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‘Ticky-tacky’ worship wars divert attention from God, consultant says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Drums in worship; choir robes or regular clothes; hymnals versus projection screens; and the question of outdated organs. These are all tensions that can cause worship wars among church members, said Robert Wagoner, music events consultant for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Differing opinions about these decisions tend to hurt worship services,” Wagoner told church leaders attending the National Conference for Church Leadership, June 24-28, at LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center. He led a conference titled, “How to strengthen your worship without starting a war.”

“Not that drums or choir robes or hymnals or screens or projection systems or organs or anything of these things are evil,” Wagoner said. “None are. People can get their feathers ruffled over ticky-tacky things.”

Wagoner said Jesus called Christians to worship God in spirit and truth.

“Did Jesus say, ‘Those who worship the Father must use the 1991 Baptist Hymnal or wear choir robes or have drums or unplug the organ and put it in the corner?'” Wagoner asked.

“These things are not the issues, and when they are, don’t you know that breaks the heart of Jesus? If it were so important, Jesus would have said more about it.”

Jesus required his followers to prepare their heart for a worship encounter with the Holy Spirit, he said, noting that when people worship in spirit, they are worshiping in sincerity and from the heart.

“A lot of people miss it by about 18 inches. Their worship is all in their minds.”

Wagoner said the Greek word for worship is “pros keneo.” Pros means face toward or focus intently on, and keneo means dog.

“So we should focus on the Lord like a faithful, loving dog would focus on his master.”

The purpose of the church is to worship and the mission of the church is to evangelize, Wagoner said.

“If your church is worshiping in spirit and truth, evangelism will take care of itself. I would question what type of worship is taking place in a church that’s not reaching people where they are regularly coming forward Sunday after Sunday to be saved and baptized,” he said.

Wagoner said there are four requirements to worshiping in spirit. They are to be born again, to give adoration and praise to God, to maintain a repentant and contrite heart toward God and to focus on God.

“Most people have their minds on 1,001 other things. ‘Where are we going to eat? Who won the ballgame? I sure am having a difficult time at work or with the children.'”

Instead of focusing on God, church members often get caught up with the place they worship, the person leading the worship, lay positions in the church, programs or perfection of the service, he said.

Worship is misplaced when people venerate the sanctuary, he said.

“How can you tell when this is happening? You can tell when people fight over pews, get upset over the P.A. system or argue over material things at the church.”

Worship is also misplaced if people adore a person, such as a pastor, music leader or other type of minister instead of God, he said.

“When people find out their pastor or music leader is not perfect and they leave the church, then where was their focus? We need our people to understand they are not to place their focus on a person, pastor, minister of music or church leader. They’re not worthy of worship.”

Worship is misplaced if people clamor for power on committees, value absolute perfection in administration or care more about church programs than giving reverence to God, he said.

“God is not seeking worship. He is seeking worshipers. Otherwise we could insert a CD of praise music and be done with it.”

To lead his conference, Wagoner used the six-week study workbook, “Worship: Believers Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens. It is available through the LifeWay Church Resources customer service center, at 1-800-458-2772, or through LifeWay Christian Stores.

The National Conference for Church Leadership Church is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Church leaders interested in attending an NCCL conference next year can e-mail [email protected] for more information.
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  • Terri Lackey