Over my thirty-plus years in ministry one of the most troublesome issues has been what evangelicals call “worship wars” – the conflicts that arise over music in the church.  They’re nothing new;  in my reading I’ve found such conflicts back as far as the 16th and 17th century – and I’ll bet I wouldn’t have to look too hard to find it earlier than that.

Why such a fuss over music?

I believe it boils down to disagreements about the proper balance between the rational (thought) and the emotional (feeling) in our spiritual lives.  Both thinking and feeling are blended into all human existence, but they are blended in different proportions and with different emphases in different people and among different groups.

For some, the rational is more important than the emotional.  For others, the emotional component is more important than the rational.

Those who lean more to the rational end of the spectrum tend to see those who lean to the emotional side as lacking self-control, more given to mere animal instincts.  Those who lean to the emotional end of the spectrum see those on the rational end as stiff and robotic – machine-like.  Each side sees its own component as definitive of human existence, and each side sees the other as missing an important component of “humanity”.

People that fall on different places on this spectrum will develop and gravitate to different forms of Christian worship and different uses of music. 

Human nature being what it is, we get comfortable in the circle we understand and uncomfortable with those who perceive and practice differently from us.

And human nature being what it is, we respond to the discomfort of difference by claiming that our own way is right, and the other way is wrong.  If you’re in the evangelical world, that means you demonstrate that your way is biblical and “of God”, and the other way is not.

That, in my opinion, is what the “worship wars” are all about.

Evangelicalism has resolved the difficulty, I think, by simply dividing into different groups, each practicing their own way and keeping their distance from the other group as best as they possibly can.  Maybe that’s the best we can do in a fallen world.

I’ve chosen a different route in shepherding the flock entrusted to me.  I’m trying to find a way to bring people from the different ends of the spectrum together, trying to get them to work together, trying to find a way to get each side to appreciate the other and work peaceably and cooperatively with the other – trying to find a sort of “middle ground”.  It’s one of the few ideals that I haven’t allowed reality to rip from me just yet.

More important than doing music “the right way” is loving one another.  This and not our style and form of worship is the hallmark of a true follower of Christ.  At least according to Jesus . . .