I am so glad that God did not call me to be a worship leader. I can’t sing to save my life and I’m not particularly gifted at playing any instrument. In all honesty, I’m not even a big fan of music (gasp). I would rather listen to a sermon or talk radio than to listen to music. I’m not the type that can sit around and listen to music played on the radio for hours at a time. My wife can play music in the house all day long and she loves it. I am usually begging her to turn it off after 5 minutes.
Needless to say, the type of music a church plays doesn’t bother me too much. I don’t care if it’s traditional or contemporary. I don’t care if they are singing out of a hymnal or if the words are flashed on to a projector screen. I don’t care if the song was written in 1815 or if it was written in 2015. No matter the age of the song, if the Holy Spirit led the writers to write them, they are still just as relevant for today as they were when they were written. So many Christians get caught up in the battle over traditional vs contemporary. One group says the new music is shallow, un-biblical, repetitive, etc. The other group says the old music is too traditional, unappealing to the younger generation, outdated, etc. This war has caused churches to split and for relationships to sour.
The Worship Wars have been going on even before the inception of the church. You can even find an example of The Worship Wars in the Bible! In John chapter 4, Jesus is having a conversation with a Samaritan woman. This woman perceives Jesus to be a prophet when he calls her out for her infidelity. In an attempt to change the subject, the Samaritan woman brings up a hotly debated topic as it regards worship at that time. John 4:20 records her words, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
The Samaritans believed that Mount Gerizim, the OT setting for the pronouncement of blessing for keeping the covenant (Deut. 11:29; 27:12), was the place where people ought to worship God. The Jews, however, believed that Jerusalem was the place that worship to God should occur. It was a contentious issue at the time. It was one of many issues that kept the Samaritans and the Jews divided. It was a topic that literally caused the Samaritans and the Jews to despise each other. Sound familiar?
Jesus responds by addressing the heart of the issue, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Jesus is telling the Samaritan woman that it doesn’t matter if you’re worshiping on Mount Gerizim or if you’re worshiping in the temple in Jerusalem, what matters is that you worship God in spirit and in truth.
But, what does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? Simply, our worship must be sincere, guided by the Holy Spirit, and based on the truth of God found in Scripture. Anything more than that isn’t true worship. The music we worship along with must also meet this criteria. If our worship is not in spirit and in truth then we are not really worshiping God. If our music focuses on anything other than the truth of God, then it needs to be tossed out, no matter what century it was written in. Our worship, and the music we worship along with, must be sincere and it must be biblical.
I know people who tell me they can’t worship when traditional music is played. I also know people who tell me they can’t worship when contemporary music is played. In this situation, the problem isn’t the music, it’s the people. I fear that people today are guilty of worshiping music more than they are of worshiping God. It’s okay to have a preference. I have a preference! It’s not okay for your worship to be hindered because the song being sung isn’t the style you prefer. If you can’t worship because the music is too traditional or because the music is too contemporary, then you are bordering on idolatry. Forget the mountain, forget the temple, worship God in spirit and in truth!
Josh Lowrance is a contributor from Authentic Christianity
This post was originally published at Authentic Christianity