The Worship Wars are over.
This article is not about that. It’s about the current post-worship-war era that we find ourselves in.
Specifically this is my attempt – as a 60-something Christian, pastor and worshiper – to help those of my generation and older deal with and adapt to how much the music has changed in our churches.
Certainly there are cases where younger worshipers are having a hard time with churches singing older music, but that’s not the primary challenge today. And it will be even less so in the years ahead. So in this article I’m only going to address the other side of the issue – how an older believer like me can keep an active, joyous spirit of worship when you don’t like (or just can’t relate to) the new songs your church is singing.
The Perspective Of A Mature Believer
Several years ago, a pastor from a generation before mine said something that warmed my heart. When reflecting on how the music was changing in the early 1990s, he said “I’ve learned to worship Jesus while singing songs I don’t like.”
Now that’s some maturity right there.
Since then, I’ve tried to do the same. Admittedly, it’s easier for me than for most, since I like a wide variety of musical styles, and I love seeing new music come along.
But even if your musical tastes are focused on what you liked when you were younger, we should all be able to worship Jesus together, even when we don’t like the music.
A Side Note: This is a vast and volatile subject. I’m sure many readers will want to get into related issues such as the use of haze and lasers, loudness, worship as performance, repetitive lyrics, and more. I may address those in the future, but for now I want to address this single issue as pragmatically as I can.
Here are 7 steps that can be helpful:
1. Decide To Try – Really Try
This may be the main reason that people of my generation don’t like the new worship music. We don’t want to like it, so we won’t even try to like it.
Now I’ll admit that trying to worship when you don’t like the music will not guarantee success, but I do know that not trying will guarantee failure.
2. Focus On Jesus
There’s a meme going around that’s attributed to various church leaders (most frequently Francis Chan, though it doesn’t feel like him):
- Person 1: I didn’t like the worship today.
- Person 2: That’s okay, we weren’t worshiping you.
While that’s too snarky a comeback for my taste, the essence of it makes sense. We don’t go to church or sing worship songs for ourselves – at least we’re not supposed to.
If our emphasis in worship is on what we like/don’t like about the musical style, it’s in the wrong place. Re-focus on Jesus. As Matt Redman reminded us in Heart of Worship, “When the music fades and all is stripped away . . . it’s all about you, Jesus.”
While keeping the focus on Jesus, the next priority is to pay attention to the fact that you’re in a room with other people.
So much of our energy is consumed with our individual wants, needs and tastes we can easily forget that the “congregational” aspect of Congregational Worship.
There’s extraordinary power and blessing when we set aside our preferences and choose to actively engage in our role as facilitators of worship – helping others get closer to Jesus.
4. Notice Who It Engages
The older pastor I mentioned earlier was able to worship Jesus while singing songs he didn’t like because he opened his eyes, lifted his head and noticed who was being drawn in by the new music.
Because he had developed close relationships with the other people in the room – especially those who were young and/or new to faith – he was able to appreciate how newer music engaged them in worship and invited them into the life of the church.
The worship is for Jesus. The musical style is for the young, the new, the seeker and the immature. They’re the ones who need the help. Mature believers like us should be able to worship Jesus in any situation.
That’s what being a mature believer is supposed to mean, anyway.
5. Broaden Your Musical Tastes
Yes, you can.
While everyone tends to lock in on whatever music they were listening to in their teens and early 20s, we can all learn to appreciate new things and broaden our musical palates.
I was never a fan of country and southern gospel music. It’s still not my sweet spot. But as I’ve traveled in recent years, especially through the southern American states, I’ve learned to love the worship, the history and even the feel of the music that means so much to them.
My tastes will always lean more towards rock and soul music. But now that I’ve experienced extended times of worship with my southern gospel friends, my worship and musical palates are richer and deeper.
Our emotions don’t work from the inside-out as much as we think they do.
For instance, it’s not that generous people give more, or that happy people smile more – it’s that people who give become more generous, and people who smile get happier.
It’s the same in worship.
When we sit back in judgment of the music, instead of participating in the worship, we will stay in that bad mood.
Fully participate in worship and you’ll have fewer complaints about the music.
7. Thank The Musicians/Leaders
I’ve learned this from my parents, who are now in their very active 80s.
Time after time I’ve watched them seek out the preacher, the worship team and other helpers to thank them for leading us well. Especially when the preacher is new and struggling, or when the musicians are introducing new music.
An others-focused heart is a teachable heart. And a worshiping heart.
Jesus comes first. His body, the church, comes next.
Worshiping him and serving them is more important than liking – or not liking – the music.
(Photo by Quaid Lagan | Unsplash)