Where were you when you first heard the term “Worship Wars?”
I was sitting with a text book from school studying about how to lead worship. It was a throw away phrase, as if everyone knew there were some weirdo civil war among Christians over worship ideas.
I’ll admit, I did not spend a lot of thought on it. After all, the book was written by Michael Card, the musician who wrote “El Shaddai” and if you aren’t old enough to remember that one, then you probably thought like I did, maybe it was something that happened back in the 70’s.
Bell bottoms and the BeeGees also happened in the 70’s, so I was willing to believe it was just something that happened when America was so full of itself that it was making really ridiculous choices. As opposed to now… right?
Anyway, through studies, I have come to realize that the “Worship Wars” were not ever concluded. I have come to realize that I was not actually a non-combatant. I have taken part in the worship wars, and if you go to church, you probably have too.
To be certain, it’s probably one of the dumbest things ever.
It is also one of the oldest.
Father of the second sin of mankind, the worship wars began between brothers and persists today.
In two fields, two brothers labored. Their father, the first man, made a choice to which they themselves would consent. As a result of their fallen nature to which they were born, Cain and Abel had to work and sweat to cause the fields to produce anything of value. One day, driven by instinct or command, both brothers came to give an offering of their toil as a sacrifice to God.
It was worship. It was the first worship we ever read about.
And they brothers averaged a 50/50 split on acceptability. It’s important to understand that God does not choose favorites. There is nothing in scripture to denote that there was any sort of competition set up by God that whoever brought the best sacrifice would have it accepted.
No, it just states they brought their sacrifices.
There, at the onset of the fights,, the importance of orthodoxy was introduced into worship. Orthodoxy, the proper thinking, was the determining factor of Abel’s accepted worship and the rejection of what Cain brought. It has nothing to do with whether or not God didn’t like green beans. Abel brought his very best. Cain brought his leftovers.
The result of the valuation set on both men’s worship is the history of the fracturing of the family of mankind. It is the first hatred and the first murder. History grew dark because one man was unable to accept the idea that it was his own fault within his own mind and heart that his worship was only leftovers and not glory.
Many thousands of years later, a rabbi with rising popularity within the populace of occupied Israel and Judea came to an outlying town with a well. At the heat of the day, when only town rejects would go gather water, the rabbi sat, tired and thirsty next to a woman who most politically minded men of the town would not be caught accompanying.
He called her out on why she was so unpopular. She could not seem to settle down, with a roster of several ex husbands and a man whose bed she shared who did not bear her wedding vows.
She recognized correctly that He was a man who had knowledge because of His proximity to God.
I read her motivations for her next move in two different ways.
1. Either she felt like He was such an authority on spiritual thoughts that she wanted to see the question answered for good.
2. Or she felt like He was so knowledgeable about what was wrong with her heart that she wanted to pick a very old fight with Him.
“My ancestors say we should worship here. Your ancestors worship in Jerusalem. Let’s fight.”
The obfuscation of orthodoxy and the personalization of the fight between who is actually right had become cultural. The thing is that both the woman at the well and Jesus’s forebears all worshiped (more or less) Yahweh. They believed that His ten commands should be obeyed. They believed that sacrifice atoned for sin. They believed that worship needed to happen together.
Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, right practice.
The answer of Jesus is telling. “I tell you the truth that the day is coming and is now here when you will worship neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem. But you will worship in spirit and in truth.”
There was still a change of mind coming and the change of mind would unite.
Imagine, now, two millennia later, that we still do the right thing the wrong way. It is absolutely right for us to seek the orthodoxy of worship. There is a right way. There is a right spirit. There is truth.
But we do it in such a way that excludes the people with whom we journey. We seek the truth, not as a way to conduct ourselves properly, but as a bludgeon to hold over the heads of those super wrong doodoo heads who would dare do things the other way.
Now, I’m not talking about different faith systems.
I’m talking about the people who go to church in hymn singing churches who wag their heads and lash their tongues at the people of contemporary style services whose music seems to be so devoid of history, time testing, and majestic worship.
I’m talking about the hipster nextGen worship goer who looks at the old steeple laden church buildings with people who sing out of books with music notation to the words “thee, thou, thy” and any other word existent during the Elizabethan era.
The unity that will bring together the mountain of the woman at the well and the thirsty rabbi’s Jerusalem must be sought together. We must earnestly seek the truth with our own traditions on the chopping blocks. If we hold any practice more sacred than our unity, we must go seek out the deepest desire of the heart of Christ. On the night He was arrested, He petitioned the Father for unity among us.
If your hymn book or Passion conference is more sacred to you than the unity for which Christ longed, perhaps you have found an idol that needs to be torn down. We end the worship wars if we seek orthodoxy. We fulfill the greatest wish of Christ when we seek from a position of orthodoxy His orthopraxy. And that right practice may shift given the week, month, season, and era.