There are two sides to every debate. Both sides usually have legitimate points. The same is true for music. However, there are some commonly mentioned arguments against contemporary music that, frankly, aren’t credible.
In my church growing up we sang mostly A Capella Hymns. I heard many reasons why contemporary music is wrong and why we shouldn’t allow it into our churches.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I treasure four-part harmony music and enjoy singing hymns. But in listening more closely to the rationale, the arguments didn’t all make sense. So I began talking about it with my Dad.
And we continue talking about these things.
There are theological and moral issues among contemporary Christianity that raise concern. But that doesn’t mean it’s heathen and demonic. Moreover, just because one is not a part of the “Contemporary Christian Movement” doesn’t mean they don’t also have theological and moral problems.
For the sake of focus, I’m not going to talk about theological differences or moral issues. But to go any further on our journey toward music that truly worships Jehovah God, there are a few things that must be laid aside.
“Contemporary Musicians Have an Agenda”
When reading articles that argue against contemporary music, I’m concerned by the assumption of motives. Authors talk about the “Contemporary Agenda” and how they’re wanting to lull us into their trap. I’m sure there are some with carnal agendas, but not all. I wonder, does it give these authors a sense of significance to act as if they know something about their opponent no one else does?
Do they really know that? Have they asked them if that’s their motive? Probably not. People that want to criticize don’t get that close. They prefer taking pot shots from a distance without truly understanding what’s taking place.
“Hymns Are Better”
These people are selective in their criticisms. I read an article where the author compared four contemporary songs and four hymns. His point was to show how hymns are better musically, lyrically, and theologically. The problem is, he only took the choruses of the songs. Neither did he compare all eight songs with scripture.
After looking at the verses of those songs, and comparing them with Scripture, the guy had no valid point. His legitimate concerns were overlooked because he tried to make hymns spiritually better than contemporary songs. He had to selectively choose what he’d critique in order to make his point.
There are many similar articles just as selective in their examples, trying to convince people “hymns are better.” Scripture gives no indication for what style of music is better. Maybe we should avoid trying to figure that out, and pay attention to what the Bible does address about worship.
“Contemporary Music Is Sensual”
It’s true that even some Christian bands are sensual in their music. But what makes someone “sensual”? If I listen to or play a particular beat, does that really automatically make me sensual? And if those bands that are sensual quit playing contemporary music and, instead, sing hymns, are they automatically no longer sensual? Will they become pure and righteous just because they started singing hymns?
I think the news of Bill Gothard is an example to us that just because you have your ducks in a row doesn’t mean you don’t struggle with sensuality. The people in those bands are living out of a spirit of sensuality. The style didn’t give it to them. And changing the style won’t take it away. Something deeper must be dealt with.
In general, it concerns me how we try to put the Holy Spirit in a box. Saying there’s a certain style of music that honors God and a certain style of music that dishonors God puts the focus primarily on external expressions of worship. It forces people to think more about what they’re doing and saying than about who they’re worshiping. That’s not the kind of fruit Spirit-filled worship produces.
External expressions of worship are merely the outflow of internal experience of worship. And with an intimate, internal experience of worshiping God, producing music that honors God comes naturally.
“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” -King David
4 Warnings of Contemporary Christian Music
I don’t have time to go into every argument people make against contemporary Christian music. Neither do I have time to talk about all the warnings that could be mentioned of contemporary music. Besides, I doubt it would be profitable.
However, I would like to touch on four characteristics of contemporary music that detracts from true worship. There are legitimate concerns that people have with this music, so let’s be open and talk about them.
Contemporary worship leaders often “pump the crowd” in their opening time of singing. Start with an upbeat song, sing a melancholy song that quiets people, then sing a song that starts out slow and quiet and builds until everyone is dancing and clapping and raising their hands. That’s a safe generalization of what happens in many churches in America, today.
But worship has nothing to do with feelings. We express emotion according to our experience of worship. We may cry. We may laugh. We may dance, sit soberly, clap, or raise our hands. But if it’s authentic, we’re doing it because of what’s going on inside of us as we gain better focus of Jesus Christ. And we can gain better focus despite our feelings.
There is so much showiness in modern worship services that it’s hard to tell if people are really worshiping. There are lights, sounds, videography, dancing—great things! But when it’s all mixed into something that is intended for worship, it easily takes our focus from Christ to ourselves.
I wrote before how even traditional hymns services can be focused on self. The same is true for contemporary worship. The focus is often on God meeting us where we’re at, which is true. God does meet us where we’re at in our personal journey with Him. But that’s not what worship is about. Worship is about us meeting God where He is at. Not because we have special power, but because He invites us into His presence.
Placing God on the highest throne of our lives is the greatest act of worship. That act radically changes the way we live our lives. You can tell the people who have a deep worship experience of God, because they’re humbly surrendered to His will throughout the monotony of life.
- Borderlines Meaningless Repetition
Lastly, contemporary music often borderlines meaningless repetition, like Pharisees in Christ’s day. Many of the songs speak of shallow blessings and praises of God repeated over and over and over again. This isn’t true for near all of them, but many really don’t say that much. Couldn’t we do better at being clear in what we’re worshiping God for?
These are things to think about. Perhaps you already have. I don’t know where you are coming from, but if we’re going to move forward and discover what worshipful music really looks like, than we need to lay aside some of our pointless hang-ups and go deeper.
“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” –Apostle Paul