Menu Close

The Evangelical Worship Wars

worship wars

Any cursory reading of the Bible reveals that the “church” — the elect, god’s chosen ones, the saved — are commanded to live at peace among themselves. How pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell in unity, (Psalm 133:1) the Bible says. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Christians should daily demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Apostle Paul told Trinity Baptist Church in Corinth: I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10) Speaking of the early church, the writer of the book of Acts said in chapter 4: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Jesus said in John 13:35: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. 1 Peter 3:8 says, Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. And finally, Paul tells First Baptist Church of Ephesus:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)

Compare what the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God commands with what we actually see in most Evangelical churches. Several decades ago, Evangelical churches began moving from traditional worship services with primarily hymn singing to contemporary worship services with primarily contemporary Christian and praise and worship singing. The former had a song leader leading music from a hymnbook, the latter a worship team using songs typically projected on a screen with an overhead projector. The former used a piano and organ, the latter used guitars, drums, and keyboards. (These are general observations.)

I started out in the 1970s preaching in churches that had traditional worship services. Over time, we added a few choruses and praise and worship songs, but, for the most part, our worship services were not much different from those from the 1950s. In 1995, I started Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio in 1997. Our Father’s House was a nondenominational church, though our worship style was traditional. This changed after our three oldest sons took guitar and bass lessons and needed an outlet for their music. I decided to move from a traditional worship style to what is called a blended worship style. Every Sunday, we sang both hymns and praise and worship music. As we added people and instruments to our band, the music focused more on newer styles of worship. However, hymns were always a part of our worship, just less so.

The change in music ruffled the feathers of three church families, who demanded we stop using contemporary music, or what they called charismatic music. I refused, reminding them that we sang hymns each week, and that the newer music appealed to younger adults and teenagers. These families left in a huff, the only people to leave the church in the seven years I was blessed to be their pastor.

worship wars 2

In 2004, we moved from rural northwest Ohio to Yuma, Arizona — a move that we hoped would improve my health. One church we attended was a Church of the Nazarene congregation which held two services on Sundays: an early service that used traditional music and a late service that used a blended music approach. We attended the late service. We preferred praise and worship music, and those attending the service were younger, people with families. The early services were attended primarily by people in their fifties and sixties; people who were thrilled church was over by ten so they could then eat breakfast at Denny’s. The early service was boring, geared toward old people. Each service time had a different preacher. The early service preacher was a retired pastor; the late service preacher was a pastor in his late 30s. We preferred the younger guy.

The church didn’t need to hold two services. They did so to keep everyone happy. In an effort to keep everyone satisfied and tithing, church leaders split the congregation. This, however, didn’t stop the conflict between the two factions. The church later returned to one service on Sundays at 10:30 am. Not far from our home is a Church of God that holds two services. The early service (traditional 8:30 am)) is primarily attended by old people — farmers and first-shift factory workers. The late service (contemporary 11:00 am) is attended by younger adults — frazzled younger couples with children and others who love sleeping in on Sundays.

As a pastor, I was opposed to split services. I also, later in my ministerial career, opposed children’s church programs. I believed worship was meant to be done together: all ages in one room, families sitting together, worshipping the Lord. We visited numerous churches that divided people up into various groups, choosing to reserve worship services for adults alone. Preschoolers, children, and teenagers attended services geared towards their “needs” — as if worship is all about personal wants and needs. In 2005-06, we attended a Missionary Church in Pettisville, Ohio. The church had traditional (8:30 am) and contemporary (10:30 am) services, with age-focused programs during the contemporary services. We are not early morning people — never have been — so we attended the late service. One Sunday, the church’s youth director came up to our children and tried to get them to attend the youth service. I quickly cut him off, telling the youth pastor that we believed in family worship. We worshiped together as a family. By then, I had a distrust of youth directors, knowing that the levels of sexual misconduct by youth pastors were high. I also knew that youth pastors typically dumbed down their services, and focused on keeping teens entertained for an hour or so. I didn’t want this for my children.

My opinion remains unchanged on this issue. The worship wars have caused incalculable harm and division. People who are members of the same church rarely worship together. Some churches, out of necessity, hold multiple services, but most churches hold multiple services to placate people who either want a certain style of music or want to attend church at a certain time. Instead of focusing on unity, churches, fearing disgruntled members leaving and taking their money with them, cater to the whims of people who can’t or won’t sing certain styles of music.

Do you have experiences with the Evangelical worship wars? Did your church have multiple services? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.


  1. Avatar

    I have only attended one service with modern music. A few years ago, on Easter, a friend asked us to a special service that his daughter was performing in. The band had guitars, drums, a flautist, a violinist, and three singers ( not counting the musicians singing.) The noise was way too loud for my taste. My head throbbed for hours afterwards. I hated the service for other reasons not related to the post, but the music was a big reason I will never go back to church. I’ve always thought religion as something spiritual, not a rock concert. Old church was boring, but at least you didn’t get a migraine. And the piano music was soothing, even if you didn’t believe the words.

    • Avatar
      Revival “I Lie for Jesus” Fires

      Missy you haven’t seen nothing yet…. [John unzips his pants and Missy still hasn’t seen anything. John do you have a magnifying glass so I can see better?]🤣🤣🍆🍆🤣🤣

      The worst migraine you have had on earth will be a day at the beach compared to what’s awaiting the lost in hell. 😭 [If John really believed in Hell, he would behave differently. His behavior suggests that he uses religion as a cudgel to beat people he doesn’t like or disagrees with. Conclusion? Missy might be headed for Hell, but John will be right there with her.]

      • Avatar
        John S.

        Revival Liars if by “John” you mean me, you can go to hell. So yes, I believe “hell” exists- and in your case I think you’re probably living in your own self created hell right now.

          • Avatar
            John S.

            Well crap..oh well good to know he wasn’t talking about me..I can’t think of anytime I’ve ever used religion “as a cudgel”..I was mentally going through all my most recent comments just in case. 😀. Sorry Bruce for the misdirected response.
            You know it’s funny- I had wondered before now if “John” was also Revival Liars- he gave himself away by referring to “Terry” as “Bro Terry” twice- once as “Revival” once as “John”.

  2. Avatar

    Since I consider churches to be social clubs, it makes a lot of sense to me they’d break up the service into 3 different groups (children, teens, and adults). (I hadn’t thought about sexual abuse as a problem though. Something to keep an eye on for sure.) There should be some services where families don’t break up though (C&E?). It seems like if you have separate old fogey and young adult services the “family” aspect of church would be lost. Reminds me of some European churches that would have protestant and Catholic services depending on the time. On the other hand if people can’t find their niche they’ll be going down the street.

  3. Avatar

    When I was a kid, our church had children’s church. It was for K-6th grades. It was great from a kid’s perspective! It was modeled after church service but with more kids’ Christian songs and the sermon was geared towards our understanding. When we entered 7th grade, we graduated to regular worship service where the teens all sat in the 2nd-4th or 5th rows in the center section (there were 3 sections). (Row 1 was vacant, reserved for deacons to sit and speak with those who came for the altar call). Preschoolers and babies were in the nurseries.

    That’s my only experience with multiple services.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    To my knowledge, Catholics don’t segregate masses according to age. (At least, they didn’t in the churches I attended.) So I was surprised to see it in the Evangelical church I later attended.

    While masses weren’t officially designated by age group, there was a kind of de facto segregation. The early morning weekday masses were attended almost entirely by senior citizens (mainly widows) and devout people on their way to or from work. Children were found, usually with their families, in mid-morning Sunday masses and on mid-day masses on holy days.

  5. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I don’t have a church backround of any kind, when it comes to kids being taken to, or introduced to church. Later on, as a young adult attending services at various places, depending on where we had to move to( Mom’s latest tangent 😆)I noticed some churches limited actual worship towards God, like he was held to a schedule or something – SO American – and I really hated that ! I mean, limit the sermon, but let those in the mood to worship, do it. These tight businesslike schedules made no sense, when it came to spiritual things. It was offensive,after a while, and one of the reasons I quit church altogether,besides dealing with real a- holes. I have to say,that some joint situation going among the congregation was really beautiful, but it was shut down because these pastors hop from banquet to banquet, and they’re in a hurry to leave. Church as business venture. Disgusting!

  6. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    I’m a music snob, okay? I’m an amateur musician. I play piano and sang in church choirs. So, from my perspective, I think church music that appeals to the lowest common denominator is an abomination. Church music is impoverished if it sets aside music and performance standards that have been proven and practiced over the years. And the congregation is impoverished when they miss out on learning the classics, albeit by osmosis if they don’t make music themselves. The few times I went to evangelical churches and heard their music- well, either I had to hide my giggles or try not to look disgusted. And I would walk out of a Catholic Mass if the music was evangelical standard, and it often was. Yes, I am a snob, but I feel that to set aside Bach for shallow “praise” music is a real crime. Thanks for letting me grouse. And I don’t even go to church anymore, so why do I care?!! 😄

  7. Avatar
    John S.

    Sorry Bruce- I prefer not only the traditional but the “ancient”. The church I currently attend has one instrument- a pipe organ, and a cantor.
    Having grown up with Yay Jesus®️ charismatic music and worship, I agree 100% with Karuna Gal- give me the old stuff 6 days a week and twice on Sunday!

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Discover more from The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Bruce Gerencser