By: Dave Illingworth
Getting it wrong: “No!” yells a congregation member after the worship leader asks if they should sing again the praise song “Draw Close to Me.”
Getting it right: Apostle Paul wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)
My father was a Presbyterian minister. As a preacher’s kid, I had a front-row seat to the “worship wars.” How my brothers and I dressed, acted in church, and did in school was always closely watched. My father’s sermons were critiqued weekly, and my mother was expected to constantly entertain and be everyone’s best friend. But the music is what gave me my first taste of church politics and how nasty the worship wars can really be.
In the early ’60s, the church music director resigned, and a younger man was hired. He and my father decided to try something different for the Easter service and brought in trumpets to augment the choir—which created a huge uproar. My father was so upset by the congregation’s criticism of the music that it was many years before he tried anything like that again.
Things haven’t changed. Even after my experiences as a preacher’s kid, I find myself falling into the same trap. After the service, we gather as a congregation outside and whisper to each other, “Did you like the sermon? Interesting? Boring?” or “What did you think of the music?” The older generation wants traditional music; the younger wants praise music. Organ? Piano? Band? Too many songs or too few? I find myself leaving the church service disappointed if it didn’t meet my standards, like I’m some kind of professional critic reviewing a movie.
It seems to me I have forgotten the real war is in the world outside where I am being asked to advance God’s kingdom on earth. I have personal preferences based on my age, upbringing, education, and ethnicity. I realize I need to embrace diversity and recognize that my view of God is too small. I must fight this urge to be a talent judge and instead work together in peace, encouraging other followers.
Maybe I need to act more like Jesus—to use my relationships in church to love rather than judge those conducting the service and to focus my attention on helping those outside the church come to know Jesus and have hope.