Most churches have stopped battling the ‘worship wars,' LifeWay finds

Unsplash/Hannah Busing
Unsplash/Hannah Busing

Most congregations in the United States have moved past debating over music selections and styles of worship, often called the “worship wars,” according to a new report by LifeWay Research.

LifeWay Research reported Wednesday that only 15% of Protestant pastors listed their congregation's preferences in music as being their biggest challenge. 

Pastors who oversaw congregations with fewer than 50 regular attendees were the least likely (7%) to report “navigating music preferences” as their biggest challenge.

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Additionally, LifeWay found that 92% of pastors reported mutual respect between themselves and their worship leader, with 71% responding that they collaborate a lot on worship planning.

The LifeWay report also cited research from last year which found that only 5% of Protestant churchgoers would change churches if the musical style changed.

Another finding of the newly reported study included 69% of pastors reporting that hymnals were a regular part of their church’s worship experience.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said in a statement on Wednesday that this showed that despite some changes in worship over time “there are also many similarities between worship services today and those from past decades.”

“Like printed books, hymnals are far from obsolete. Individuals and groups are still leading congregations in singing together each week,” McConnell said.

The LifeWay report drew from a survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors done over the phone between Aug. 29 and Sept. 11, 2018, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

Other findings included 73% of churches saying they have paid for at least some of the musical performances at their worship services in the past year, Pentecostal churches being the most likely to have a praise band (82%), and 79% of pastors reporting that piano music was a regular part of their worship.

Thom S. Rainer, former head of LifeWay Christian Resources and president of Church Answers, said in an opinion piece published by The Christian Post in 2013 that the “worship wars” might be ending.

His three specific evidences for this was a decrease in churches having different services with different styles, a revival of modern hymnody, and the unifying of Baby Boomers and millennials within the church.

“The Christians of these generations desire to worship together. It's already fascinating to see worship styles meld as Boomers and millennials come together,” Rainer said at the time.

“So much time and energy have been wasted by Christians fighting over something that is a matter of style and preference. Anger, bitterness, and church splits are the results of these worship wars. I am hopeful, for the three reasons noted, that we will have fewer and fewer worship wars.”

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