So Pastor is correct in stating that worship is receiving God’s gifts. However, we are never to receive God’s gifts (any of them) for ourselves alone, but that we might be a channel of blessing to others. God forgave you? Then you must forgive others in the same way (Eph 4:32). God blesses you materially? Then you should share with those in need. It is in doing this that true worship will occur – and not nearly all of this is done in the Christian assembly!

  3. Dr John Salmons says

    I’m always puzzled that an article about worship is about music; as if singing is worshipping. I can’t imagine the tenth leper who returned and worshipped Jesus standing and belting out “Victory in Jesus.” No, worship comes from the heart, not from stumbling over the words in a three dollar hymnal and even less from letting a choir do it for you.

    • Robert says

      Psalm 150:1-6 ESV
      Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! …

      I know there is a distinction to be made between praise and worship, but praise can be worship.

      2 Chronicles 29:28
      28 The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

  4. Bob says

    I’m glad for your optimism and personally agree that “it’s largely about preferences”. However, there are some who see it as a matter of Biblical accuracy. Those who hold to the regulative principle of worship believe the Bible explicitly prescribes what worship should look like, to include the style of music. I’m afraid its much more difficult to reach a middle-ground when one group sees their position as a Biblical mandate.

    • Mark says

      To be fair to those who hold to the regulative principle, the regulative principle does not dictate the style of music that must be used in worship. For example, the regulative principle would not say a church in Africa must use Western-style hymns during worship. The regulative principle WOULD say that having skits in the middle of a worship service is not something found in scripture, and should be avoided.

      Although there are some who hold to the regulative principle who would advocate exclusive psalmody and might prohibit instruments, they do not represent all those who hold to this principle.

      • Andrew says

        Mark, whilst I’m not going to defend pointless low-qualiity skits, I have to say that drama _can_ be a method of teaching, and I would argue that the regulative principle does permit it if it genuinely teaches something.

        The regulative principle is a classic example of how we twist the Bible to suit our own ends. We argue over whether it is OK to use powerpoint, video, or drama as an aid to teaching, or whether or not musical instruments are permitted, but totally ignore the fact that we are meeting in a building we call a “church”, which completely lacks a biblical basis. The idea of dividing things into elements (which the bible mandates) and circumstances (where flexibility is allowed) is a totally contrived concept that was invented to give a pseudo-theological justification for the practices of a particular church, and enable the leaders to resist calls for change.

        I remember the uproar in some circles when John Frame broke ranks and suggested (rightly in my view) that dancing in worship is biblical and therefore permissible. Dance is another another case where the church has taken a selective approach to scripture – ignore or theologise away the bits that we don’t like or don’t suit our culture and tradition.

        Bob, I’m always interested to know how people claim that the Bible prescribes a particular musical style…

      • says

        This is almost hilarious (what the bible supposedly regulates about worship)–if the adherents weren’t so deadly serious. If you want to go down that path, then the bible *prescribes* drums and guitars (cymbals, lyre, percussion). It nowhere endorses organs (they didn’t exist!). LOL.

        • Dennis says

          KJV in psalms refers to organs.

          (I realize it is not talking about modern day organs.

          Myself, I praise God with my accordion.

    • says

      Bob, if it is true that “Those who hold to the regulative principle of worship believe the Bible explicitly prescribes what worship should look like, to include the style of music,” it would mean that all our music and worship would be Eastern in style, as modern and Western styles were unknown at the time.

  5. T. Webb says

    There’s a great way to end the worship wars. Burn the guitars and smash the organ. If things like musical instruments are dividing the people of God, then let those instruments be damned. Sing without instruments to the glory of God, like most Christians have for 2000 years to avoid division for trivial reasons.

    • Brian Jorgensen says

      Thank you T. Webb
      This is a very good suggestion, a few denominations actually use the no instrument policy to great success.
      The result would be to bring the focus of worship back to glorifying our Savior.

    • Andrew says

      T. Webb, the problem is that even if churches got rid of instruments, there would still be arguments about the songs that were sung. And your mention of 2000 years is interesting – ask yourself what christians sung for, say, the first 1000 years. Why aren’t we singing that now?

      • says

        That’s brilliant. I think the heart of the issue is the assumption that just because something is newer, it is better. That’s what we’re really arguing about. And everyone, ask yourself, ‘why must the Church sound like the world around it?’

        • Andrew says

          Wordsmith, I look it at it differently. Worship music has never been static so we can’t claim an unbroken tradition for any style. I’m also not convinced there is a Biblical mandate for church music to be different to the world – you’d have a hard time arguing that biblical music was like this. That said, the teaching of the Bible is that worship is a congregational activity and so I object to the performance-based mentality of some modern churches. I also have a problem with the commercialisation of worship music, constantly pushing new stuff to sell CDs. But neither can we say that contemporary worship music is wrong, period.

          • Philippa says

            ‘Worship music has never been static so we can’t claim an unbroken tradition for any style.’

            I agree. The music of the very early church – say, in the first two centuries – would have sounded very much like that of the synagogue, from which it came. The ancient melodies of the Syrian Orthodox Church are probably the closest thing we have now to that very early sound.

            ‘But neither can we say that contemporary worship music is wrong, period.’

            Again, I agree. We cannot say that. After all, John Wesley borrowed from secular music: folk melodies, oratorio, and opera. (It is only fair to say that the Wesley brothers did aim for a more classical sound when they did this and weren’t just copying songs sung in pubs.) As has been pointed out, many contemporary worship composers have produced some perfectly good, worshipful material.

            I’ve just been surfing for worship songs from other cultures on YouTube. Here are some Indian Christians worshipping:

            It’s good to take our Western filters off. I love the Western tradition of classical music but let’s remember that our faith did not originate in the West!

        • CoolBlueGlow says

          Quoting Plato…

          “Our music was once divided into its proper forms…It was not permitted to exchange the melodic styles of these established forms and others. Knowledge and informed judgment penalized disobedience. There were no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping for applause. The rule was to listen silently and learn; boys, teachers, and the crowd were kept in order by threat of the stick. . . . But later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent, but were ignorant of the laws of music…Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave. By their works and their theories they infected the masses with the presumption to think themselves adequate judges. So our theatres, once silent, grew vocal, and aristocracy of music gave way to a pernicious theatrocracy…the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking”

          Looks like the worship wars predated the New Testament Church. :-)

    • CoolBlueGlow says

      The use of pipes, lyres, strings, trumpets, cymbals, timbrels (hand drums) are all clearly described and even prescribed as appropriate in the Old Testament.

      In the time to come, the Revelation of St. John indicates the redeemed will make use of musical instruments in Heaven, via the “Harps of God”, (Rev. 5:8 and 15:2) Clearly these “saints” who are victorious because of Christ are giving thanks for deliverance by playing (millions of) “Harps of God”. They’re in Heaven… so where did they get them if not from God himself?

      Now, here’s where it gets really sticky… Are you aware that the word translated here as “Harp” is the Greek word “κιθάρα,” That’s “Cithara” (or Kithara) which is an instrument made famous not by those of Semitic stock in Palestine. Rather, it was famous because it hailed from the Island of Cythera, a cultural crossroads island in the Greek . Not coincidentally, the island of Cythera is a stone’s throw from Patmos – where St. John was imprisoned when he received the Revelation. The word “Cithara” is the primitive root for what we now call the “guitar”…and the instrument from the Isle of Cythera is the obvious progenitor of the guitar. It’s origins can be followed from Cythera, and then to Europe via Spain, which is why Spain is to this day known as prolific producer of classical and flamenco guitars and guitarists.

  6. Brian Jorgensen says

    Nothing lasts forever so yes this conflict may be losing its steam so to speak.
    The main reason is anyone with serious concerns has moved to another congregation (much like the Tower of Babble).
    However there is no end to the narcissism that has driven this conflict, the focus on “self” seems to continue growing.

  7. Sue Hackwood says

    I must say I really miss the hymns at our Church. I know that when a hymn is sung occasionally the singing seems louder and more enthusiastic. Also I feel that if hymns are used with the modern songs as well anyone who is seeking a church and has not been to church in years would feel more comfortable with a hymn as it would most likely be familiar to them.

    • Andrew says

      Sue, I think the reason for this is that a lot of contemporary worship music is not particularly suited to congregational singing. It’s often quite tuneless and rhythmically complex – people find it difficult to sing. The change seemed to happen about 20 years or so ago when music shifted from being folk-influenced to rock-influenced, and with that came a performance-focussed approach from musicians. I tend to think that a more “blended” approach works well, including the best of both historic and contemporary music.

      • chris says

        Sue and Andrew, I agree. Much of the CCM is difficult to sing. Our older members really miss their beautiful hymns they grew up with. A lot of us love to listen to CCM on our car radios but don’t sing out in worship services because the timing is so tricky. We have a worship team that is basically a modern day church choir to help lead out but the sound is still less than enthusiastic. We need to think ahead 50 years to how we are going to feel when our beloved modern music is replaced by the new CCM. I am a Boomer, BTW. Thank you, Gettys for your ministry!

  8. Glen D. Buerky says

    My wife and have been leading the Praise and Worship in our small church for several years now. We have no musicians so we use sound tracks for our music. We do a very wide variety from hymns to many CCW songs. The tracks for hymns vary from quite traditional style to southern gospel, blue grass, and on and on. Our congregation gets right in and sings it all. I love it all too and I’m 60 + in age. It is a shame that there have been the “music wars”. Makes me think of a line from a song, “I wonder if He ever cries?”

  9. Dean says

    Of course Boomers and Millinaials get along. Did the people who did these studies even read age demographic studies. The Millennials parent’s were the Boomers. And it is a pretty known fact that Millennials are just Boomers on steroids. This is because it was the Boomers who coddled and helicoptered their Millennial children into being just as individualistic, entitlement driven narcissists as they were but while texting and driving.

    • Philippa says

      “And it is a pretty known fact that Millennials are just Boomers on steroids. This is because it was the Boomers who coddled and helicoptered their Millennial children into being just as individualistic, entitlement driven narcissists as they were but while texting and driving.”

      Golly. Sweeping statement much …? ;) I’m from the UK and whilst I can detect a greater sense of self-entitlement in British culture at large, I am certainly not about to write off the 1946-64 generation (to who I belong), especially not in church circles. This group give a great deal to the churches they serve: I should know, I’ve seen their service in action, in all churches of all different flavours. As for the Millennials, if they are in church it’s because they want to be and they give a lot, too.

      As secular culture gets tougher, probably it will result in tougher Christians who stand their ground.

  10. Steve B says

    Hopefully we will see a continuing appreciation for varying styles, humility, and the willingness to put others interests ahead of ourselves when the issue is “preferences.” However, there are other factors that I don’t see addressed: (1) trained leadership. Often more contemporary music styles are led by younger Christians who lack leadership or worship experience, biblical and theological training, or an appreciation for hymnody. This is, of course, a generalization, but often true. My point is not to fault youth, inexperience, or a lack of historic appreciation for hymns. These things are correctable. Churches must address this in younger/contemporary leaders and insist on better training and leadership. (2) Presentation and visceral impact. Quite a difference in a single choir leader, a stationary choir in robes, organ/piano vs. a band – dressed down and moving, leader calling for lifted hands, clapping, etc, and electric instruments with amps/systhesizer. Huge difference in in presentation and visceral effect before you get to musical preferences. (3) Physical impact – some members, especially older members are very challenged by the louder music – it’s not always the style, but the volume. The tone of the service may be very different as well.

    My point is not to rupudiate any style, but to simply point out the differences and the challenges both impose on the audience. Their is an obvious affinity for both styles – just not always in the same audience. The church must address training leadership. Visceral and physical effects must be evaluated. All must be called to humility and “the interests of others” (Phil. 2) as we learn to appreciate not just different styles, but worship with different people.

    • Jimmy says

      I don’t disagree. I’ll go a step farther and say that any church hiring a music pastor should insist on a highly developed, biblical theology of worship from any one who will be filling that role. I’m not saying seminary should necessarily be required, but some evidence that they have thought through worship biblically (and I don’t equate songs we sing at a certain time on Sunday in church as primarily worship).
      I’ve seen guys that do a great blended style of songs, have polished worship sets, great staging of bodies, awesome use of lights, etc., and I’d hold my 6 year old twins up to them any day in terms of understanding worship of the Triune God. Same goes for the guys in skinny jeans who can play 4-5 chords and know most of the Top 40 CCM chart.
      I’m not hating on polished or worship sets or skinny jeans–just pointing out that the worship pastor should be AT LEAST as biblically informed as the pastor if he has the gumption to stand in front of God’s people and sing the Bible.
      (BTW Musical preferences are so 20th century as far I’m concerned. Music is a gift from God. The styles we use should generally reflect the pulse of our congregations while stretching them a little at the same time.)

      • CoolBlueGlow says

        Nicely put.

        Back in the thousand days of yesteryear, it used to be that it was the direct responsibility of the priest to select the hymnody for each and every service. His selection was expected to and even required to thematically mesh with the content of the sermon. Both hymnody and homily were guided towards this goal by the theological sanity of the Lectionary, which is itself built around a coherent church calendar. That calendar is based on the classic supremacy of Christ not only in the service, but in the entire year’s worth of worship and in the Bible itself. Of course, this work requires an educated and disciplined approach to worship…one that requires work, study, prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit, rather than a set list, lighting cues and an EDL from ProTools.

        Lest you think me a throwback to 19th century “organ only”, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is I use vintage Fender amps and guitars as my “harp of God” in our regular service – but I make darned sure I know why I’m playing what I play and where it fits in the service and in the church calendar before I hit note one. I get zero complaints and many many compliments from our congregation – many of whom are in their eighties and who are mixed within a community of broad age, gender and ethnic diversity.

        If the atmosphere is Christ centered, the Liturgy robust, and the hearts of those leading are inclined toward humility, and if the Word and Sacraments are proclaimed with clarity and integrity, minor issues like style wars are revealed for what they are. Selfish behaviors generated by ‘me-first’ folks who probably have an impoverished life in Christ.

    • Old Lady says

      I have to agree with Steve B, although I would take it one step further. Should worship music hurt? The volume at my church is just more than I can tolerate on most days. The big problem, I think, is that the person running the sound board needs to be included in the training of worship leaders. I do not feel I am worshiping when I have to put my fingers over my ears. It makes me very uncomfortable to feel the beat under my feet when they are on a carpet-covered concrete floor. Our worship team has 5 guitars, a keyboard, four singers, and a drummer. The worship leader is called, in our church, an “intern” (rather than an interim), though there is no one in evidence who is guiding or teaching him. He is a volunteer who plays a guitar and sings, and he definitely has a sound theological background. But without a music mentor, he unintentionally allows the other musicians to get out of control. He is, bless his heart, very open to suggestion and tries to accommodate any requests for making the service more meaningful, but he fails to follow through week after week with gentle reminders. One of my major difficulties is the music played during a prayer by the pastor or a deacon. I told the worship leader I would love to know what the prayer leader is saying so that I could pray along. Instead, I am totally distracted by the volume of the “background” music, which keeps making its way to the foreground. If a father is leading his family in daily devotions at home, does he first turn up the stereo to full blast so that no one will be able to hear him speak? I don’t think so …

      I am 70 years old, so I don’t fit into the yuppie vs millennial preference categories. In fact, I am very fond of contemporary as well as traditional worship music. I am just fed up with the noise (rather than music) that distracts me to such an extent that I feel that I am not worshiping at all. Our church building is huge (to me). The sanctuary seats 800 people comfortably. Our weekly attendance is between 125 and 150. The music and volume seem to be geared to a full house rather than to participatory worship …

  11. Jimmy says

    Thanks for the shout out to the Getties and Co. who are driving the new hymnody. I was one of those in the past who insisted on new music–to my shame. As I’ve grown in grace, I’m thankful the Lord has helped me see how ridiculous and sinful I was being. I’ve been blown away by the gospel-saturated writing of the Getties, Stuart Townend, and others as I’ve been introduced to their music. What makes me love it even more is that they are committed to dedicating their work to the Church as she marches on with the express intent of giving her a new hymnal that is full of truth and beauty. Also thanks to Indelible Grace and others who are bringing back some great old hymns with newer musical settings.

  12. Jimmy says

    This is connected to the worship wars, but not specifically. Any thoughts on what it would look like in Baptist churches to incorporate elements of the standard Protestant liturgy? Based on recent experience with the Anglicans, I’m becoming more convinced that we have missed out on some richness in our wholesale abandonment of anything that might possibly look like a traditional liturgy (I’m speaking generally).
    The first thing I think of is the lack of congregational participation in the service, which should be far more than responding to the guy with the guitar (he’s not bad–I like guitars) when he asks us to clap or raise our hands. Another biggie is that an unbeliever could walk into any mainline denomination that has abandoned the truthfulness of Scripture and hear more Bible read than they do in most of our churches–that ironically claim to base all that they do on the Bible!

    Just food for thought. Kevin DeYoung (not a Baptist) made me think about this first. Turns out he’s not the only one having this conversation.

    • CoolBlueGlow says

      Great article by Kevin on this. Glad you posted it for others to find.

      This is precisely why I abandoned a well known mega church where I had spent 15 years. This fine Church was one whose “modern worship machine” I helped pioneer and build (both technically and musically). In leaving it, me and my family went from a highly technical sanctuary interface for three thousand to an Anglican church of fifty.

      That was fifteen years ago, and I’ve never looked back. History shows that my family’s spiritual legacy is far more robust because God led us out of the mega-wilderness and into a rich historic liturgy. It is no coincidence to that richness that the Anglican hymnody is itself a veritable tour de force of all that is great in Western Church music.

  13. Philippa says

    I was born in 1962 and I’ve been loving contemporary worship styles since … oh, about 1977.

    Are there rubbish songs out there? Sure there are – fluff with little theological content. There is also some really, really good stuff too.

    I sincerely hope that traditional hymns never get jettisoned though. That would be a tragedy. They are full of sound theology and I would like contemporary worship composers to introduce more theology, aka Townend and the Gettys.

    Just as my secular musical tastes encompass both the glories of Beethoven and the glories of jazz, or folk, or world music, or classic rock, so I believe there is room in God’s house for different styles … as long as it’s all offered to His praise and glory.

    But I do also think that some worship styles lend themselves more to praise and adoration than others. When we are invited to ascend the heights to behold His glory, or enter the throne room (metaphorically speaking) to adore Him.

  14. says

    To add to this “problem” I’m equally as perturbed that I see folks claiming that “music in church is not worship”. WHAT? If music isn’t used for worship …then what is? It’s certainly can’t be listening to a one hour message and practically falling asleep while doing so. It’s not just about standing in line to take communion (kinda like being at the bank only with a better “pay off”) it? And most of all…. I DO HOPE they don’t think by me listening to them take over the service by “sharing a testimony” or “prayer request” is an act of worship (mostly gossip under the auspices of “request time”). I say all that to reiterate the wonderful quote above from The Psalms and I would add this one from Ephesians 5….”speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord”….as well as the coolest one I’ve ever read from Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
    He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

    • Jimmy says

      “To add to this “problem” I’m equally as perturbed that I see folks claiming that ‘music in church is not worship’ “.

      Geary I’d never go so far as to say that music in church isn’t worship; however, I would go so far as to say that many in the modern evangelical Church equate worship to songs we sing on Sunday morning. That 20-30 minutes spent singing is the entire framework for “worship” for many people–unless you count the drive to work listening to those songs again. That’s problematic and not something to be taken lightly. What say you?

  15. Jo Anne says

    True worship is not music and singing; music is only a facet of worship. Worship is both a noun and a verb, but the true meaning in relation to the LORD is to ascribe worth to Him. We can worship Adonai with every breath we breathe. If we thank the Lord for the beauty surrounding us, that is worship. Living our lives in a manner that brings glory, honor and praise to Him is worship.

    • sally says

      too bad no one seemed to notice your true comment, seems they’d all rather keep up the argument than turn back to God and Christ and learn to truly worship. all the continuance of the argument does is keep those so occupied from true and total worship of our awesome Creator and Redeemer. i pray with you they realize that they are accountable for every idle word they speak –or write. let’s praise and honor and worship with our whole life and being and we won’t have time for so much foolishness.

  16. Ron Hoyle says

    I am afraid you are right about the worship wars coming to an end. A war ends when one side loses. The problem is the wrong side is winning. Worship should be reverent and focused on a Holy God. When we travel it is getting almost impossible to find a church to worship in that is not “informal”, and seemly focused on us and our emotions.

    • Claire says

      Thank you, Ron. I am so glad someone finally said this. Most people feel – not think – that contemporary worship music is appropriate for church because they want the church to reflect them and their desires and preferences. They claim that their position is about worshipping God but I think it’s more about their need to feel current and relevant. There is a lot of lip service given to the claim that contemporary music is just as doctrinally sound as the classic hymns, but I think this is incorrect; I think it’s as simplistic and vapid as secular pop/rock music. I abhor the idea of the outside secular world infiltrating the sacred holy space of the church. If I want to have a TGI Friday’s experience, I’ll go to TGI Friday’s, not to church.

      • Justin says


        You do realize, don’t you, that the classic hymns also came out of a secular musical culture? The piano caused gigantic waves when it began to be introduced in church services because it was the instrument of the tavern. We need to get some historical perspective here and simply acknowledge that whether we prefer “contemporary” or “traditional” music, it is all influenced by culture, just different decades and centuries of culture.

        • Claire says

          I think you missed the greater point of my comment, Justin, which concerns the simplistic message and doctrinal soundness of contemporary praise music. I equate this kind of music with the casual nature of dressing for church: they are both lower standards for the parishioners. I think it is a really bad idea to lower the standards of church attendance in this way. What does this communicate to people? If a church keeps “meeting people where they are” and conforming to the substandard secular aesthetic, then doesn’t this imply a sloppiness of doctrine? From what I have seen, it does. Look at what has happened to the Catholic church post-Vatican II. By loosening standards they have watched the faithful disappear in droves.

          I think this issue may really be a question of what we actually need versus what we think we need. One of these types of music feeds the soul and the other feeds the ego. I’ll stick with the former, which would be the classical.

          • Daniel says

            If the church keeps “meeting people where they are?” If the church keeps reaching people where they are they will be reaching people! How can you reach someone where they aren’t? Do you have people stumbling in off the street and getting saved at your church? Jesus went to the people did he not? You think getting dressed up to go to church is about God? Do you think our unwillingness to change is about God? Do you think the self righteous my way or the highway is about God? The Pharisees thought the same thing. What about the disciples who constantly moved from place to place with Jesus, and even Jesus himself do you think when they went and taught the people that they stopped by the local dry cleaners to get a clean suit? Nope. Do you think they reached people? See the sad thing and the recurring theme in all these comment are the me (or the me and my grandpa and his grandpa) philosophy. We have made church about us not God…. I don’t care what style music you want to use the only question I ask is are you reaching people? The self righteous “I’m the only one who knows how God wants us to do it” attitude is self righteous and self serving. You want to worship and don’t get it at church go home go into your closet and then worship. But we’ve got to stop playing church and hanging on tradition that is Vague at best biblically speaking, and we have to start reaching people.. How many people have died and gone to hell while we were having our “worship wars” how many lives have we not reached because we think arguing amount ourselves is gonna make a difference. We need to stop trying to change the minds of fellow believers and start changing the lives of the people in the world that are dieing as we sit here commenting on this thread.

          • Claire says

            My comment is about going to church, not preaching on the streets. If you come to church, there should be standards of behavior and dress. Would you show up to a job interview in jeans? I should think not. Then why do you view the expectation that someone show up to church in dress clothes as legalistic? When Jesus criticized the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, he was pointing out that the issue wasn’t that their so-called “right actions” in keeping with the law were wrong but that the motive behind their actions was corrupt. What is in one’s heart will eventually be made manifest through one’s actions. I think this includes the way one dresses at church. What does it say when you can’t be bothered to dress up to worship God? What does that say to God? It says that I couldn’t be bothered, that I and my comfort are more important than showing proper respect to the authority of God.

          • Andrew says

            Claire, what biblical basis is there for dressing up for church? None, I suggest. We must never go beyond what is written. And surely you are promoting a secular aesthetic by arguing for “classical” music, which is a product of western culture in the last few hundred years and certainly not something described in the Bible.

          • Claire says

            I have addressed the issue of dress at church in my response above to Daniel.

            As for the claim that classical music is secular music akin to contemporary music, I would argue that that is flawed. Classical music is timeless and more sacred by its very nature: it appeals to the highest in us not the lowest, like today’s simple, easy and profane contemporary worship/praise music. Just because someone has decided to call contemporary music sacred doesn’t make it so. Appealing to the lowest common denominator in worship music merely encourages mediocrity at best. This is not the point of church and it is not God’s directive to us as followers.

            I would suggest watching this documentary, Roger Scruton’s “Why Beauty Matters,” as he makes many excellent points concerning this line of discourse.

          • Carly says

            Coming in late to this, but yes Claire – many traditional hymns did come out of the ‘world’. At a time when many people were not literate and things like Powerpoint did not exist, many hymn writers used the chords and melodies of popular songs of the time and rewrote lyrics around God. Francis Crosby and William Booth both did this.

            I would also disagree with the statement that modern worship music is not theologically robust as a whole. Of course, like any style of music, there are bad songs coming out. The reason there don’t seem to be any bad hymns is because enough time has passed that the bad ones have faded away – we are left with essentially a ‘greatest hits’ in terms of hymns that are still used in church (don’t believe me? Go check the top 100 from anytime in the 1980’s and see how many songs you remember) we tend to think the quality of music is sliding – but it isn’t, it’s just we haven’t forgotten about the bad ones yet. Hymns have had the passage of time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

            As well as this, there are many ‘modern’ worship bands who very deliberately put in place stringent theological checks. I know that Hillsong, for example, has a theological team who scrutinise every song produced, and will demand rewrites if any theological error is found.

            Just remember, traditional hymns were seen as the devil’s music for a long time as well and seen as vapid and attempting to use the music of ‘the world’ (personally I thought that God created music so it’s all His and giving it to the world actually presumes God has less power than He does, but whatever). When gregorian chant first gave way to music with 3rds in the chord voicings, this was seen as a devil’s music which would incite violence and lustful orgies. Of course the 3rd tone in a chord today is what all Western music, including hymns is based on.

            I believe that worship music should be scrutinised closely for it’s content, but to get up in arms because of what it sounds like is just a continuation of a sad and tired panic that has been perpetrated for thousands of years.

            Now, I’m not saying you don’t have a right to personal preference – I do love utilising hymns as part of the services I’m a part of (in fact next week we are putting on a service looking at the development of worship music from hymns to what is being produced today – ironically the heart we have for the service is that style is actually not that important and thus will change, but the heart of worship remains the same) – but I would not choose to go to a church that consists solely of hymns – it just doesn’t help me engage with the presence of God and worship Him fully (yes, it would be nice if I was a perfect Christian who didn’t have a preference, but it looks like we both do, and while I won’t go into the theology of it, that’s actually okay).

            What I would suggest to you, though, is that not enjoying a style, and not getting something out of it personally, does not inherently make it unbiblical. I think we are too quick to throw ‘it’s unbiblical’ around when really we should be saying ‘I don’t like it’.

            May I suggest that you open heartedly check out Hillsong’s collected blog site? There they actually contain teaching and ‘song stories’ for many of the songs they write and talk about the theology and inspiration for their music. You may not like the style (and you don’t have to) but I honestly think you would come away rethinking your belief that modern worship is vapid and without heart and soul. Here is one example –

            i would also suggest checking out A New Liturgy – this has been put together by some of the creative people out of Willow Creek. It’s a really interesting re-look at liturgy and how it can bring us to a greater understanding of God, but it uses more modern worship styles as it’s musical backbone.


            I hope that you get something out of this – not so that you would necessarily embrace a new style of worship if you have one that truly works for you – but that so you would begin to see that your brothers and sisters in Christ are actually on the same journey, learning the same things, experiencing the same God, and that is something to be celebrated!

          • Ken says

            Some of you might want to read a book called “Fools’ Gold”, edited by John MacArthur. It deals with a number of issues facing the church these days, and MacArthur contributed a chapter on the controversy over traditional / contemporary worship. It’s a remarkably balanced treatment of the subject, and his opinion might surprise you.

  17. Dan Moore says

    I am a victim of a church split caused by the worship wars. I’m a boomer. I never saw a problem with the old hymns. The challenge was finding someone to play some of the hymns in a proper tempo. Too often service music reminded me of a funeral parlor. All glum and somber. With the praise and worship folks, there are several challenges. One is pride. We tried twice to have a proper praise team and finally after two conflicts I realized the teams were very selfish and it was all about them and not Him. Another challenge is volume. The last two worship services I attended with a praise team leading music was the loudness. I could not hear people singing over the drums, booming base, and screaming guitars. Sound control is so vital to the music in the church. I learned from my pastor long ago to have a plan for worship that integrates all the music, songs, scripture, and sermon under one theme. Worship is simply giving God honor in all we do and music is really just a small part of it. One observation from the Gospels I find is that Jesus is recorded as singing one psalm as He left the last supper to go pray. His emphasis was teaching what was right, preaching the truth, and healing the hurts. And saving the lost! All to the glory of the Father.

    • Philippa says

      “One observation from the Gospels I find is that Jesus is recorded as singing one psalm as He left the last supper to go pray.”

      Bible scholars say that Jesus and His disciples sang Psalms 113–118, known as “the little Hallel” and sung as one psalm on the evening of Passover (and indeed at other Jewish festivals). So the text is correct to describe this as ‘one psalm’. :)

      “Worship is simply giving God honor in all we do and music is really just a small part of it.”

      Totally agree. :)

  18. Rick says

    While I would like this to be so, it is simply more compromise to keep the “squeaky wheels” from squeaking. The war is not because of music, it is a heart issue and will not simply “go away”. Maybe it’s time to preach before singing, so that the heart is prepared to sing instead of music preparing the heart to hear?

  19. Matt Rouse says

    Hazard pay? How about legal contracts for worship pastors? I’ve served in 5 different churches and have been fired twice – and that done illegally (that’s another issue to warn churches about). The 1st time I was fired was for alerting in private the fact that a staff member’s wife and a deacon were having an affair and had been caught. The 2nd time had so many trumped up charges over style and management (never mind God had grown the worship ministry by double in size) that pastoral jealousy was the clear, underlying issue. And it is to this that I have given my life for ministry? No thank you. Not unless I have a clear legal agreement beforehand. Worship wars will continue in many churches until (1) the church gets off its inward focused approach and begins to see the vast lost world around them, (2) prima Dona artists walk in humility, (3) and a majority of church members/believers understand what it means to ask for God to move with His power through worship. In fact, wars cease in the presence of the Almighty. But too many have offended Him too much to even understand that. “Ichabod” is all that can be said of far too many churches – all because of grave offenses against God over our approach to Him in worship.

    • Alan says

      Someone said there would be wars and rumors of wars until He returned! Nice try though. I think you’re right, though. The thread of spats above represents the remnants, not the whole. The parts of CCC that are lacking in substance are gradually being recognized and released by solid churches. Those clinging to old hymnody only to protect their comfort zone are fading by attrition. Those remaining in healthy congregations are aware of far more grave battle lines being drawn in our culture, and around the world. Worship wars did not exist in the Coliseum or the catacombs.

    • says

      I was thinking the same thought as I read these comments, Thom. Maybe this whole conversation has more to do with us learning how to love and trust each other more as we grow and mature than it does the merits of a particular expression of worship.

    • Slade says

      My sentiments exactly. Bring this group together and what do you get…a worship war. Wow. I am appalled at how some good information quickly turned sour. Father forgive each of us during those times we create division rather than unity in love. Glorify yourself through each of us this day forward…

  20. Phil says

    Beloved of God, each of you have spoken out of your desire to get it right for God. That is commendable. But let’s turn to the Lord for His desire. Jesus said that the Father desires those who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. God is seeking us out. He is looking beyond the tattered jeans and expensive suits and ties. He’s looking at our hearts. He alone has the right to determine who is truly worshiping Him. We should not try to take Hi place in being the judges. Our disagreements in styles of worship dishonour a God who made all of us with different passions and longings. My personal belief from the scripture is that worship starts in our heart. That should arise from our personal times of meeting with the Lord. If we worship Him in Spirit and Truth n our prayer closets, we will have no trouble in bringing our collective worship when we gather together as ONE BODY. I am part of a 24 hour worship time where 12 teams come together to continue the worship every 2 hours. The worship time is representative of at least 12 different nationalities, more than a dozen worship styles and both, joyful and meditative. Not one church knows the other. Yet there is a thread of worship linking each church to the other. Prophecies have flowed, dancers have give great honor to the Lord and the intercessors have cried for their cities. The result: a second set of 24 hour worshipers in starting in February of 2014 and already the commitment is overwhelming. Let’s trun to the |Lord, my beloved. He said the Holy Spirit would be our Helper. Let’s take His help in worshiping. Remember, He is so different and unpredictable that Jesus said He was like the wind that no one can tell where He blows. Worship is to connect us to our Lord. Get connected and you will be used for His glory. The Lord started this all when He said to Pharaoh ” let my people go that they may worship me”. Don’t allow the enemy to bring you into bondage in the place of worship. The war should end because, when we war, there has to be a winner and a loser. That will bring pride and division. Isn’t that what Lucifer tried to do? Shame Him now. The |Lord has given us the power to aware of his wiles and defeat Him. It means dying to ourselves and being alive to God.

  21. says

    While I do field weekly complaints, overall, I have sensed a settling and unity in churches where I have been serving as worship leader in recent years. I think Rainer’s 3 points are interesting. I pray the next generation will improve in this area.

    Warren Wiersbe says, “No generation has arrived. Every generation gains and loses something.” Maybe Gen X/Millennials will fight less about worship/music (I pray so), but there will be other challenges/weaknesses to address in the years to come. Lord, purify your church and make her holy.

  22. Ken says

    Though I’m a die-hard traditionalist, I have no quarrel with contemporary worship per se. Anything that’s new and innovative in Christian music has always been the target of criticism, and that includes many of the hymns and gospel songs that I dearly love. My problem with contemporary worship is that many of its proponents refuse to acknowledge the validity of any other kind of worship.

    Do you think I’m overstating my case? I attended my state convention this week, and I heard the usual defenses of contemporary worship: “It’s not about you”, and “God can be worshiped in many ways”, and “Variety is the spice of life”, yet the music in the services was exclusively contemporary. That’s the way it’s been for the seven years I’ve attended these conventions. Aren’t they sending kind of a mixed message? Am I the only one who sees the wanton hypocrisy in that attitude?

    Let me say again, I’m not against contemporary music as such. I would be against eliminating contemporary worship from our state meetings altogether, as that would be unfair to the people that like it. However, is it too much to ask that they show SOME consideration to us traditionalists?

  23. Marcia says

    I have really enjoyed reading this discussion…so many quickly turn mean, biting, name calling but this one hasn’t….great discussion and information. On the subject of dress at church, we always had our kids dress in their “Sunday clothes” even when they balked. We explained that we are going to meet God and worship Him. Out of respect, we should want to look our best. I used weddings as an illustration..where people dress up out of respect for the people marrying. Another illustration…we had an opportunity to go the White House. We knew it would be a very outside chance to actually meet the president. But in case we did, I wanted to look nice. So our family left our jeans behind. Others who were with us did not and on our way home they expressed their shame that they were not dressed better when they met the president.

  24. Janice Howes says

    I’m 79 years old and my appendages complain so I sit during song services, People standing in front of me block the words on the overhead projector. I can only see a sea of bottoms. Unfamiliar words and tunes, combined with a slow memory prevent me from being a part. But I can close my eyes and love Jesus. I thank Him that others seem to be uplifted by the songs they are singing. I believe that much of the “music” is of very poor quality, and much too loud. Why have worship teams? Isn’t one leader enough? Why do the “performers” have to be on the stage? I love it when people dance, but not as if they are in a show. When attendance is down and I get a glimpse of the “stage” I wonder why they are there. Why?

    • Interested Reader says

      That is a real pity that you have to suffer this in your church. I hope worship leaders and churches are paying attention to the seniors in their congregation. I believe morning worship services should carry a large selection of FAMILIAR hymns and choruses and worship songs, and only gradual inclusion of new songs to the collection. Just because all these worship songs are out there to be sung, does not mean they have to be introduced in one year. I attended a worship service once and they sang 1 song, 1 song that I knew, and it was “I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all”. They did not even sing the verses to the hymn, and then they launched into a ear splitting series of “worship” tunes, with “solos” and “choir” performances, that completely alienated the congregation sitting there. It was truly a show. I just don’t understand how this can be called worship. It is a concert, and not a good one at that. If we cannot get together and sing praises together something has gone wrong in your church. Vote with your feet, and form a hymn singing – familiar choruses singing time at an alternate location on Sunday morning.
      If you don’t have enough people in a church of 600 to do that, ask the church administration or volunteer yourself to put together a physical song book of all the songs you are currently signing (with their melody line). People can have access to these at church, and buy personal copies for home. This way, when an unfamiliar song is sung, you can sing it again at home, like the old hymn books. Many churches forget that hymn books were often in the hands of the people. Currently, overhead projectors have kept the cost down allowing churches to sing load of new songs without have to print them. Maybe they could distribute them via iphones if you are into that, or have ereaders available for seniors to view the songs on. Where there is a will, there is a way!

      • Ken says

        Alas, both of you have hit on another problem that I have with proponents of contemporary worship (see my comments above). When older members ask for music they like they’re frequently told, “This isn’t about you!”, or “This is what the younger people like. Get over it!” I once heard a nationally-known speaker say he just wishes the people who complain about contemporary music would just go away (he said it at a state convention, no less!). I’m only 46 years old, but that comment really rubbed me the wrong way. Doesn’t Scripture command us to respect the older members of the church?

  25. Sue says

    I actually never experienced worship wars until we became Southern Baptists & moved to KY for seminary in 2001. Being from WA state and attending a non denominational church for 12 years, seeing a congregation get uptight over the style of worship was quite foreign to me. I’m not saying we’re better up in the NW, but if we’re hung up on the music then we move on to a church that’s a better fit worship-wise so long as they are faithfully preaching the Word.

    A few years ago, we moved to South Florida to be part of a non-denominational church like the the one we left in Seattle. The worship was quite dynamic, showy and rather distracting. It was almost offensive. In my heart I wanted to leave and I struggled for about 3 months. I felt very judgmental and I sensed the Lord’s displeasure toward my critical spirit. Just because I liked a more simplistic way of worship didn’t necessarily mean it was better. I decided to push through my preferences and embrace a worship that God had shown me he was clearly blessed by. And you know what? I learned to love it! I’m actually ashamed now that I was such a stinker about it. It’s been 3 years since we were a part of that church and I look back at that time with fond memories to which the worship outside my comfort zone had much to do with those good times.

  26. says

    I know I’m entering this discussion late and probably after it’s over, but I just read this piece and while I agree with each point, I’m not so hopeful the the battle over worship styles will end any time during this age. This battle has been going on for a at least 2000 years and will probably continue until the coming kingdom. This is the same issue raised by the Samaritan woman at the well in her conversation with Jesus in John 4. People have always assumed that their own personal preferences were the most godly, and God-honoring, but
    the painful reality is that if one is willing to make music style the hill on which to die, their problem is not how they worship, but rather who they worship.

  27. Catherine Coblentz says

    I like the pastor’s comments – for me it is about God’s love to me and Him forgiving my sin. I still, however, cannot get over the fact that style is too powerful AND too influential. The thought that someone would kill themselves after hearing a song (lyrics) to do so? Left-brain, right-brain issues. I think of music therapy; it is literally healing. There’s more to this than our selfish, sinful nature.


  1. […] 3 Signs That Worship Wars May Be Ending – We all rejoice when wars in. In the church, we should rejoice all the more when unnecessary and truly silly wars end. Worship wars have plagued many churches for as long as I can remember. They have been a dark mark on the church in the 21st century. However, Thom Rainer sees the light. He gives three hopeful reasons for why this worship wars may be coming to an end. […]

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