urn your music down!” is the cry of many parents to their teenagers.
Even in churches, music is often a point of contention between the generations.
What kind of musical instruments can we use in worship? Should choir members wear robes or regular clothes? Should we sing with hymnals or projection screens?
Worship should be sacred, but contention over worship music can wear away at the foundation of a congregation. What should worship look like? What types of songs are acceptable? What is the church’s answer to the complaints, and how does the church encourage all participants to enter into worship?
Many older people live and breathe by hymns, while the younger generation wants the new, seemingly more “alive” music. The older generation forgets that hymns were once new songs, while the younger generation often fails to realize the hymns were written out of dynamic, intimate encounters with the Spirit.
The psalmist David wrote, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord” (Ps. 40:3 NKJV). We should use new songs in our worship, and we should also use weathered songs (which were once new).
Many of the older hymns have archaic wording (such as “Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing” and “Hangs my hapless soul on Thee”).
The generation which grew up loving the hymns argues that “more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition, giving us not well-shaped melodies but just one note after another” (Chuck Colson, “Worship Wars,” The Christian Post). I have heard my retired pastor-father, who is in his 60s, argue that worship songs are just repetitive.
It is important to incorporate songs in our worship services that are biblically and doctrinally sound. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 NKJV).
Cathy Grossman wrote, “Nearly 50 percent of Protestant churches now say they use electric guitars or drums in worship, up from nearly 35 percent in 2000, according to the recently released Faith Communities Today study of 14,000 congregations” (USA Today News, Nov. 2011).
Some churches advocate nonelectric instruments only, while others use full orchestras. The argument against instruments, or certain types of instruments, becomes valid when the focus is placed on the instruments rather than the One being worshiped. However, if God is receiving the glory, instruments should be allowed. Psalm 150 says we should “praise Him” with stringed, percussion, and wind instruments.
FOCUS IS THE KEY
Worship should not cause dissension. Focus on the Lord is the key. In Revelation 4:11, the 24 elders cry out, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (NKJV).
If everything we do as Christians is supposed to give honor and glory to God, it must break His heart for us to argue over worship music.
The genre of a song is not important. If it gives honor and glory to God, it is appropriate for worship.
If the lyrics honor God, the song is acceptable for worship.
If the instruments demand all the attention, detracting focus on God, they should be toned down. Otherwise, they are appropriate for worship.
Churches must seek unity in every aspect, including worship music. This sometimes means reminding all generations that worship is not for the worshipers, but for the One being worshiped.