“Worship is like a car to get us from where we are . . . to where God wants us to be. Transportation and communication are imperative, the mode or vehicle is not imperative. While it is imperative that we worship God, how we do it has second importance. Worship is like a car that gets us into the presence of God.” – Elmer Towns, Putting and End to Worship Wars
I remember the old pastor who joked, “Son, if you raise your hand in my church you better have a question!” We both laughed. His experience had taught him difficult lessons and resulted in his fear of expressive worship methods and the controversy they bring.
Then, I also remember sitting under the teaching of a pastor who singled out a woman in the congregation who was being particularly expressive with arms waving, hips moving and eyes closed tightly. He made her the example for the rest of the fellowship by declaring, “I can see the Holy Spirit on you today!” The bar was set and several others immediately started emulating her actions.
What is the pastor’s responsibility in directing modes of worship? I think Towns was right indicating that the mode is secondary to the purpose. Within the context and bounds of Scripture, our mode of corporporate worship should be seen as the vehicle which brings us to the presence of God.
Some literalists like to restrict their modes only to what they see clearly prescribed in Scripture. While their methods are curious, I respect the vehicle they use. It works for them.
My parents’ generation is fairly certain that God ordained organ music to be His approved musical instrument while banning guitars at the same time. Their rigid view puzzles me but their vehicle brings them to God.
My teenagers bang their heads and listen to amplified guitars and drums and then quickly change to accoustic guitar to worship. I’ve even caught them listening to bagpipes and instruments whose names I can’t even pronounce. Their vehicle looks less restrictive to me. It brings them to God.
As I consider shaping worship services my goal should be to provide the vehicle that connects while understanding that it will not connect with all. Scrapping a vehicle is only a good idea when the vehicle is empty. Though a gastly picture, crushing a mini-van loaded with passengers to replace it it with a new SUV will definitely bring loud complaints from the passengers.
Existing vehicles require tune-ups and maintenance, no doubt, but we have to use extreme caution before scrapping them to be replaced with something else.