Let me first state clearly and forcefully: Worship preferences should never be a test of fellowship, or of determining "who's in & who's out." Also, I'm equally in love with people on both sides of this issue of Traditional/Liberal. I could care less if someone wants to sing "Just as I am" or if they want to sing 10 verses of Hillsong's latest praise & worship song. Now, if this issue becomes an issue of judging or excluding, then I'm not "okay" with haters on either side.
Having said that, here goes... Most "worship wars" run between the traditional-contemporary divide. The old hash mixed up into something new-er usually isn't enough to please people either; that would be the "blended" route. As people contend for the faith or reach out to the unchurched, the label attached to traditional camp is "Conservative" while the contemporary tribe ends up being labeled "Liberal."
I'm about to turn that ideology on its head...
I think that the so-called Liberals are really the Biblical Conservatives, and the so-called Conservatives are really the Biblical Liberals in this discussion! How so?
If you think about the Pharisaic establishment in the days of Jesus, they had rules surrounding their rules to make sure the didn't break any of God's rules. So, for example, if you couldn't work on the Sabbath day, then if a woman didn't look in a mirror she wouldn't be tempted to fix her hair... Or, if she didn't carry a needle on her person, then she wouldn't be tempted to fix any lose threads, thus she avoided what might be work so that she didn't violate the actual command of abstaining from labor on the Sabbath. Whew.
Most people would think, oh my, that's a very conservative stance those Pharisees had. It's kind of like people today who hold-fast to tradition today? Actually, the Pharisees were liberals. How so? They "added" to the Text. They weren't satisfied with what the Bible actually said, so they added a supplemental clause to the Scripture with a few rules of their own. They took liberalities with the Bible by increasing the regulations to stay on the safe side. Where does God say, "Play it safe and go beyond My Word to keep my Word!"????
So, the Conservatives of today, what are they adding? Packaging the church in a bygone era, sticking to the form over the function, and making sure nothing changes, they've added to the Text a golden-age of the faith and fixed/ridged method of "this is how we do" church, where there is no formula in the Bible for this.
It may sound like I simply have an axe to grind with the conservatives. Read on...
Liberals (which are really the conservatives) are the contemporary people sometimes acting like the people in traditionalism. In what way? Having an aversion to people who don't see things their way, for one. And, the contemporaries who are really the conservatives, need to be careful they don't end up like the former conservatives (who are the real liberals) and get stuck in a rut themselves. After all, I love "Shout to the Lord" as a praise song, but if I think that's cutting edge music, I'm stuck in the last decade already...
If you're still wondering why I think the former Liberals (contemporaries) are the true conservatives, here's why. What most people think of as a liberal today, these are the people who pretty much take the Bible at it's word. The so-called liberals, the contemporary people who are labeled "liberals" stick to the Text. If the Psalms were good enough for the early church, liberals harvest a lot of the material from the Psalms for the verses of their worship songs today.
If God was more worried about the downtrodden and the outcast, then we should be too. If Jesus was in the streets with the prostitutes and riffraff, then His church should be too. I see the liberals casting off the "country-club church" and the institutionalism that has shackled the so-called conservatives for too long as a good thing.
If the Bible doesn't give an eternal "How to" on worship, and there's actual freedom in how we participate in our gatherings, the so-called liberals who explore that freedom are simply taking the Bible at its word. The so-called liberals aren't adding their set of regulations on top of the Bible to be the "true" church.
Now, how do we harness this for God's harvest? Can we learn from each other? Can we, on different sides of the great divide gain from rubbing shoulders? Yes, but it takes respect and tolerance. The typical Conservative in the traditional camp can have a tendency to be an elitist. The typical Liberal in the contemporary camp can have a bohemian attitude that segregates too.
If you know me at all, you know I'm open for most anything. I have no qualms with new innovations in "doing" church. I love the idea of becoming all things to all people to win them to Christ. I have radical views on women's rolls, in the eyes of some, and I'm simply too progressive for some others. I'm comfortable in my own skin, so none of that bothers me. Actually, not much bothers me. Having said all of this, take time to rethink the labels people toss around. Make sure the description you utilize is accurate. And, next time someone calls you a liberal, may you not take offence at their complement. Oh, and if someone calls you a conservative, you have reason to smile too.