3 Struggles with Music in the Church
It is difficult to talk about music in the assemblies, I think, for three reasons:
- People have strong convictions/preferences on this subject
- People do not understand each other when they talk about this subject
- There is no clear indication in the Scriptures concerning this subject
1. People have strong convictions and preferences regarding music
Some were raised singing only hymns, or in churches with parents who strongly believed in singing hymns only, and possibly “choruses”. Understandably, their convictions are strong. But some who have children entering their teen or late teen years are deeply convicted to keep the music at our churches meaningful and relevant to their children.
After all, we do want to reach and keep the next generation! Music doesn’t need to be a stumbling block. It’s also many adults who have been listening to contemporary Christian music that this applies to as well.
Praise through music
Raised with contemporary Christian music, teens and young adults (myself included) are praising the Lord God through their own style of music. Regardless of what our preference of style is, they think it is good and it resonates with their souls.
What are we to do, then? It hurts the discussion to tell them contemporary music, which fills their IPods, Youtube searches and car radios, is a tool of the devil (which it is not).
2. Misunderstanding about music
When a young person speaks of contemporary worship music some older ones think, “These kids want to have a rock concert in the church!”, or worse, “they want rap music!” One sees a few modern songs in the church as a sign of relevance and modernity, but the other sees them as a Trojan horse brought in to take over the church.
Where one finds meaningful expression in the medium they prefer, the other finds irrelevance or triviality. The reason we often disagree on music is because we don’t understand what the other person, or demographic, is saying. Quite frankly, we suspect the worst.
Viewing music in the worst possible light
Some older people tend to view the contemporary music movement in the worst light possible, poking fun at the praise songs which sing the same lines over and over and over again (which many young people dislike as well).
In actuality, some contemporary Christian music is already loved and cherished by both old and young. Songs such “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” and “In Christ Alone” have been tastefully used in the some assemblies for years.
A suggested solution
Just as we have selected certain hymn-books that hold to truth, we should select certain songs from contemporary styles as well. In this way, we can enjoy songs from traditional AND contemporary genres.
Some say contemporary songs are empty and assume that hymns are not. But let’s be honest. There are a thousand hymns that are full of ridiculous fluff or full of doctrinal errors. Most of these, thankfully, have not made it into our current hymn-books. They have been wisely edited out.
Using wisdom in selecting songs
Let’s do the same with contemporary songs. Let us not ban them, condemn them or be afraid of them but examine each one and embrace only those that honour our Lord Jesus Christ. I trust the elders of each assembly are capable of approving a certain selection of contemporary songs from the myriad of pieces available today. If there is a problem with a song being asked for, meet together and talk about it. Music doesn’t need to divide us.
3. There are no clear scriptures concerning music
If there is any New Testament scripture regarding this subject it is one that calls for a variety of music, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph.5:19). To me that covers the whole spectrum from singing scripture only (psalms) to hymnology (hymns) and spiritual songs (which covers everything else).
Through a variety of music we learn to value and validate one another’s preferences. Our young people will learn to appreciate the heritage of our hymn-books, and the older generation will learn that there are some very good contemporary songs available as well.
Learning something new
Some older people say, “But the new music has a difficult lilt and is hard to follow”. Good point. But have you ever thought that young people might think the same about our precious hymns?
They may not find the tunes hard to sing but they may find the words difficult and out-of-touch with today’s generation. It’s personal to each one of us.
Showing grace to all
When we include both styles of music in our assemblies, not forbidding or speaking ill of either style, we are showing grace to our brothers and sisters, “in honour giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10, NKJV).
In essence, if we use this blend of traditional and contemporary, we are saying to one another “you’re tastes and preferences matter to me, and I will try to enjoy your music just as much as you are trying to respect and enjoy mine.”
I am not saying that you have to like contemporary music. But I am saying that I personally like contemporary music and that I am a part of your assembly. You can ignore my tastes and tell me they are wrong or you can try to understand my preferences in an effort to maintain the unity of the assembly of believers. And I will do the same for you.