worship wars

Is It Time for a New Worship War?

Rich Birch wonders if the “Modern Worship Crowd” is holding onto its approach in the same way the “Hymns & Organ Crowd” did?

The first church I served at was in the middle of a worship war when I started there. It was like a cold war with a lot of passive-aggressive leadership on both sides of the debate. The “Hymns & Organ Crowd”declared that their music was rich with theological significance, whereas the“Praise Chorus Crowd” was fervently committed to introducing new songs with more current sounds that connected with people personally.

It all seems so long ago. In fact, it seems like ancient history. I’ve invested the majority of my ministry career in churches with attractional music environments that are targeted at connecting with the next generation. I’m honored to serve with some of the best musicians out there. They are passionate about creative musical experiences that engage with people and move them closer to God. The “new norms” of this approach to musical worship are:

  • Electric-guitar driven // The leaders are typically behind a guitar and the sound is based around that instrument.
  • Bands // We have a group of 5 to 8 people on stage: lead vocal, background vocal, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboard and drummer.
  • Video-augmented experiences // There are screens in all of our environments that display not just the lyrics but also other visuals that support the message of the song.
  • It’s loud // We aim for 95 dBa … loud enough to make the room feel full. (Also loud enough to get regular complaints about the volume and the need for our guest services team to have ear plugs on hand.)

We should always remain “open-handed” in our methods while being “closed-handed” on the message. I wonder if it’s time to reinvent a “new norm” of musical worship. Have we wedded our method too closely to our message? Do we need to dream a new dream in musical worship?

Or maybe … is it time to wage a new worship war? For the sake of the next generation, do we need to ask fundamental questions about our approach to ensure that we’re connecting with them? Is today’s “Modern Worship Crowd” holding onto its approach in the same way the “Hymns & Organ Crowd” did so many years ago … looking down their noses at what was coming next? Here are some signs that convince me we need to be looking ahead to what’s next:

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