Worship Wars – We won.  Or did we?

from from Alan Myatt

When I was in my 20s I was among those who fought for contemporary music in our worship. We were faced with the canonization of 19th century, John Philip Souza style marching hymns and 1930s southern gospel as the only acceptable music in the church. This was a musical style that we could not understand or relate to. We felt that by not having our music accepted, we were not really being accepted. I later learned that we were doing nothing new. Throughout the history of the church, new generations have struggled to win the privilege of contextualizing worship to its own culture. But, they each proceed to make that into THE worship style. I even warned my peers 35 years ago that if we won the worship wars we would face our grandchildren fighting the same battle against us if we were not careful.

After 30 years of playing in church praise bands, etc., I am still a supporter of contemporary worship. I have no intention of stopping or going back to the way it used to be. Also, for the record, I want everyone to know that I have never, ever been motivated by or cared the least about doing music in order to be “hip”, “relevant”, or as a means to attract young people to church or for any other gimmicky reason. My concern has only ever been to do music that creates authenticity in worship, and for me, that means using music that comes from the heart and soul. Generally, that means musical styles that I care about, that resonate the beauty of creation and of God, in my spirit. In that sense, I suppose, music should be relevant, and obviously what is relevant for one culture is not necessarily for all. That is why missiologists discuss contextualization.

Having said all that, I believe there are some badly needed changes in the world of contemporary worship that need to be implemented immediately. Here are some:


2 Responses

  1. Love almost all of your points.

    I get the hymnal …….primarily because my 83 year old dad hates the screen and misses the music reading from hymnals, but that’s almost a lost art these days. Also there is so much good music being written and you just have to play that stuff……. sometimes….. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!?!?!

    I guess you could have both.

    I’ve gone to church’s where the music was way to loud, and not loud enough. Having a great sound man is crucial, but very few exist, so sound is always a problem, UNLESS you have a great one.

    Loud enough to promote unfettered vocal worship, even from those who can’t sing a lick but soft enough to hear people around you if you pay attention.

    “b) Get the praise band off the stage and into an orchestra pit, out of sight at the side of the stage. If they are not the focal point, they cannot be confused with being performers. The musicians should be heard, but they do not need to be seen.”

    Not sure I totally agree with you on this, Because there is something about seeing leaders ‘actually worshipping’……… AND NOT PERFORMING.

    Being a musician, I readily admit to the performance/worship problem. Actual Worship……. I believe is very difficult to do in front of others, when the spot light is on you. I’ve struggled with that, and I love worshipping God especially in my car as drive to work, where I regularly tear up.

    I say that and then at the same time when I’m singing a really great harmony out in the congregation, I want someone to notice and say…. really only to themselves…….did you hear that guy singing?

    Ah Vanity!

    So just move me to a pit already….. actually make it single solitary rooms, at least for me. Then I can worship in Spirit and in Truth!

  2. I find that the temptation to concentrate on how great my guitar solo was when I know the congregation can see me appeals to my own vanity. We are all different, I suppose, but it would be helpful to me personally if I were off stage. As for the video screen, I would probably get rid of it altogether. After many years of teaching and preaching, I find more and more that power point is a hinderance unless used very sparingly. This really hit me when I realized that I was no longer concerned about taking my Bible to church, since the pastor would have the verses on power point anyway. I began to take notice of the large number of folks who no longer followed the sermon in their Bibles. While the power point may be helpful for seekers and new believers who don’t know where to find Nahum or Jude, it creates laziness among believers, along with a tendency to see verses outside of their context. It occurred to me later that the same could be said for hymns and praise choruses. The words are stripped out of the context of the written music.

    Well, these criticisms are directed at my own weaknesses. I do not intend to pontificate about what everyone else should do, but hopefully to provoke some thoughtful considerations. Thanks. A. Myatt

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