Friday, 22 July 2011

Declaring a ceasefire on the Worship Wars!

While seems like the Worship Wars have gone cold I would like to go a step further and propose a ‘conservative’ troop withdrawal. You see while the shots may have gone quiet, ‘checkpoint Charlie’ still exists in our minds but its time for the wall to come down. 

However, before I go any further... a confession. I have not always been a conscientious objector when it has come to the conflict. I have been known to enjoy a good grumble at those who abuse words like ‘worship’ with reckless abandon.
But when it comes to the worship wars I think the battle has moved on and those of us on the more conservative end of the spectrum need to lay down on arms, take a deep breath and count to ten. For the following reasons:

First 'Worship' is a better word than 'praise'.
Perhaps it's just me but 'time of praise' to me feels a little bit insipid, a watered down version of the passion and abandon which may be observed in other corners of the church family. Moreover, worship is a right response to God and it is what we are doing when we sing... so why not call it that? If worship is simply ascribing worth to someone or something then surely that is what the heavenly host are doing in Revelation 4 and 5 as they sing "Worthy!". Therefore, our singing here on earth joins with that eternal song and is to be rightly called worship!

Second I am convicted that there is something special about corporate worship which is not present when we are the scattered people of God. We meet in our churches as a foretaste of that heavenly gathering when we will perfectly worship our God eternally. Additionally our coming together has only been made possible by the new life given to us in Christ, therefore it is right to celebrate with our new family, to lift our hands in worship and adoration.

Third At this point the conservatives begin to twitch and say, "but worship is all of life!”
This is true and perhaps our more charismatic brothers and sisters have, by implication, defined 'worship' in unhelpfully narrow terms. But not all those in the charismatic camp believe exactly the same thing. For sure there are those who make sung worship the be all and end all. Yet at the same time there seems to be those who are perfectly aware that our whole life is to be a "spiritual act of worship" (Rom. 12:2).

So perhaps we conservatives should be quick to adopt an attitude of generosity, being prepared to give the benefit of the doubt that when they sing "Come, now is the time to worship" they don't mean that 47 seconds before, it wasn't!

Moreover, to jump off the deep end when we are not clear how an individual or a church contextualizes the word ‘worship’ theologically means that we are in danger alienating brothers and sisters who would otherwise be co-workers for the sake of the gospel. Appearing more interested in semantics than souls (I'm not saying that's the case, but perhaps perception can reflect reality).

Please, let us strive to be doctrinally orthodox, praise God for the theological bloodhounds who can smell a heretic a mile away... but let's just make sure we don't end up mauling friends just because they talk about the 'worship' and not a ‘hymn sandwich’.