It happened again this morning. I was baited (alright, it was my decision) into reading another poorly thought out, badly researched article on worship music. Anyway, the comments section is what really got me. I was foolish enough to decide to read some of them, and they showed what I have been seeing more and more of in the past couple of years.
I like to call these things “mutual exclusivities” in worship. In other words, the two statements can’t both be true. They can’t exist together. Maybe people don’t necessarily believe the statement, or don’t mean the statement to be as extreme as it is, but the exclusivity does occur, and it is damaging. These statements are problematic when they have no Biblical basis, and stem completely from personal preference. Statements like…
“I just want worship, not loud music.”
“It was beautiful. They didn’t use any words on the screen, they just worshipped.”
“They put down the guitars and drums and entered into worship.”
“They used [insert preferred worship music style here], so it was really true worship.”
See what happened there? In each statement, the implication was that for worship to be true and real, the other thing cannot occur. They cannot exist together. There’s a whole mess of problems that arise with this way of thinking.
It demeans various styles, churches, and people
Let’s not pull any punches here. When we make statements that treat specific elements that people use in worship music as “never worshipful,” we demean various entities.
We demean the churches that use them: “Did you hear about that church down the street? They use drums, so it’s not real worship.”
We demean the worship leaders: “Did you see that worship leader? All those lights and smoke behind him…he’s not really worshipping, he’s just performing.”
We demean the people that prefer it: “You like that new music? It’s not real worship music, so you’re not really worshipping.”
In reality, most people won’t say anything like this. But when we make those mutually exclusive statements, the implication is there, and it’s just as damaging.
It hurts new Christians
Being a new Christian is confusing. Let’s face it, Paul calls new Christians spiritual infants for a reason. They’re just beginning to find their place in the world, look through a new set of eyes, and get their feet on the ground. So what happens when they hear statements that imply that certain elements of worship can’t exist together? They get more confused. Their minds begin to be molded around those statements, and they begin to form an limited or unbiblical view of worship. They begin to associate certain things with worship, and exclude everything else. It’s an easy problem to cause, but very difficult to fix.
It hurts reputations
There are several big problems facing the North American church, of which I’ll address a few sometime, but one is reputation. It is obvious that unchurched people often have a low opinion of the church. One common reason is that we can’t seem to get along. Rumors get spread, churches attack other churches, and the unchurched are caught in the crossfire. When we make these statements about what worship “can’t” be, we damage the reputation of other churches…and ourselves. I’ll put it to you this way: If a person comes up to me out of the blue and begins talking about how their doctor’s office is the only true way to practice medicine, and then begins bashing another office, I’m more unlikely to go to either. We do the same thing to the local church when we begin making accusations about whether or not they truly worship God, and it’s damaging to the spread of the Gospel. So be careful with what you say.