Written by cycleguy on January 15th, 2014

If you have been around churches long enough, like say the past 10 years or so, you already know about the Worship Wars as they have been called. No, it isn’t one church duking it out with another church. It isn’t even people within a particular denomination going UFC with each other. The Worship Wars tend to be focused around music. It generally was centered on that “new music” versus that “old music.” Those who wanted the new worship music were considered heretics because they wanted to play, listen and worship to “music from the devil.” Meanwhile, those who wanted the old music were accused of being stodgy, tired old stick in the mud’s who wanted to hold the church back or at least keep it in days of Peter and Paul (you know…it was good for Paul and Silas and its good enough for me).

I wish I could write this and say the Worship Wars are over, that we have come to a peace about it all. The lion has laid down the lamb sort of thing. Admittedly, it has in some places and in some churches. In an effort to appease, many churches have gone to “blended worship.” For many, that is working.

Somehow I really don’t think God gives a rip which style of music a church plays, as long as it honors Him. I know what I like and what will work for OVCF here in Spencer, IN. Sometimes what I like is not what will work. Okay, most of what I like will not work.  🙂 I also know what won’t work. The people here will put up with a more uptempo, rock-oriented style before they will ever (and I do mean ever) consider rap or r&b as the music of choice. I visited with a couple yesterday who prefer country gospel. But they worship with us.

Perhaps you have seen this before. If not, then I give it to you for your perusal:


1.  It’s too new, like an unknown language.

2. It’s not as melodious as the more established style.

3. There are so many songs that it is impossible to learn them all.

4. It creates disturbances and causes people to act in an indecent and disorderly manner.

5. It place too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on godly lyrics.

6. The lyrics are often worldly, even blasphemous.

7. It is not needed, since preceding generations have gone to heaven without it.

8. It is a contrivance to get money.

9. It monopolizes the Christian’s time and encourages them to stay out late.

10. These new musicians are young upstarts, and some of them are lewd and loose persons.

That about sums it up don’t you think?  Oh, in case you don’t know…these reasons were adapted from a 1723 statement directed against the use of hymns which are in many hymnals.

Yeah, times haven’t really changed have they? So…what do you think? What is your preferred style?


36 Comments so far ↓

  1. DLE says:

    As a longtime worship team member at two different churches, my thoughts:

    1. Too many of the latest songs are difficult for untrained singers to sing. They have vague melodies or have lyrics that require some gymnastics to make fit with the underlying rhythm.

    2. Men, especially, have been put off by this.

    3. Worship teams are obsessed with novelty, and they tend to debut too many new songs in an effort to keep up with releases. The people in the seats can’t keep up, nor do they end up “owning” those songs since they have no history with them and know that today’s hot song is the one no one will recall two years from now.

    4. Worship teams are not thinking about the people in the seats.

    5. We’re not finding a middle ground that includes songs that are favorites of the worship team because they are fun or challenging to play AND songs with lyrical depth that the people in the seats may like.

    • cycleguy says:

      Not much to say or argue about with this list Dan since everything you say tends to be true. Sadly, in way tooooo many churches worship music has become about performance than worship and heart. Thanks for a well-thought out comment.

  2. Daniel says:

    I love the list. Priceless image of hippies from the early 1700s flooded my mind.

  3. Caleb Suko says:

    Aaah, worship wars! Is there anything that makes a pastor’s heart sing like the thought of changing the music style in his church 😉

    I love those 10 reasons.

    I tend to like a broad range of music, a lot of it is more “contemporary” however I have a few hymns that I just love like “Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus” and then there’s the Russian woship music which is altogether different.

    • cycleguy says:

      I’m sure those same worship wars has crossed the Ukrainian church desk. 😉 I do have some favorite hymns as well. one of my favorites is “Great is Thy Faithfulness” (although the King James English kills me) and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

    • Zee says:

      Haha, Russian worship music that’s altogether different – know what you’re talking about, Caleb 😀

  4. I grew up on hymns. My church does praise and worship. I like a broad range of music and sometimes feel like I’ve worshiped after listening to U2. I don’t get worked up about it too much.

  5. jeff says:

    You will have some people that won’t like whatever music you use. You can’t please everyone.
    I think to a large degree it depends on the talent you have available. If you have a lot of talent you will have a pretty good show regardless of the genre. If there is no talent it will probably be not so good no matter the genre.
    If the idea is to get the “people in the seats ” to participate then it will probably be best to stick to what they know.
    In my opinion there is no worse library of music than a Methodist hymnal.
    And if you want to hear the best music with the most engaged congregation go to 2nd Baptist on Rogers St in Bloomington when college is in session and you will be amazed at how good it can be.
    I think most white people just aren’t all that good at performing music. Not enough soul I guess.
    I have always thought it would be a good idea, and probably a good fund raiser to set up a statewide contest similar to “American Idol” to compete for the best “Worship Team” in the state with Regional and State qualifying culminating in a musical extravaganza that would attract a lot of people and raise a lot of $$$.
    Even I could be persuaded to buy a ticket for that.

    • cycleguy says:

      you are so right Jeff. The sure way to failure is trying to please everyone. I am taking it 2nd is an African-American church? I have driven by the building. As for your idea: while it sounds like a good fund-raiser, I’m not sure it would be a good idea to give more credence to the performance role music tends to take. But I bet we would hear some good stuff. 🙂

    • Zee says:

      Borrowing one of Bill’s favorite phrases, “you hit the nail on the head,” Jeff, re: there will be always who doesn’t like it. Just recently a couple of older ladies approached me and started lecturing me on what “proper” worship music should be like. They compared it with Beethoven and Mozart, that they don’t go out of style, just like the old hymns.

  6. My style is a Bob Dylan, reggae mix…but that’s just me. 😉

  7. Bob Hollowell says:

    I have lived this the past 8 years, so I thought I’d post my thoughts.
    For the past 8 years I have played in a Bluegrass Gospel band that has played at an 8:00 am service (they call it their bluegrass service) at what I call our “sister church”. This particular church then also has a contemporary service from 9:30-10:30 and then a traditional service from 11-12. For 8 years this has worked very well. Only problem I can see is having a couple SS teachers so you can have a couple different times for classes..and (this is the big one) a preacher who is willing to preach at 3 different services. Ours has…and if you ask him I am sure he will tell you that it has all been worth it. When our morning Bluegrass service is done the band then goes to our home church and plays the 11 AM service. It has been taxing at times but has been worth it if you have folks willing to dedicate the time in all aspects of it. It has been a real blessing, not just to our band but all of those involved…from playing to attending.

    • cycleguy says:

      you make me tired Bob just in the telling. I admire your (and the team’s) dedication to leading worship in two different places. I had no clue it was that busy for you. 8 years is a loooong time to be involved in that scope of a ministry. But I love your heart and attitude. I also admire your pastor’s willingness to preach 3 times and to stretch himself. Bluegrass gospel is a unique style fit for the churches you visit. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      My comment: Bob is my brother-in-law who happens to be an Alabama fan (cuz he lives there). 🙂

  8. Kari Scare says:

    We definitely have the “Worship Wars” in my church. Our solution that seems to be working mostly is blended worship, though a long-standing, older couple left a year or so ago because we didn’t play enough southern style music. I grew up in a church that was all hymnal, organ-played music. Perspective does play into this for me personally for sure. But you’re right, as long as God is honored… Our pastor says that our church welcomes everyone but it’s not FOR everyone. In other words, not every church is a fit for every person for a variety of reasons.

    • cycleguy says:

      Sad when people leave over something so small. But your pastor is right in what he says. That is a great way to look at it. I hope that couple who left have found a spot to get involved and grow in their faith.

  9. David says:

    I had to laugh at that last paragraph. From 1723, really?

    Anyway, having played the piano at 3 different churches with 3 different belief operating systems(4 if you count the changing of the guard when the 2nd church I played at was absorbed by a larger church). I have lived through the worship wars and at times it was pretty contentious. Shame on us. I wonder what God thought about our pettiness. I think what bothered me most though, were the times when the worship leader wanted us to emulate the way the song sounded on the radio. For me it was always more enjoyable to let the natural dynamics, strengths and weaknesses of our team put their own little spin on the interpretation of the songs. I could go on, there’s a lot more, but I’ll spare you and your readers.

    Looking back though, I think a mix of some old hymns, some older “new” style songs and introducing brand new songs slowly was the most successful.

    • cycleguy says:

      David, you are the first one to even mention that! I thought it would be fodder for some talking point or joke. 🙂 I think what you say is so true. The natural dynamics of both the team and the church culture should come into play. Sensitivity to those two things are essentials. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Nancy says:

    You know, I really love the “Old Hymns.” You know, the ones us baby boomers grew up with…tradition. I sing loud and clear with these. The new ones are harder to sing and seem out of whack sometimes. I do have some new favorites and I love to watch the Praise team up front belting them out, faces beaming.

  11. tcavey says:

    I’ve known many people who can’t stand today’s worship music, they think it’s not as anointed (among other things).
    What they fail to see is that the music style they do like was once thought of in the same way.
    I got a laugh in your post that you got your list from a 1723 statement on music.

    • cycleguy says:

      you are the second to notice or mention the date. 🙂 I have a real problem with a song being “anointed” anyway. What does that mean? What makes a song anointed and another not?

  12. floyd says:

    I was blown away that the list was generated that long ago! People don’t change… I actually like it all, the new the old, the only thing that rubs me a little wrong is when they mix the two. The new rendition or verses and lyrics added to Amazing Grace hit me like nails on a chalk board, but I’m working on it!

    • cycleguy says:

      You are so right Floyd. People don’t change at all. We are like broken records. Aaaaah rats. You and I have found something to disagree on. I like the new verses added to Amazing Grace. 🙂 Glad we are still brothers though.

  13. Betty Draper says:

    Sometimes I would just like to sing without any instruments like Christ of Christ does. Nothing to take away from the beautiful words so they will sink into my souls and. you did come up with a pretty good list brother.

  14. Zee says:

    Considering that I used to play bass guitar and now sing in our worship team, I am a bit biased))) Jokes aside, I like pretty much all kinds of music (except the overly charismatic where you repeat the name Jesus over and over and over… I can only imagine my name being repeated so many times, and I feel somewhat sorry for Jesus… Same with singing Hallelujah 15 times in a row when it’s not a bridge that has been modified to fit the mood of the congregation…) I like hymns and I like contemporary worship. Over here, we have a LOT of Hillsong music, primarily because we’ve got a Hillsong Church here in Kyiv. There are good songs of theirs that I like, but there are some that are way too hard to sing because it’s either too high or too low (I know the tonality can be changed, but then you lower the chorus and the verses are too low and vice versa…)

    Oh well… But yeah. I guess the general rule here is “to each his / her own.” That said, I still would feel uncomfortable in a Charismatic / Pentecostal church. Granted, I would feel uncomfortable not just because of the songs.

    • cycleguy says:

      Repetition can be obnoxious. But you are also right about the difficulty of singing some of the songs. There are definitely some churches I would not be comfortable in.