Note: From the start I want to clarify that when I use the word “style” I am not referring to words, or lyrics. By the word “style” I mean varying instruments or sounds, as well as the posture or outward appearances of worshippers. Words, particularly words of truth that honor God, matter immensely, but that is a whole other topic.
Few topics can get Christians more heated up then worship styles. Some churches pride themselves most emphatically and almost solely on having “great worship.” If they visit a church that doesn’t use drums and the worshipers don’t raise hands, they might say something like “the sermon was great, but it’s too bad the worship is dead.” Or even “It’s really too bad the Spirit’s not there.” You might think I’m joking but sadly I’ve heard it with my own two ears.
On the other hand, organ only, hymn only, Psalter only (etc, etc) church goers can see concert clips of people jumping up and down, hand raising, clapping (etc,etc) and think there’s a lack of reverence and nothing happening other than an ecstatic, hyper-emotional, rock fest.
I guess the question we should all ask ourselves is this: Does God want us judging one another’s worship styles? Should we dissect the way, or style, in which another person offers praise and thanksgiving to God, specifically in song?
I don’t think so. Here’s why:
1. It’s a cultural issue.
Acts 10:34-35 “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”
Styles transform with the times. They also vary between people groups, or nationalities. Different denominations or churches also have their own culture and style. There is nothing wrong with that, as far as I can tell. It only becomes a problem when one culture looks down at another and thinks their style is not acceptable to God, or even “less” acceptable to God. That’s a big problem, because God doesn’t respect people based on culture, heritage, skin color, or denomination. What does God look at? “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1Samuel 16:7).”
2. It’s a preference issue.
One’s own personal enjoyment or opinion or preference doesn’t actually add any validity to a discussion of acceptable worship styles. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you think, it matters what God thinks.
3. Sometimes, it’s simply an issue of personal conviction.
Some people feel like their worship is lazy and heartless if they don’t get their body involved somehow. It’s an outward expression of the heart, a way to be wholly involved and focused, an overflow of joy expressed in jumping or dancing, or a physical bowing of the heart expressed in bowing the knee.
Others feel very strongly that this kind of thing, especially in a public setting, is distracting to others. They associate more modern worship styles with a kind of imitating the world, which they are not at ease with. Perhaps they feel the fickleness of their own heart, or a proneness to chase emotional experiences instead of actually exalting their God. Whatever the case, they simply prefer a quiet, stiller style, where they can focus on the words and lift their heart to their King.
Honestly, I find myself quite at home in either “style” and I’d imagine many people fit somewhere in the middle of these camps.
If what I’m saying is true, then I think this is a topic that fits within the realm of Romans 14, which talks about believers judging one another and quarreling over acceptable food and drink choices, and whether or not to observe Jewish holy days. We don’t typically have those disagreements between Christians today, but I think much of Romans 14 is still helpful so I will share a few verses:
Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
Romans 14:10″Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”
Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
Romans 14:17-19 (This is a highlight for me) “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
If God accepts and welcomes the worship of my brother, I can think of few things worse for me to scrutinize. God is not pleased with that, and I think this is an area where we should fear God, and if necessary, repent of pride.
One last thought- one day you will dwell with Christ and this is what will happen:
Psalm 86:9 “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.”
Revelation 7:9-10 “A great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'”
Diversity will remain in heaven, but disunity will be rectified. We’re all going to cry out in one voice, and personally I can’t wait. All the saints, from all times and places in history, are going to come together and praise our God. We’re going to love one another, share the same heart, and the same joy. I’m still hoping for a wondrous variation of styles, but if that happens, the style will not be what ultimately matter or stands out. What will matter, and what will join our hearts, is the God who loved and saved all of us unworthy sinners, and made us vessels fitting for praise.
How different are you and I today? “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Can you accept that there are simply Christians who outwardly appear different than you? Who prefer a different style than you? We ought to friends, and we must, for the glory and pleasure of God.