I loved reading books by Chuck Swindoll during my college years. Indeed a number of his books had a profound impact on my life. Just recently, I read one of his new releases, The Church Awakening: The Urgent Call for Renewal. Swindoll devotes the fourth chapter to worship and makes some profound observations about worship wars in the church today.
Early on, Swindoll talks about the difference between the essence of worship and the expression of worship. The ESSENCE of worship has to do with our internalizing our adoration. He defines it as “a clear, definitive, conscious connection with the living God.”
The EXPRESSION of worship moves us into the outward forms of worship…the ways we express our praise to God. That may be as varied as whatever culture is expressing it. (See also the previous post on missionary mindset.)
Swindoll says that Worship Wars occur when people clash over the expression of worship. To get a taste of Swindoll’s writings, read through the following quotes:
What God intended for His glory and for our corporate and personal growth—worship—has been transformed from a soul-deep commitment to an ugly, carnal fight.
If there is anything that brings delight to Satan, it is the disruption of the worship of God.
When any man-made tradition or expression of worship—old or new—is held on equal par with the Scriptures, we have gone too far. When we demand our own tradition—be it one of music, dress, … you name it—the requirement we insist on results in nothing less than legalism.
When a sense of personal preference lords over biblical priorities, the worship of God is vain and meaningless.
Christ’s plan for the church is not uniformity…not unanimity…but unity. When you are connected with the traditions of men, you are soon being told to get in line.
When nonessentials threaten unity, they should die.
Swindoll goes on to give examples of nonessentials: guitars, pipe organs, pianos, a cappella singing, choirs in robes, full orchestra, full band, praise ensembles, pews, no pews, etc.
Christians’ love for one another should be preeminent. Christian unity and genuine worship can only occur in a context of love.
James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
When self-centered desires reign supreme, there will never be unity in the body of Christ, much less in worship. But when self-sacrifice is the priority, unity falls into place.
Any expression of music can be used potentially to worship God—but we must stay sensitive to cultural tastes.
What we want to cultivate in our churches: Not a group of selfish people who come together to be entertained, but a body of selfless believers who are learning how to worship God as a lifestyle.
Lots of insightful thoughts. Next week I will begin to share with you my inner struggles around the issues of worship styles and my thoughts on what churches should be considering as they determine what style or styles of worship they should offer.
Kenny Lamm, senior consultant for worship and music for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is a frequent worship conference leader with a strong focus on equipping leaders in North Carolina (USA) and Southeast Asia. His blog, Renewing Worship, features posts that explore ways to renew–impart new life and vigor to–the worship in the local church.