Christianity Church of England & Ministry

The ‘Worship’ argument

Some of the most ‘worshipful’ people I know are those who lead (musical) worship in charismatic churches. One of them happens to be my husband.

So when I read, as seems to be with alarming regularity, of negativity towards modern worship I get a bit riled. Frankly I find plenty of the old hymns dull and dirgy, we sing them because it’s right for that liturgical season and often people don’t even know them. But, I recognise the beauty and the diversity of the church and I don’t spend my time moaning about it.

Last night there was a Twitter discussion going on about modern worship, I read some of the tweets to my husband and could feel myself getting more wound up so I chose instead to sleep rather than enter the debate. But this morning I find it is still irking me, so it’s all coming out here…


Let’s start a few steps back…

Obviously worship is not just about music, I know that. Music is just a part of our worship to God and there are plenty of scriptures about praising and worshipping God through song and through music, but we are called to worship God whatever the season or circumstance. In the way we live our lives, or the way we deal with others, in the way we do our work and of course in the way we come before God. Our church services are ‘acts of worship’, everything within them becomes a part of that act of worship, from the welcome, to the liturgy to the prayers, to the preaching and of course to communion. I’ve said on many occasions one thing I love about the Church of England (which can make it a difficult place to be too) is its diversity. The church is broad and embraces different ideas, different ways of doing things, including worship. But for us all we are united in our love of God.

We have the luxury of being able to choose our place of worship just as we would choose a place to live. We find a place we feel at home where we feel comfortable, Loved, able to be part of something. So of course we will not always agree on the way we should form an act of worship and that’s fine. What is not fine is knocking other parts of the church. I mean we’re not talking about heresy here, we are talking about personal opinion! Just as I dislike dirgy hymns, some dislike modern worship music, but we all have a choice not to listen to it or engage with it! We have a choice to worship in the way we feel most comfortable which seems perfectly in line with the fact that God has created us all differently – isn’t it right that we would then approach him in our own different ways?


But just for the record… the worship leaders that I know have an amazing heart to worship God. They don’t just turn up to be part of the ‘band’, wanting to ‘look cool’. No, they spend time in prayer seeking God for the right songs play on any given occasion. They think carefully about the subject of the service that day or about what has been going on in the life of the church. They rehearse meticulously, they turn up to church hours before anyone else in order not just to set up but to rehearse and to pray, putting that mornings offering of praise into God’s hands before it’s even begun. Yes they want to do what they do well, and that’s why they put the hours in, but it’s not for themselves or their own glory, it’s about giving their best possible offering to God.

I know there will be some who lead worship who perhaps don’t take this attitude, just as there will be service leaders, musicians and organists in any church who don’t, but I have personally learned so much from working with this team of people who are so committed to just worshipping God and leading people into God’s presence, with the gifts that He has given them.



I was struck recently with the story of the Bali nine which you may have read about – men approaching death singing God and praising in the last few minutes of their lives. The two songs that we read publicly that they sang were the old hymn Amazing Grace and the new song by Matt Redman 10,000 reasons (Bless The Lord Oh My Soul). Seems a good example to me that those who were literally facing death chose to worship God, and in that moment they were enabled in that by singing two songs of worship written at very different times and by very different people, but both fulfilling their purpose as a form of worship to God and enabling people to worship him.


So next time you want to moan about the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend songs’, or the repetitive nature of modern worship songs, why not take a step back and think about the heart behind it. The heart of worship, the heart to seek God, the heart to enable others to meet with God, the heart to know God more. That’s what really matters.



By the way these photos are from a worship event we did at our church called ‘The Altar’, it was 24 hours of worship, embracing many different forms including creativity, a passover meal, teaching, prayer, silence, and yes music. It was one of the most special times I have ever had, truly feeling in the presence of God.

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  • Reply
    June 25, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Hello, Jules
    My recent post deals with some of these issues from an (ageing) alto’s point of view. Sue

    • Reply
      June 27, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Sue, interesting post and here’s the link for anyone who is interested:

      I love what you say about being reminded during the week after, of being in God’s presence. I think music can work so powerfully like that.

      • Reply
        June 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm

        Thanks for reading my post and sharing the link. Sue

  • Reply
    June 25, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Worship is slap bang in the middle of our Christian identity. But the CofE provides various forms of worship and traditions that enliven our lives and worship in a whole variety of ways.

    For me, being middle of the road, I’m not particularly charismatic, but at a recent, open air, ecumenical service with all local churches, I had a ‘charismatic’ attack and was waving and swaying with the best of the Baptists and Congregationalists alongside us.

    So, even I, a staid old stick in the mud can be carried away by charismatic hymns or worship songs, particularly if I CAN SING THEM and the words fit the type of worship and those who I’m in community with. And I wasn’t the only ‘oldie’ from our church doing the same.

    God moves us in different ways, at different times – at a particular local evangelical church, who do the ‘charismatic’ thing to death, I’m afraid I’m quite uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the lack of form to their worship, which seems, on occasion, to have been planned and organized on the back of a fag packet – if worship isn’t wholesome and full filling or is poorly focused, than any old grouch like me might complain. They might also be wondering why they’re leaking members, some of whom have come to us if a particular type of service is on there.

    But I wouldn’t necessarily do it via social media – a word in the right ear serves better and is worthwhile if it improves thing. Keeping the criticism constructive, explaining what you were uncomfortable with and the reasons why might help. And, hopefully, the next experience might be more positive.

    • Reply
      June 27, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      love that Ernie, a ‘charismatic attack’! 😉
      Yes I do think a lot of it is about the heart behind it, as I’ve said. Anyone can rock up with a guitar and the wrong focus, equally the same could be said for an organist. Constructive criticism can be helpful but as you say probably not via Soc Med!

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