Some years ago, I was asked by a Mid-Western based Pentecostal denomination to write an article using the title “Worship Wars.” It was interesting to see those two words side-by-side. To compile the article, I chose to draw some lessons from the Abraham, Isaac, and Mt. Moriah story found in Genesis 22.
I found it significant to read that just prior to climbing Mt. Moriah, Abraham made the statement to his traveling assistants, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship and come again to you.” Then the text reveals in verse 8 that both of them went “together.”
When preaching from that text, I attempt to press the point that two individuals from two different generations found a way to climb the same mountain and participate in and experience worship “together.”
Attempting to use a lighthearted, yet what I hope is a clear illustration, I try to point out that Abraham didn’t climb alone with a Red Back Hymnal tucked under his arm, worship, and come back saying to Isaac, “Now it’s your turn.” Nor did Isaac climb alone with his iPod with ear buds firmly pressed into his ears while dancing up the hill to “Jesus Culture, Hillsong or Planetshakers,” yet refusing to allow for his father’s contribution to the experience.”
It didn’t happen that way. Abraham and Isaac found a way to climb the mountain and worship together.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that for several years I’ve been involved in writing and singing what most would know as Southern Gospel Music. Some would call it Traditional Gospel, I suppose. Yes, I admit I do enjoy it. It evokes a lot of good memories for me and quite honestly, it’s paid a few bills and helped send my girls to school. Southern Gospel songs are typically what I call testimony, story, and message songs about Jesus and the Christian life.
It hasn’t been broadly known, but I’ve also written what some would refer to as Contemporary Christian Songs and once did an entire Praise and Worship project. I enjoyed that, as well. It was an opportunity to write songs that would be sung “to” the Lord in worship. To hear these praise and worship songs rendered in the languages of the nations is something I never tire of.
With that said, I think I can write with some sense of experience with the subject of worship conflicts, and here’s what I’ve observed. I’ve seen both the Abraham and Isaac generations get it right and I’ve also seen them get it wrong—it doesn’t have as much to do with style, lyrics, rhythm, or age as it typically has to do with attitude, humility, and a willingness, or not, to allow for one another’s expressions of heartfelt worship to the Lord.
You’ve probably heard me jest that it’s my opinion “God taps His feet to good ole Southern Gospel.” That line usually gets a chuckle and a smattering of polite applause at a Senior Adult Convention and even in some churches. However, if I used that line at a Winterfest, you and I both know I’d be run out of Knoxville on the first Quartet Prevost bus coming through, if they even knew what I was talking about. The truth is, regardless of style, I’m convinced that if a lyric honors the Lord Jesus and the song is presented in a way that also honors Him, then our Heavenly Father is surely to be pleased.
Church marketing specialists will possibly differ with me, but I believe that balance can be found, Christ can be exalted, and a church doesn’t have to be divided over stylistic issues as it relates to music. A church focused on the Great Commission should find little time to be easily ensnared with conflicts built only around musical preferences.