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Worship Wars 8: Swindoll Weighs In

Worship Wars 8: Swindoll Weighs In

Note: For best impact, begin with the first post of the Worship Wars series.

I loved reading books by Chuck Swindoll during my college years. Indeed a number of his books had a profound impact on my life. Just recently, I read one of his new releases, The Church Awakening: The Urgent Call for Renewal. Swindoll devotes the fourth chapter to worship and makes some profound observations about worship wars in the church today.

Early on, Swindoll talks about the difference between the essence of worship and the expression of worship. The ESSENCE of worship has to do with our internalizing our adoration. He defines it as “a clear, definitive, conscious connection with the living God.”

The EXPRESSION of worship moves us into the outward forms of worship…the ways we express our praise to God. That may be as varied as whatever culture is expressing it. (See also the previous post on missionary mindset.)

Swindoll says that Worship Wars occur when people clash over the expression of worship. To get a taste of Swindoll’s writings, read through the following quotes:

What God intended for His glory and for our corporate and personal growth—worship—has been transformed from a soul-deep commitment to an ugly, carnal fight.

If there is anything that brings delight to Satan, it is the disruption of the worship of God.

When any man-made tradition or expression of worship—old or new—is held on equal par with the Scriptures, we have gone too far. When we demand our own tradition—be it one of music, dress, … you name it—the requirement we insist on results in nothing less than legalism.

When a sense of personal preference lords over biblical priorities, the worship of God is vain and meaningless.

Christ’s plan for the church is not uniformity…not unanimity…but unity. When you are connected with the traditions of men, you are soon being told to get in line.

When nonessentials threaten unity, they should die.

Swindoll goes on to give examples of nonessentials: guitars, pipe organs, pianos, a cappella singing, choirs in robes, full orchestra, full band, praise ensembles, pews, no pews, etc.

Christians’ love for one another should be preeminent. Christian unity and genuine worship can only occur in a context of love.

James 4:1  What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

When self-centered desires reign supreme, there will never be unity in the body of Christ, much less in worship.  But when self-sacrifice is the priority, unity falls into place.

Any expression of music can be used potentially to worship God—but we must stay sensitive to cultural tastes.

What we want to cultivate in our churches:  Not a group of selfish people who come together to be entertained, but a body of selfless believers who are learning how to worship God as a lifestyle.

Lots of insightful thoughts. Next week I will begin to share with you my inner struggles around the issues of worship styles and my thoughts on what churches should be considering as they determine what style or styles of worship they should offer.

Do you think Swindoll was dead on with his comments?

Worship Wars: Next post in the series

About The Author

Kenny Lamm

Worship Consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. A frequent worship clinician and guest worship leader. Extensive work in worship renewal in several Asian countries.


  1. Jason Chollar

    I would love it if someone came up to me and said…. I feel like we have been songs that really illustrate the intimacy we have with Christ, but it seems to me that we are out of balance with songs conveying the transcendence of God…. something important like that! But no, it’s usually … I want older songs (like it is important when a song was written, and older is better) or I want softer songs (I know lots of commands in the Psalms to be loud, not sure I know of any to be soft, …reverent yes, …) but still we are talking about externals, not important things really…. I’m still waiting …

  2. Jason Chollar

    Yes, he is right, but at some point someone has to make the call on the outward expression we are going to ask people to participate. And no matter what you choose, some are not going to be happy with your choice.

  3. Sara

    I must say that i have never thought about worship as a commitment, but a result of my commitment. Swindoll urges the reader to live a lifestyle of worship rather than worshiping as the mood arrives. He calls this the essence of worship.

  4. j.s.swagger

    Yep, dead on. I love the last line of the quote: “worship God as a lifestyle.”

    Weekly, I am attempting to lead God’s people to a place of realization that I (finally) had to come to in my own life–Our worship of HIM should never be contained to 3 congregational songs on Sunday morning. Sunday morning worship through music should merely, but purposefully, be the exclamation point on a week-long, daily, personal, relational worship of HIM. Were we “too busy” to worship him on a daily basis during the previous week? Then Sunday morning worship music should be a kick start to getting back to daily “worshiping God as a lifestyle.”

    Failing to have the unity spoken of by Swindoll will result in the loss of being able to worship. Who can truly worship without both spirit AND truth as required in John 4:23-24?

    By the way, 6 days of this of lifestyle of worship throughout the week may not include music at all. Worship comes from our heart and through our attitude–regardless of what style of music is on our iPods.


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