This is a topic that can get lots of undies in a wad. It’s supremely important that this topic be addressed because so many churches use music. I’ve had this on my mind a LOT lately, so if you care to indulge me, I’ll spill my guts about it.
Music is a gift. I live and breathe it. I could probably tell you more about my feelings through songs than I could just sitting and talking to you. Music is a tool. You get to choose how you use it and how it will affect you. Music can be something that brings people together. So, why then, does the type of music used in your church seem to be something that tears the congregation apart?
The answer is, quite simply, change. That is really all it boils down to be. There are too many people who are unwilling to change their viewpoints on what kind of music “should” be played in their churches.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. I’ve been involved in Southern Baptist ministry and music for a very long time now. I know a good majority of the hymns that are in The Baptist Hymnal, and I love them. I also listen to current Christian radio stations, like K-LOVE and our local station, WBHY-FM (Power 88). They play current Contemporary Christian music, along with current worship tracks from Christian artists who tend to keep worship music as their forte.
I am a music lover. A REAL music lover. Even though I do tend to prefer certain genres or styles and artists, I can appreciate music in all forms. I know enough about music history to know that what we listen to now would not be possible if it weren’t for pioneers in the music industry in the past. A good example would be someone who loves current rock music, but doesn’t take the time to give credit to the king of rock and roll, Elvis. You might not like Elvis’ style and his songs, but you could at least appreciate what he contributed to the development of rock and roll as we know it today.
In regards to church music, I love current worship and contemporary Christian songs, but I appreciate the older, more traditional songs and hymns because of how they influenced the music that is played today. I, for one, do happen to love many of the older songs because the message they promote is just as relevant now as it was then. I think too many younger people dismiss them because they can’t see that. It’s like they can’t seem to make the connection between current life and past songs.
It works the other way as well though. There are many older people who ONLY like older, traditional songs and say they “can’t stand” the music that is out today. They complain about the music being too loud at church or make statements insinuating that the church is trying to become a “rock band.”
In the first scene, the younger people aren’t willing to open their minds to the possibility that the message could be the same as the one they’d hear in a current song, and they don’t like the music or how the song is played. In the second scene, the older people aren’t willing to open their minds to the possibility that the message could be the same as the one they’d hear in an older song, and they don’t like the music or how the song is played. It is literally the same problem, and the basis of the problem is unwillingness to change the mindset.
Look, I would be remiss if I didn’t say how much I absolutely HATE change. I am a creature of habit and routine. Once I get things in a way I like them, I don’t want to deviate from that. It spills over into the way I teach my kids and the way I carry myself at church. I understand and appreciate traditions. I really do. But music, well, it’s one of those things that ALWAYS changes. People who make music and use music every day realize that you can’t tie it down to one particular way all the time. If you are trying to use it to reach people for good, you have to be willing to adapt your methods.
What is the goal of church music? In my mind, the goal of church music is to sing worship and praise to God, so He can sing through us to reach others for HIS GLORY. That’s it, in a nutshell. It can be used to reach one specific person who may be going through exactly what the song is about, or it can be used to unite an entire congregation in a beautiful chorus of worship, praising the One who brought us all together. When we fuss and fight about the kind of music being played in our churches, we are letting the devil get a foothold on something needs to be all about God.
Church music is about God and it’s about reaching people FOR God. Period. This is what needs to be driven home here. It does NOT matter whether you are someone who prefers traditional or someone who prefers current/contemporary. What matters is whether or not God can use it. And guess what? God can use ANYTHING. God can take whatever we give Him, be it old or new, and use it to further His Kingdom and show the world His glory.
I am blessed to attend a wonderful church where we try to incorporate both traditional music and contemporary music. Sometimes, it’s more one than the other, but that’s okay by me. If there happens to be a part where I may not like a certain song (which, let’s face it, RARELY happens), I just sing along anyway, and I do my best NOT to complain about it to anyone. The fact of the matter is that just because I don’t like the song, doesn’t mean that God didn’t use it to reach someone. I am not God. I don’t know how He will choose to speak to someone. Who am I to hinder someone’s experience just because I don’t like the music?
I look at it this way: I am called to spread the Gospel. I try to do it to the best of my abilities. There may be some situations where I don’t particularly like the way it seems God wants me to do it. But it’s not up to me. God equips us with what we need on a daily basis. In regards to music, we may not always like the kind of music our churches play. But we have to remember that God is using it. He can and will and does use it to send His message further than we could imagine. We don’t need to let our personal preferences get in the way of growing God’s Kingdom. It’s only about God. It always has been, and always will be, all about God.