War-room1 Last week I went to see the latest of the Kendrick Brothers’ movies, War Room. I will spare you my review of the film, since I am no movie critic. Nor will I serve as spoiler for those who may be planning to see War Room but have not yet gotten to the theater. Rather, since I think the theme of the movie is pretty obvious, I want to draw attention to an important dynamic of worship that watching the movie prompted.

I would invite you to consider the battle in worship, and think as well about the critical importance of prayer preceding, during, and following times of worship. The term, “Worship War” has been used to describe a conflict over music styles, a sadly common recurring dynamic in churches, especially over the last three decades. You know the drill, some people desire a specific style of music to predominate the song selection list for Sunday worship, and another group wants a different style, still others want a mix. The surface skirmish that has torn at the fabric of many churches is merely a symptom of the true war of worship taking place in the will of humans, within faith communities, in culture, and in the cosmos.

The war of which we speak is at the center of our existence ever since the Fall in the Garden in Genesis 3. We see the spark of the war in the desire of an angel to be exalted above the one true God, in order that he might be worshiped himself. Our own self-centeredness finds roots in this foundational separating sinfulness. Throughout the grand narrative of the scriptures we find the battle raging. We will not rehearse those battles here, but rather call to your attention the predominance of that theme in the whole of the biblical narrative, as well as throughout Christian history right up to present day. More pointedly, now I would like to draw your attention to the battle as it rages in present day worship practice and invite your consideration of a strategy for waging war effectively.

  1. The battle is at the core of the substance of worship, not the style in which it is practiced. While I would concur with those who believe the stylistic expressions in gathered worship reflect motivations that drive their use, I am convinced discussion at the point of styles of expression themselves yields little if any fruit. Such discussion has little to do with shaping worshipers as reflections of the one true worship leader, Jesus. The essential struggle has to do with the centrality of the Triune God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and whose desire is to be known and worshiped in all of His eternal beauty, having forever been and knowing He forever shall be the one true God. In opposition we have the competing desire of other centralities – ourselves, our church as an organization, nationalism, moralism, emotional gratification, etc.
  1. The battle must be informed by the past. Robert Webber warns, “we live in a society that has lost its own heritage.” He goes on to note “when the past has been lost or neglected there is no certain future.”[1] When worship ignores the past we risk presenting an unanchored gospel. While we fully trust the Lord to be at work in the now, we strengthen faith and sharpen sensibilities by reminding ourselves how He has worked in days gone by. In worship we gather up the stories of biblical, historical, and personal significance to foster continued sensitivity to incarnational reality.
  1. The battle is fierce in the present. Current conflict is the most intense because we are presently in it, we face it now. Whether things seem good, or things seem bad the battle goes on. Individually, collectively as community of faith, and culturally there is a continuous war and as Martin Luther penned, “and He must win the battle.” When things are good we struggle to give Him the praise and not turn it in on ourselves, give it to the preacher or the musicians. When things are going badly we struggle to find faith, or to trust the ultimate benefit. Jesus was the suffering servant, and following Him will, of necessity, place us on that same road at times.
  1. As warriors we be confident in ultimate victory. Isaac Watts gave us one of our victory marches, We’re Marching to Zion. The worship war calls for a recurring tone of triumph because the ultimate battle belongs to the Lord, and He is victorious in the finished work of Christ. Remembering what great things the Lord has done, with deep faith in His grace in the present moment, we look to the ultimate reward and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Worship is war. It is waged in us personally, corporately, and cosmically. We do not have the power within ourselves to win over evil. Satan’s influence is all around us. He disguises himself and deceitfully seeks us out to destroy and distract from the battlefield. He hates when we worship in spirit and truth for it renders him powerless. The battle occurs in prayer before, during, and after worship and is itself at the very heart of what it is to worship. Engagement with God is only made possible by Jesus’ shed blood that tore the curtain of separation away that we can enter boldly to the throne of grace, and His resurrection empowers us over death, and His ascension to the right hand of the Father, leaves the Holy Spirit with us to interpret and pray even when we have no words.

[1] Robert Webber Who Gets to Narrate the World: Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals (IVP Books 2006) 16-17.

Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship


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