For some time now there has been a serious controversy in the body of Christ over music. It has been going on for years and still divides churches more than any other issue.
It's not a disagreement over biblical commands. Some try to argue that it is, but it's not. Colossians 3:16-17 commands us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Psalm 150 commands us to praise God with a variety of instruments. Psalm 96:1 commands us to sing a new song.
It's not a disagreement over the content of songs. Some contend that the new songs are too repetitious and shallow. But some of the new choruses are straight out of scripture, while some of the old hymns were extremely repetitious (did you ever really look at the words of "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder"?)
It's not a disagreement over majority opinion. Some think it is, but they are like the woman who complained, "I can't really believe Richard Nixon won the election—I don't know anyone who voted for him!" That's more of a commentary on associations than it is on majority opinion.
Why the ongoing, heated argument? For one thing, it's a disagreement over the familiar versus the unfamiliar. There is a sense of nostalgia about the old hymns. They were the vehicles that helped introduce some of us to the Lord. When we don't sing the old songs, we're not reminded of that great experience. There is a sense of security with the familiar. It's like going through the same routine during the holidays. "It just doesn't feel like Christmas if we don't have dinner at Grandma's."
It's a controversy over the beat of the music. Most hymns had a certain rhythm to them that we identified with church. Most contemporary music has a beat that we identify with secular music. It just doesn't sound sacred!
Martin Luther had this same problem when he set his poem, "A Mighty Fortress" to a tune from a saloon, yet today people say, "I love those stately hymns like 'A Mighty Fortress.' "
To Luther's disturbed contemporaries, however, it was like our generation singing scripture to the tune of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
It's a controversy over volume. For some, the new music is so amplified it's distracting. Even though the Bible says we should "praise him with the clash of cymbals; praise him with resounding cymbals," it couldn't have meant that loud!
It's a controversy over instruments. Each culture and generation associates certain instruments with the sacred and others with the secular. Since the piano was originally used in bars, some churches had difficulty with it and chose to be non-instrumental.
I remember people being unhappy the first time a guitar was used in our worship service. It just didn't seem appropriate. Now some are disturbed to hear drums. Others hate the synthesizer or can't believe that a saxophone—that sultry sound—could ever be worshipful. But the Bible says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."
If you're not content with the style of worship in your church, I would suggest you do five things:
- Acknowledge that what reaches you isn't necessarily what reaches others. Just as there are different tastes in food, there are very different tastes in music.
- Don't demand that the entire worship service be for you. Maybe someone is being reached by the music that you don't like.
- Don't be divisive and spread discontent to others. The Bible doesn't say much about music styles, but it has a lot to say about church unity.
- Find musical fulfillment in other ways. You don't have to leave your church. Listen to tapes or attend meetings during the week where your style of music is done well.