When I hear the old stories of the “Worship Wars” as some older pastors call them, I am perplexed, confused and deeply annoyed. Hearing retellings of those primordial tales reminds me of the ancient wars mentioned and referenced but not entirely fleshed out in certain sci-fi/fantasy movies. The “Clone Wars” from Lucas’s imagination or the”Time War” from the Whovian’s corner of fandom come to mind. Ancient wars where blood was shed, old characters lives were altered forever but to the present day participant we really don’t know what went on. It can be very much like listening to your grandpa ramble on and on about The ‘Nam while he slips in an out of lucidity.
That’s how I feel about the late 80’s and early 90’s war that went on in many churches all over America over the deeply secondary issue of Hymns versus Chorus’s. This was no small deal to them. Churches split over this. Pastors lost jobs, left the ministry and families were literally destroyed in some instances; all the while I can picture Jesus in heaven with his hand over his face like Jean Luc Picard in all of those snarky face palm internet memes. Some of the stories I hear are flat out absurd, sad and tragic. There are pastors who react to a person picking up a guitar in a church like somebody pulling the pin from a grenade.
I heard that the worship wars are over, mostly. Other than a few crazy vets from either side still battling it out like soldiers who never got the message that the Civil War was over, it’s mostly done. We’ve moved on to other fights and small battles. Appearance is still a big deal. One of my youth group girls recounted a story of being at a summer camp where, during the message the speaker looked into the crowd and publically called her “a blue haired harlot on the path to Hell” due to the visible coloring of her hair and her Blink 182 shirt. Nice job man, really furthering the Kingdom with those remarks.
The spirit of the Worship Wars is alive and well. Don’t worry, this generation will grow old and fight battles over frivolous issues that will directly, negatively impact the possibility of many coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ, of this I am sure.
I heard a story from a friend about his grandmother who in 1992, while the Worship War was poised to consume her church she said “I’ve had my time, it’s not my style; but it’s not about me, it’s about saving souls for Jesus.” She realized that the style of the church can change yet the spirit of the church never should.
I have two adult leaders who are in their 60’s. They are the much needed grandparents of the youth and they fill that role admirably. The students love them. They impart wisdom and kindness in the most non-judgmental ways. I’m sure they would be happier singing an old, organ fueled rendition of “It Is Well” however I have caught glimpses of them worshiping to David Crowder, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin.
When we are old and grey may remember that style is fleeting and secondary; Spirit is key.