Anderson University’s Reardon Auditorium was recently brimming with students for the morning worship session. After a brief time of singing, Gloria Gaither was introduced as the guest speaker. “This topic is breaking my heart,” she said. “I can’t imagine it’s not breaking the heart of God. I am burdened over what has been dubbed the ‘worship wars.’” Gaither began to explain that these wars have split churches and built walls in sanctuaries. “It’s between screens versus hymnals, old versus new, traditional versus contemporary,” she said. Using Scripture, personal accounts and humor, Gaither drove home the message that it’s not the form of worship that is important, but the substance behind it.
“You may express (praise) in a thousand ways. Some shout, some sing,” she said. “It is a deep hunger to have personal, real relationships with God. We are so typically influenced by the instant, everything culture around us.”
Gaither encouraged everyone present, but especially students, to share their personal stories in their own unique way. “I don’t care if it’s through rock ‘n’ roll or holy polkas, it will be OK because God is at work in your life. Each individual expression is valid.”
Gaither received several amens and an abundance of applause when she spoke of the importance behind choices the students will make. She encouraged them not to go down paths filled with alcohol and addiction. “These are precious times you could be growing in the Lord. Use the time after you graduate to serve instead of recover from addiction,” she said.
Gaither closed with scripture from Ezekiel that emphasized it’s what’s in people’s hearts, not what’s on their lips that really counts during worship.
“I’m taking away from it what she said at the end about not wasting these years in college and to really take advantage of what we have to offer at this school,” said Katie Lause, senior at AU.
“It doesn’t matter how you worship, everything will be OK,” said Jess Karnes, senior at AU.
When asked why this topic is so close to Gaither’s heart she said, “I hope I change not only students, but every person’s focus on substance rather than form. We can’t focus on forms. Forms are not sacred, the message is sacred, the substance is sacred.”
— Lynelle Miller is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin (www.heraldbulletin.com)