Is Music as Important as the Message?

11 Jun

The following post is by Joel Brown, a worship Pastor at Mars Hill.

It’s an interesting post that is warning against a potential pendulum swing…focusing too much on the words in our music.

The problem is (i.e. what the pendulum is swinging from) for a number of years the musical diet of the Church has been wishy washy nonsense that has done little good for peoples souls other than teach them bad theology. While trying as hard as we can to avoid this Joel offers a few reasons why it shouldn’t be a full swing.

Original post here or read on to see it on saintbeagle…

Don’t Waste Your Music

Some Christians might argue (especially in Reformed circles) that as long as gospel truths are present in the songs we sing together, our gathering has been a success. Helping our people see and respond to Jesus with biblically orthodox words is the most important factor in worship services, but don’t waste your music.

God has made music a powerful tool. As a body of believers we can communicate, memorize, express, and emotionally connect with truth through music in ways that no other medium allows. When we see music in its proper place, our job as worship leaders and pastors becomes less about truth and good music being at odds with one another, and more about utilizing great music to highlight truth. Let me unpack this.

Style Polarizes a Crowd

If someone walks into your church service and hears your new pop-country band for the first time, I guarantee you they aren’t paying attention to the words. They are either thinking about how much they hate the music or how much they love it. Music is not a neutral tool. It polarizes a crowd. People draw much of their cultural identity from the style of music they listen to.

Can Musicians Be Too Good?

Nothing is more distracting than the guy who wants all eyes on him, and not on Christ. The front man isn’t the only worship leader on stage; the players are too. Our gatherings can’t be a musician’s competition between his glory and God’s. We have one target in mind, and all band members should be shepherded to aim there together.

Don’t Water It Down; Change It Up

Since stylistic choices and musicianship can be a distraction, the tendency in churches is to make worship music “broadly palatable.” Watering the music down may remove a stumbling block to some, but it can also dilute the power of the medium. If we have to work in the confines of music and all the cultural baggage it brings, we must also take advantage of the cultural benefits.

Keep in mind that there is diversity in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5). Change it up from week to week. A good sign that you have the right balance of styles is if every congregant has one band they love and one band they hate.

Seeking to find balance is our lot as worship leaders and pastors. One day we won’t be distracted by musical style or sin, and every tribe, people, and language will come together (Rev. 7:9-10) singing praises to our Savior! This is a hope we look forward to. Until that day, we will make the most of this gift that God has given, using it as a tool to point to his unparalleled worth and glory.

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3 Responses to “Is Music as Important as the Message?”

  1. huwey 11/06/2010 at 9:48 am #

    Ah, the old music vs words debate…
    WAY too much to say in a comment box, but just one refection (almost selected at random)… I hope ti doesn;t seem too tangential, I think it very closely related to the good points you make above.

    I’m always curious in these discussions how reluctant everyone seems to be to discuss the sheer magnitude and finances of the Christian music subculture. The fact is, it is a massive, multi-million dollar business which inevitably influences how we do worship in our local churches (directly in terms of the songs we sing – those that are made available to us by publishers, and indirectly – the pervasive influence of style in a media driven culture).

    I’m not for a moment suggesting that our favourite worship leaders are ‘in it for the money’, but the fact is that they are at the bottom of a long food chain, wherein money drives the industry (otherwise it couldn’t sustain its gigantic self) and, as I say above, in turn drives to a large extent what we sing and how we sing it…

    Local church vs global corporation… its a tough issue.

  2. Andrew McKenna 11/06/2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks for highlighting this Sammy. A few thoughts…

    I don’t think one end of the pendulum corresponds to the other. If our hymn and song words are good, solid, biblical, enriching, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying and all the rest of it…then how can focusing on these things “too much” be a) possible? b) a bad thing?

    The other related factor is of course the music. I agree that we should be producing the best possible music that we can for the context and purpose that is in mind, bearing in mind all of the factors invovled in leading a congregation in gathered worship. “Utilizing great music to highlight truth” is a great phrase in this post and, done well, that has got to be one of our aims.

    Also, I would be concerned about my congregation’s humble love and service of one another if they have “one band that they love and one that they hate.” I can relate to the author’s point here in terms of the individual’s natural preferences for style, but to leave a congregation in that mentality only serves to encourage the individualism and consumerism that wars against the spirit of humility and service in worship.

    • sammydaviesjr 12/06/2010 at 12:10 pm #

      Yep, good points Andy. The fact that it’s a false dichotomy is what I wanted to highlight in my preface.

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