I was recently at a conference and attended a workshop about worship. The conference began with what some would call “contemporary” worship. I quote the word contemporary because everyone has a different definition for what that really means. The workshop was well done and the content was solid. At the end, there was a time of Q and A. Some people questioned the church for reading scripture on the screen instead of passing out Bibles. Another person quite dramatically went to the front of the room and took the microphone to get their “two cents” in. He began to criticize churches who have a “contemporary” style and began to say that every church that he’s ever been in that had “contemporary” music, the congregation didn’t sing or would only mouth the words. I immediately thought to myself, “obviously this guy has never been to my church.” He further stated that by not giving the congregation printed music, we were “dumbing down” worship.
That comment took me a second to digest. How do you dumb down worship? What does that even mean? Does worship have to be intelligent in order for God to receive it? Can we be so arrogant to think that anything that we offer is intelligent when we compare ourselves to the infinite knowledge of our Creator?
It was obvious that this person had an opinion on “Contemporary” worship and it wasn’t necessarily a good one. I was kind of sad that this person felt like there was only one good way to connect with God. That he somehow believed that our God of infinite possibilities would somehow limit acceptable worship to one style even though God Himself created all styles. As I reflect on the coming Holy Week, I am reminded that Jesus is the way. Not music. Not a style. Not an order of worship. Not even the Bible.
We have been in the middle of the “Worship Wars” for years as each coming generation finds a new and seemingly controversial way to express their love for God. When did worship become the things we did and not the posture of our hearts? Why is it OK to sing How Great Thou Art now with an organ or piano but 40-50 years ago (i could be off….I wasn’t around then), it wasn’t? Why is it even OK to sing How Great Thou Art when it wasn’t written until 1953? How did people worship before 1953!? The same goes for every other expression/ song of worship.
I don’t think that Traditional worship is “dumb.” I don’t think that any version of “contemporary” worship is “dumb.” I don’t think that 1st century middle eastern worship is “dumb”. I don’t believe in “dumb” worship or “dumb” worshipers. I believe in worship from the heart whether it’s singing How Great Thou Art or How Great is Our God or any other song that fixes your eyes on the glory of Jesus Christ. Let’s stop the name calling and finger pointing over worship style. For every finger pointing out, there are likely more pointing back.