Is Style In Worship Really The Issue?

Recently Glenn Packiam cut through the noise and nailed the heart of the issue regarding style in worship.

If you read this space with any regularity you know I have a great deal of respect for Glenn. He is someone who is absolutely brilliant yet does not live on another planet. Glenn has the unique ability to speak to issues from a place of experience and integrity.

A couple of days ago I had a conversation with a friend about style in worship. He and a friend were discussing how our contemporary worship style has led to a flippant attitude toward God. I immediately dismissed the idea that our style, necessarily, leads to a flippant, casual, or “Jesus is my homeboy” attitude.

Then Glenn, as he often does, shook me awake.

Glenn asks the question: Do the words we use in worship and prayer really matter?

The very first shot out of the gate redirected my attention:

“Worship songs” are not just “expressions of our hearts to God”, they shape what we believe about God.

He is absolutely right. When I do retreats I teach this. We often forget much of the message we heard by Sunday afternoon but were still singing the songs we sang in worship on Wednesday. We as worship leaders hold a very powerful and potentially dangerous tool in our hands. We can use it to build up or tear down. And dare I say your intentions are not the issue. God is very specific about how we should approach Him. As Glenn points out in his response to the statement “its the heart that counts”:

Tell that to Nadab and Abihu– you know, the guys who offered a “strange fire” and got struck down in Numbers 3. Or Uzzah, the guy who struck dead for touching the Ark that was sliding off a cart it should never have been on because David did not “seek the Lord about the prescribed manner.” Where did we arrive at the notion that God does not care about the way that we worship? Or that all that matters is our heart?

Glenn asked the question in a video response to questions asked through “The Worship Community Blog“:

If someone were to get their view of God solely from the songs you’re singing this weekend, what would that “God” look like?

This question should challenge us right down to our shoes. What are we teaching those entrusted to us in the songs we sing and the prayers we pray? I make the case in my retreats that we have more influence over the congregation as worship leaders than the Pastor on Sunday morning.

Its way past time to stop arguing over style. Don’t misunderstand me; style matters but only to those God has called us to reach. It’s not about my preference. It’s about speaking to those God has called us to reach while being unapologetic about proclaiming the truths of God the church has been declaring for two thousand years.

It’s about learning to worship in “spirit and in truth.” The uncomfortable truth is that “the way we worship and pray is the way we believe is the way we live” (or, in Latin, if you prefer: Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.)

If we will stand on truth and proclaim it loud and proud. God will build His church. When Jesus said in John 12:32 “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me”.  He was talking about His death and if we will lift Him up in praise, in Spirit and in Truth, He would draw all men to Himself.

Let us never get so caught up in anything that we miss proclaiming the truth of God, which is the power of God for righteousness.

Click through and read the whole thing: Do the words we use in worship and prayer really matter?

Also check out: Video response to Worship Community questions and On the Theology of our worship services.

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Posted by Gary

Gary Trobee is a certified coach and a seasoned leader with over 20 years’ experience mentoring, coaching, and encouraging leaders and their teams.

1 Comment

  • At 2011.04.30 16:22, Jim said:


    Very thought provoking. I listened to Glenn's video also. It is amazing how Satan is trying to use "Christian Music Styles" to tear the body apart. I want to focus on the Trinity or one of the individuals of the Trinity or how they are at work in us as believers when listening to music. I can even struggle in watching Christian Videos when they are trying to entertain us. Please do not entertain me, draw me closer to my Lord and feed me. We need to take the "me" out when we are worshiping. It is all about God and our worship to Him. Thanks.