Updated: Aug 18, 2022
The term “worship wars” has reached a level of exhaustion that elicits eye rolls whenever mentioned. You may have even thought, “here we go again” as you read the title. Seeing the subject now may even cause you to dig into your side of the trench a little deeper and get ready for battle. I’m not here to criticize your position. Nor do I want to try to persuade you one way or the other. As someone who has at different times in my life championed both the traditional and contemporary side of the discussion, I want to share what I was missing on both sides.
Our church’s worship music is only a fraction of the life of worship we are called to live.
Worshipping is an every moment of every day kind of action. It’s not just Sunday mornings, our Bible reading time, or our car ride jam sessions. We are to worship God in all aspects of life. If we don’t understand what true worship is in our life as a whole, we can’t begin to understand what our worship music should look like. We must first grasp how to worship the right way with our entire life. Jesus gives a clear explanation of what worship is supposed to look like when speaking with the woman at the well in John 4. He makes a clear point the Father is seeking true worshippers. What makes a “true worshipper”? He explains a true worshipper is someone who worships the Father in spirit and in truth. As we seek to worship God in any way, these are two elements we must understand.
Worship In Spirit
Our worship must be intimate. When Jesus says we must worship in spirit, this directly speaks to the ability we have, as children of God, to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 tells us we are to be filled with the Spirit in such a way that He directly influences every aspect of our life. When we look at the examples of great Gospel witnesses in the book of Acts, such as Stephen, we often see them in a state of “being full of the Holy Spirit”.
Worshipping in spirit only happens when we are purposefully living our life submitted to the Spirit’s direction. To live life this way does not happen naturally for us. Paul tells us to not “quench the Spirit”. Our natural selves do not allow the Spirit to rule in our lives. Being in the Spirit requires a closeness that only comes from a relentless pursuit of knowing and loving God in a deeper way each day. It’s a journey that lasts a lifetime.
A true worshipper is someone who purposes to be filled with the Spirit by passionately pursuing an intimate relationship with the Father.
Worship In Truth
Our worship must be authentic. We see the woman at the well, and the Samaritans, did not understand worship. The woman took issue with where to worship but Jesus took issue with the ignorance of her worship. He says “you worship what you do not know”. The truth of her worship was missing. “Salvation is from the Jews”. The way of salvation was to come from the Jews, the Messiah. He stood before the woman as the only object worthy of her worship. This is worshipping in truth.
When the object of our worship is solely fixed on the One who is worthy, we are true worshippers. It’s easy to lose the focus of our worship to things that are irrelevant. The woman’s concern was where and how to worship. She worshipped on the mountain where they stood but the Jews ridiculed them for not truly worshipping because it was not in Jerusalem.
Too often we get caught up with the where and how to worship. The hour has come where we now worship with the entirety of our life. Romans 12:1 tells us a life lived worshipping is the only logical response to the gift of the Gospel.
A true worshipper is someone who is authentically lifting all glory to God in every area of life.
Intimate and Authentic Worship
The church’s worship music must be a reflection of a life lived in intimate and authentic worship. I’ve often struggled with the disingenuous feel of modern worship. I’m not of fan of the “showy culture” that is common among the style. I’ve had the same struggle with the monotony of traditional worship. To sing certain songs just because they have been around for an ambiguous certain amount of time is trivial.
There are pros and cons on both sides. The problem is not with the which style of worship is correct. The problem is when our preferred worship music style is missing intimacy and authenticity. Both traditional and contemporary worship is powerful when it is intimate and authentic.
Don't sing something because “x church” or “x fellowship” does or does not. If your people powerfully worship through hymns, lift those songs up and sing them at the top of your lungs. If the newest song from Passion connects with your people, sing it in a way your people can lift it up heartily. It’s going to be different in every church. That’s the beauty of the local church. We may look a little different but we all have the same mission. Purpose to establish the right way of worship, an intimate and authentic style of worship, both in the church and in your life.
One Big Idea: True worship is not about your songs or style, but rather, is your worship intimate and authentic.