By Kevin West
I started in vocational ministry in 1999. Like most people, since that time I have had some experiences that have shaped who I am and the things I believe. One of the hardest things I’ve gone through, and seen in many churches, is a division between opposing convictions. In my role this usually plays out in what we call “Worship Wars,” but it is not limited to this topic. I’ll use it as an example for now. A worship war is when one person believes one worship style is correct and another person believes a different worship style is correct. Now I could start getting into a lot of different topics at this point, but where I want to go is Romans 14.
Accept other believers who are weak in faith and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. Romans 14:1
Notice that I have not directed that comment to one side or the other of the argument. The key is acceptance. In my decade-plus of studying this issue I have noticed the biggest problem is that we are too busy trying to be right—to counter the argument—to care what the other person is saying. How do I know this? I’ve been there. Sometimes I’m still there.
You see, we have this innate desire for people to look like us, to conform to our way of thinking. When I was first starting out as a worship leader, I wanted everyone to worship the way I worshiped. I think it validated me as a worship leader. When they didn’t worship the same way, I thought they weren’t spiritual enough or didn’t have enough freedom. That might have been the case in some instances, but as revealed by later conversations with these same people (who I now call friends), that wasn’t entirely the case. Some of them were deeply spiritual. They loved Jesus and desired to follow him. They were touched and ministered to in our corporate worship times. However, their temperament is different than mine. What they find to be deeply satisfying spiritually—how they connect with God—is different than me.
Romans 14:6—Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.
Paul says, (using my example) whether you worship in this style or you worship in that style—whether you find liturgy rich and meaningful or you like the house lights dark and splashes of colored lights on the stage; whether you sing all hymns, no hymns or any combination in between … you’re all right. And I’ll add, frankly, it doesn’t matter to God. He is after our heart.
John Courson says this in his commentary on Romans 14, “We are so blessed! We can learn from, be enriched by, and rejoice with those who are contemplative in their piety, as well as from those who are carefree in their joviality. What great latitude the Lord has given us and those sitting next to us in our relationship with Him. For whether we live it up in the Lord or give it up for the Lord, we can glorify Him.”
The lesson I have learned is to not look down on those who hold a different conviction than me. I try to see the blessing in diversity. This is a hard lesson to learn and even harder to apply. Whether it is a worship style, which day we worship corporately, your conviction about drinking alcohol, or even your values about protecting the environment, don’t let these issues cause you to become conceited or divide the church. Instead, celebrate our diversity and rejoice in the uniqueness with which we can serve the Lord.
I think Augustine said it best: “In essentials, there must be unity. In nonessentials, there must be liberty. But in all things, there must be charity.” That is truly the best worship style.
For more information on Kevin West, visit his website: kevinwestmusic.net.