They've been called the worship wars for a reason. Congregations have split because of differences of opinion; new churches start because they don't find a style they prefer; relationships have been broken, people have been hurt, and worst, fewer people are shown the love of Christ, but are instead shown the malice of the humanity of his followers.
Music is a powerful tool. It provokes the deepest passions in all of us like little else can. Even the ancients knew of this; the Celtic Bards and the Greek Eunichs told stories through song. In the middle ages, music was what kept the hope of the peasants alive. The great composers of the renaissance and baroque were the celebrities of their day. In modern times, the best composers are no longer sought for their live performances, but for their ability to pair video with a soundtrack. And through the ages, music has been used to express the adoration of every ethnicity and nationality on earth to their respective deities.
But music is a cultural phenomenon. The music of one people, of one generation, of one composer, does not necessarily evoke the same response in others. The gregorian chant will quickly put a modern music history class to sleep, while the tones and rhythms of U2 or Coldplay will keep their attention riveted for hours. Most Americans have only heard a didgeridoo in movies without ever realizing that it is an Aboriginal storytelling instrument. Few even know what a Zither is, and none could replicate a 12-tone scale - but many Indians could. Every culture has their own form of audible art, and thus every culture has a language of worship entirely unique to themselves.
But have Christians been paying attention?
Rather than take the more traditional seminary courses, I studied anthropology, sociology, and psychology in preparation to be a worship pastor. I've decided it's time to explain why.