Many believers struggle with knowing what is appropriate as far as music used in worship.  Unfortunately, many Pastors seldom preach about worship and may have done little study of the subject.  Other Pastors or Evangelists may have very limited preferences for what they feel is appropriate and preach these preferences as gospel.  God's people are often left confused or very opinionated about what is appropriate based upon their own preferences or upon what they have heard.  In over 30 years of Worship ministry, I've seen this confusion manifested in many ways.  Earlier this month, a brother in Christ left a comment on our worship blog's "About our blog" page, and we answered.  What else could we have shared with this brother?  We can go back and edit our comment for this blog visitor and for others who will see this dialogue in the future if there is something we need to add.  Here's the comment and our reply:

 

"Hi Travis, looking at the New Testament scriptures about worship and music, I see a number of scriptures about SINGING, but virtually no scriptures that that support contemporary Christian Music, such as the music of Hilllsong, Don Moen, Paul Baloche etc etc. What are your views on this?  

Blessings  J."

By: J. K. on February 12, 2013 at 4:57 am

Reply

Dear J.  

We have edited your name and are using only initials in this reply and in your approved comment. Your honest question deserves a thoughtful answer, and we will do our best to reply with the highest respect for your careful study of God’s word and with prayerful consideration of your comment.

We are told in the New Testament to speak to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We believe that most of the contemporary Chrisitan music to which you refer falls into the category of ‘spiritual songs,’ although many of today’s Christian artists (musical messengers) are also writing powerful modern hymns (one example of this is the work of Keith and Kristyn Getty). There are many verses in the Bible (including one in Revelation) that speak of singing a new song. We believe that God continues to give musical abilities to people who then use those gifts to bring glory to the Lord through the writing of new songs and hymns.

Remember that the older hymns of the church were once contemporary. They were once new songs. We certainly are not singing the same music that Paul and Silas sang in jail (although we may be singing some of the same words -translated into English- since many songs lyrics are based on the words of the Psalms). We are no longer singing Hebrew or Gregorian chants in worship, so at some point “new” or “contemporary” music was accepted as music that was appropriate for worship and brought honor and glory to God and to Jesus, our Savior. We believe that there are certainly many styles of Christian music, but the message of the lyrics and the heart of the songwriter or singer are far more important than the date when a song was born or the style in which it is written. We still love and sing the old hymns and gospel songs, but we also love most of the new music that we hear.

We believe that if the message of a song can be clearly understood and if it brings glory to God, then there is a place of apporpriateness within the lives of God’s people for that song to speak to hearts. Some songs are used in congregational worship, and some are not. Some may be recorded on a CD but not really be appropriate for corporate worship. For example, we can think of several songs on Christian CDs which have the subject matter of being thankful that God brought the writer’s spouse into their life. A song like that may be played on Christian radio and bless a lot of lives, or it may be played in peoples’ homes. However, unless the song is sung at a wedding or at a marriage retreat, such songs are generally not sung during congregational worship. There is nothing wrong with being thankful for your spouse and speaking of that blessing in an honorable way. We believe that doing so would bring honor to God, who created the institution of marriage. In corporate worship, however, we generally choose to sing messages of praise and worship that will bring glory to God and encourage all of God’s people to walk more closely with him (whether married, single, or widowed). So. whether a Christian song has the type of message that can be sung by all people (married or not) in praise and thanksgiving to God or whether it applies more to people in specific circumstances (married, single, called to ministry, parenting young children, dealing with loss, or whatever the life circumstance discussed in the song may be), if a song brings glory to God by:

1. lifting up His good gifts in thanksgiving and appreciation
and
2. having a Christian message of belief and trust in God in every circumstance,

then we believe that this “new” or “contemporary” song will be used by God to encourage the hearts of God’s people, draw them closer to Him, and to bring honor and glory to God. You will find this subject addressed in our most recent post, “Singing a New Song”, which was written and posted before your comment.  (This post can be found @ http://worshipsounds.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/singing-a-new-song/ )

People who write Christian songs are just like every other Christian. We have struggles, we hold on to faith, we seek to live lives that honor God but fall short. That’s why we need a Savior. We encourage you to read the lyrics of contemporary Christian songs and see how God continues to speak through His people and through the gift of new songs.  

 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
 - Colossians 3:16 & 17

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain; and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

- Revelation 5:9  

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.”

- Psalm 40:3

 

Blessings to you,  

Travis and Cindy Boyd

 

Views: 361

Comment by Alex Morris on February 19, 2013 at 2:19pm

Everything you wrote is excellent, but I don't believe you answered the poster's question.

The poster asked for Scriptures that addressed the issue of using music in worship (as opposed to singing without music).

One possible response would be to cite the various Scriptures (such as 1 Chronicles 15:16) that mention certain groups within the tribe of Levi being designated to play musical instruments in the service of the Lord or to cite the exhortation of Psalm 33:3 to play music skillfully to the Lord. Since the New Testament is relatively silent on the subject of music we can take these OT verses as still representing the heart of God toward the use of music in His service.

Another more general approach would be to take the relative silence of the NT on the subject of music to be an invitation to God-honoring liberty in the use of music or any other art form in the service of God in worship.

Comment by Stevo on February 19, 2013 at 3:30pm

I would only add that while style isn't as important as the content, style is actually part of the message and should be in harmony with the words/message. I'm not saying this as disagreement so much as elaborating on your point.

For instance, one wouldn't typically expect a hard luck blues song to be paired with happy and upbeat music. There are two messages and they're in conflict at that point - confusion rules at that point. The same would go for a praise and worship song about lifting God up, but sung with and agressive and angry thrash metal style.

And I think there are some styles that probably would never provide a good fit with any biblically oriented lyrics that we can imagine - thrash metal again for instance. I can't conceive of a christian lyric that would be appropriate to couple with thrash metal in any universe. But maybe someone would come up with one.

This is a very grey area and certainly open to interpretation. But there are things one can easily pull out of the mix that are clear for all/most of us.

Comment by Travis L. Boyd on February 20, 2013 at 5:48am

Thanks for our comments, Alex and Stevo.  I
We had interpreted the question to be about style and song format, but I see the point that it could also be about instrumentation. The poster seems to want to focus only on NT scriptures about worship, but I agree that OT scriptures give a lot of insight into the variety of instrumentation and expression that was part of acceptable worship in OT times.  I also agree with the fact that the lack of specific instruction regarding worship in the NT does allow for spirit-guided freedom in expression, instrumentation, style, format, cultural preferences, etc.  There are a lot of NT scriptures about glorifying God, and this should be our goal.  Stevo, you've made some good points as well regarding style.  It is very true for me that the style of music and the lyric content need to be a good marriage.  The style, melodic content, instrumentation, and interpretation of a song should embrace and enhance and carry the message of the lyrics in a whole of expression that would be inexpressible without the sum of the parts.  I don't know any other way to say it.  I'm debating about whether to further edit our reply or whether to write a blog post that addresses the complexity of all of these issues and then add a link to that on the reply.  Thanks for your contribution to the throught process.

Blessings,
Travis

Comment by Travis L. Boyd on February 20, 2013 at 5:54am

Please excuse typos in above comment.  I meant "your comments", Alex and Stevo.  And of course, the last sentence should have thanked you for your contribution to the "thought process".  It's late.  Good night. all!

Comment by Steven DeMott on February 20, 2013 at 5:34pm

In addition to those scriptures mentioned, I also like to reference 2 Chronicles 5:11-13. A perfect example of many instruments being used to praise God but all joining together in unity.

Comment by Stevo on February 21, 2013 at 6:06pm

I think instrumentation has to be included as it relates directly to style. It seems that many folks try to prohibit certain instruments because of their association with certain styles. Instead of seeing a breadth of instruments as we look at the OT, they see a restriction. Never mind that those same people would allow for a piano which is obviously never mentioned in the Bible. 

I think the scriptures about worship performance need to be seen as what they are - descriptive and not prescriptive. Nowhere do we see God telling us what kind of music to play. We do see David and the psalmists describing a certain style/or mood in the Psalms - in the titles for instance. So clearly there were different moods/styles being employed. But none of this adds up to a command or prescription for any type of praise and worship. 

Most interesting to me isn't what's stated in the Bible, but what's missing and NOT stated. Things which aren't stated:

- A specific instruction from God regarding style or instrumentation is lacking.  God set up the temple system. David set up the worship system. (Using sound wisdom we feel.) I presume this is because He knows how diverse culture is.

- Any mention of prohibited instruments or styles. There is no mention of "devil's music" that I can remember.

- No specific cultural association is made with a musical style. There seems to be no "Israel's Music" or "That damnable music of the Chaldeans". (There is one...recall it?) To me, they were using the styles and instruments that were available to them. Modern messianic worship music is strangely similar to all other music from the region.

- No style or musical form seems to be condemned. If they were condemned, it didn't make it into scripture.

- And to get specific, no particular metre or beat is mentioned in scripture. Only that there is one.

Again, all of what I see in scripture adds up to a description of what they were doing, not a prescription of what we are to do in our day. As Travis originally alluded to, it's the heart and message that is central. This is clearly borne out in scripture. After you find that, the rest is easy.

Interestingly, folks continue to find ways to condemn modern worship and those ways get more and more elaborate. And the music styles they find acceptable/"correct" are strangely similar to 19th century styles that evolved during the main period of English hymn writing which have very little similarity to the styles of music we would have seen in the biblical world. 

Comment by David D Waggoner on February 24, 2013 at 3:06pm

Our conservative Church of Christ brothers insist that the NT says NOTHING about using instruments in worship and are therefore forbidden.

Other conservative Brothers (my dad was one of them) insist that only piano and organ are proper instrumentation. I cannot find those verses anywhere.

Those who fell under the teaching of the Bill Gothard school of music insist that minor keys, syncopation, back beats and jazz/blues chords are forbidden as well.  Again, I have never read any of those verses.

Almost all of the criticism of CCM worship falls into one of those categories; with the "just sounds too much like worldly music to me" argument making up the rest.  That was my dad's argument.

To a degree, each of those points have merit to be considered. There are times we may want to just have the voices.  If the melody or rhythm or chord structure gets too complex, we can lose people. If not done right, minor keys can be melancholy. And IMO we should be leading the world in music style (since we know WHO invented music in the first place) instead of following the world.  But those points are all of practical wisdom and not of biblical command.

So you will not find a NT command saying you should or should NOT play a song by Kent Henry or Hillsong or Paul Wilbur or whoever.

Comment by David D Waggoner on February 24, 2013 at 3:23pm

Stevo makes some very good points about styles.  My dad and I went around and around for years on this subject.  In his later years my kid brother Terry (worship leader in a Church of Christ and rock singer/lead guitarist)  I think convinced him that using CCM worship was actually ok. (Good for him!)

Dad insisted that the ONLY music that was ok was classic hymns, Southern Gospel and Country. So I asked him if he thought that Our Lord would be ok with the music he grew up singing as a child.  He said yes.  I had him. 

I told him that the music back then had no harmony, was done in a minor modal key and was sung in Hebrew or Aramaic.  He thought about it a few moments and said that was probably right.  And that was before I got involved in the Messianic community.  Since then I sent him some modern examples of that from Joel Chernoff and Paul Wilbur.  I never heard his comments on them but gathered that they were not his style, which is fine.  The last few years of his life (died just over a year ago) he went to Terry's Church of Christ which had added CCM worship with instruments (big change for them). He enjoyed it very much.  But I am not sure he enjoyed the CCM as much as it was his son leading it.

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