On "Conservative" Worship

Amen

Snoeberger nails it--too often, we try to conserve that which was never thought out well Biblically to begin with, and in doing so, fail to figure out how we may come together in song in a Biblical way.  One little quibble; music is not technically speaking "worship", which the ancient languages define as prostration.  Not too many things you can do musically flat on your face!  It is called music, or praise, but I think we really ought to define our terms Biblically, too.

I wouldn't call music written

I wouldn't call music written, played, and sung with a "rockish" beat, electric guitars, snare drums, "breathy" style mimicing nightclubs, prancing around on stage like secular musicians, and so loud you can't even think "conservative" nor "Christian" nor "worship". Alas, this is still part of the debate/disagreement between Fundamentalists, Convergents, Conservative Evangelicals, and all shades inbetween. Thus the continued, never-ending posts and threads on this blogsite. Some believe that this type of music is neither right nor honors God. Some do. And the two will never agree, no matter how much we define our terms. What I find particularly sad is seeing historically Fundamentalist colleges host speakers who are associated with contemporary music and who use that music in their ministry, thus the weakening of music standards at these schools, which will eventually and inevitably lead to more changes, bringing these historically Fundamentalist schools closer to conservative Evangelicalism, which is what I believe the term "converging" means.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Depressing

If Mark is correct in his assessment, the church will endure his described cultural cycle tedium until Christ returns.  This is just depressing to me.  Christians really need to take stock as to whether they are driven by purposeful godliness or cultural comfortableness, and this goes for the seeker/praise churches as well as the conservative/fundamental ones.

Cultural comfortableness can easily replace purposeful godliness, since it does not require thought, prayer, or interaction with God's Word.  Learning to purchase and wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, and speak the right jargon of a cultural denomination is trivially easy.  Sanctification becomes just a matter of observing and mimicking.  A person can learn to act the part in just a few weeks - dare I say - apart from the Holy Spirit.

Christians have a proclivity to use their own cultural milieu to judge the value of ministries over whether a church's members are being purposefully godly.  It might be interesting to pick up the phone one day and call random Christians, and apart from cultural considerations, talk to them about their lives and desires to see if they are passionate about following the Lord, studying his Word, reaching the lost, repenting of sin, discipleship, and feeding the body.  Maybe we would find that not all of those who are exemplary in their faith come from the same style of church to which we've become accustomed.

Should that be the case, could we at least say "Amen!" and "To God be the glory!"

John B. Lee

Maybe break the impasse....

.....by taking a look at what we might infer from Scripture's witness about music?  I don't see prohibitions of instruments or singing methods, let alone common time (which isn't just rock & roll, but rather most music), but rather I do see God's Word presented in poetic, lyrical form.   I do see some hints for instrumentation and response, including some percussive instruments and dancing described in Psalms 149 and 150.  

We might infer that the Psalms and other poems intended to be sung are put there in part to help God's people memorize God's Word, and to allow them to return praise to God in that form.  It might even get the feet moving from time to time.  

This, in turn, suggests a number of tests for any music, old or new.  First of all, will anyone sing it?  If the congregation is really quiet, they're either not used to it, or they might hate it.  Take a look at its poetry, musical setting, or theology for your answer.  Second, does anyone remember what they just sang?  It doesn't have to be an earworm, and shouldn't be, but if you forget it as soon as the words leave your mouth....again, check the poetry and musical setting.

Regarding how the music is played, I tend to agree with Wally that to  "turn it up to 11" (turn up the volume) to "get that extra boost", or to make extensive use of breathy lyrics, is generally a stylistic mistake, but is not necessarily a sin.   The Bible records shouting and whispering from time to time, just not....all the time....and making excessive use of these tools is going to get in the way of our prime goal; to convey God's Word to God's People in lyric form and give them an opportunity to return praise.

Be careful not to assume that

Be careful not to assume that just because the Bible mentions certain musical instruments and dancing that our cultural use of those instruments and dancing is automatically OK. I've lost count of how many people have justified any form of dancing and any form or use of a musical instrument just because that instrument is mentioned in the Psalms. But, again, we will  not settle this issue here. And the reality is the issue will never be settled. One concern I have is the subtle and perhaps dishonest changes some historically Fundamentalist colleges are making in their music programs (and other aspects of their ministry) while trying to appear to their traditional supporters that nothing has changed. Thus, the "convergence".

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Just askin'

WallyMorris wrote:

Be careful not to assume that just because the Bible mentions certain musical instruments and dancing that our cultural use of those instruments and dancing is automatically OK. I've lost count of how many people have justified any form of dancing and any form or use of a musical instrument just because that instrument is mentioned in the Psalms. But, again, we will  not settle this issue here. And the reality is the issue will never be settled. One concern I have is the subtle and perhaps dishonest changes some historically Fundamentalist colleges are making in their music programs (and other aspects of their ministry) while trying to appear to their traditional supporters that nothing has changed. Thus, the "convergence".

Wally, with all due respect, when Scripture commends and even commands musical instruments to be used in Temple worship, exactly who are we to decide that it's not permissible to use them?  Are we greater than Scripture and its Author?  Besides, the BJU orchestra uses variants of all the instruments mentioned in Psalms, and "Patch the Pirate" even uses music in an identifiable tango rhythm in at least one song.  The tango is, of course, one of the most sensual dances out there....and Ron Hamilton is giving that rhythm to kids.  Horrors!  Are you ready to go protest this at your alma mater?

Or, alternatively, we can admit that most of the arguments against specific instruments, genre, and the like are based on "guilt by association" fallacies, and we can then repent of our bad logic and proceed to come up with a more Biblical way of evaluating Christian music.  As I noted above, there are some very real considerations that we can legitimately use to appraise what music we use in the church in terms of practicality, but I am aware of no decent argument that would outright eliminate entire genre, vocal techniques, or instruments.  

Munchies

I'm just going to make popcorn and watch this thread.

Actually, I will note that one of the first responses to this article was to link our mythical 'convergent' brethren with 'bad' musical style.  Again. It's like Pavlov and his dogs or something.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Clear

Bert:

It is clear to everybody that God only approves of Victorian-era hymns with piano accompaniment. You have betrayed the faith and I will now separate from you . . . neo-convergent. 

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Jay wrote:

Jay wrote:

I'm just going to make popcorn and watch this thread.

Actually, I will note that one of the first responses to this article was to link our mythical 'convergent' brethren with 'bad' musical style.  Again. It's like Pavlov and his dogs or something.

Music styles is such a BIG deal to some and I confess I have never been able to understand why. It is always one of the first things that a certain crowd wants to fight about. Bonhoeffer fought Nazis. They fight contemporary music. 

 

Oh, goody

TylerR wrote:

Bert:

It is clear to everybody that God only approves of Victorian-era hymns with piano accompaniment. You have betrayed the faith and I will now separate from you . . . neo-convergent. 

At least you didn't say camp meeting songs or revival meeting songs....and at least we're not talking about cheap electric organs (why are they OK, but a guitar with electric pickups is not?  It's not like rock & roll bands are strangers to electric organs! )...and I take it you're walking in the garden, then?  

Seriously, I understand the desire to sit the whole thing out, but it strikes me that the kind of logical transgressions I see in this area are found really in every area of cultural fundamentalism, and quite frankly it's splitting churches for no good reason.  In this area, quite frankly I also see about the same behavior on the "modern music" side, to be fair, and I'd love to do a little part to help people view these things Biblically.  We really ought to be sobered, and ashamed, by how many areas have half-dead churches of both the "old tunes" and "new tunes" varieties where both sides are throwing these fallacious arguments, but where nobody is really using either set of genre properly to convey the Word of God to the people of God in poetic form.

And so I find myself as one who loves much of the old music--even back to Gregorian chant and Psalmnody--who understands much of the weakness of modern music lyrically and musically, but who nonetheless is not willing to say that we ought to reject entire genre and instrumentation.  To draw a picture, I'd personally love to hear "When I survey the wondrous cross" done with flute and electric guitar, heavy on the reverberation., and I'd love to hear some newer music rewritten with a decent set of harmonies for ATB and eliminating the "Air Supply" vibe one hears with so many "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs.

I guess that makes me a convergent.  

 

Aniol's article in full (from my post above):

I think he makes numerous fair, balanced points here:

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"Straw Men in the Music/Worship Debate

One of the most dangerous, yet easy pitfalls one can fall into when discussing music/worship issues is to misrepresent the opposing view (most likely unintentionally). This is easy to fall into because it’s always easier to blow down an opponent’s position if you get to invent a pretty weak caricature of his actual view!

I’d like to just briefly list some of the straw man arguments I’ve heard on either side of the debate. I’m doing this largely for my own benefit since I’ve certainly been guilty of this from time to time. I think discussion and debate over these issues is important, but we must fairly represent the positions of our opponents for there to be any profitable discussion.

In each of the cases I’ll mention, I’m sure there has been someone somewhere who has held positions like these, or with some of these they may have even been positions held by a group of people in the past. But to represent either side of the debate today in any of the following ways is, in my opinion, unhelpful in these discussions. I’ll list these with little comment, just in order to stimulate some thought.

Straw Men Used Against a More Progressive Philosophy

1. “Contemporary Christian songs are written by theological novices.” Perhaps in some cases, but to say this universally is incorrect. There are many contemporary Christian songs being written today by men who have a deep love and respect for biblical theology.

2. “The lyrics of contemporary Christian songs are shallow.” Again, some certainly are. But there are many Christian songs written in a contemporary idiom that contain lyrics just as profound as those of Watts or Wesley. To make this kind of general statement is unhelpful.

3. “Contemporary Christian music is just entertainment-oriented.” The CCM industry was probably very much a commercial endeavor and interested in entertainment. But to apply this criticism to all sacred music written in a pop style is simply unfounded. In fact, such a charge could just as easily be levied against some churches that use “traditional” music. In reality, the Praise & Worship Movement and much of today’s contemporary sacred music is fueled by a particular theology of worship, not a desire to entertain.

4. “They just want to impress the world or be like the world.” Entering the realm of heart-motivation is always dangerous (something I’ve failed by doing more times than I would like to admit). But even if this charge is correct about some individuals or groups, there are certainly plenty of contemporary Christian musicians who are godly, humble, and motivated by a desire to serve the Church rather than attract the world.

5. “Contemporary Christian music always communicates sexuality and/or rebellion.” I will be the first to argue that much of the pop/rock genre communicates sexuality and rebellion, but not all of it does. Therefore, if conservatives are going to make this kind of charge, they must be very specific about what they are referencing since not all pop music communicates these kinds of messages.

6. “CCM artists are all worldly, ungodly, and often commit adultery.” Unfortunately, this kind of description could apply to any number of individuals, progressive and conservative alike. But it does not accurately describe a great majority of those who perform contemporary Christian music.

7. “Those who use pop music in church are just trying to attract unbelievers.” This is probably true about Seeker-Sensitive kinds of churches. But it is not at all true of most churches who use pop forms in church. I would suggest that most of those who use these styles of music are more motivated by a honorable desire to allow Christian people to sing to God in forms with which they are comfortable.

8. “They’re just a bunch of 7-11 songs; 7 word repeated 11 times.” Again, this may be true about some songs, but many songs written with pop idioms contain rich development and robust theological lyrics.

9. “Contemporary churches are all about what happens on the stage.” This is another charge that could just as easily apply to some churches that use conservative music, and quite a few contemporary churches are very much congregation oriented. Often far more so than many “traditional” churches.

Straw Men Used Against a More Conservative Philosophy

1. “They’re against anything new.” This whole debate really isn’t at all a new vs. old issue. It’s not about when a song was written, but the characteristics of the song. Of course, the term “contemporary” certainly adds to the confusion, but this kind of charge is simply untrue of the conservative position.

2. “They think the Bible tells us what music pleases God.” Certainly some people have done hermeneutical gymnastics to make Scripture say what it does not when it comes to music philosophy, but to broadly characterize conservatism this way is untrue. Conservatives simply want to correctly apply the Bible to musical choices just like the Progressives do.

3. “They think that rhythm is bad.” While conservatives do discuss what certain rhythms communicate in certain contexts, no thinking person would ever say that rhythm is bad. Music doesn’t exist without rhythm, and everyone knows that. I’ve heard Progressives quote a conservative discussion about what certain rhythms communicate and then summarize it with this charge. It’s simply untrue.

4. “They think that syncopation is sinful.” As discussions of the nature of syncopation have filtered down into the pew, perhaps some naive individuals believe that all syncopation is evil. However, no one intelligently engaged in the music debate has ever claimed that syncopation is sinful. It is certain kinds of syncopation used in certain contexts that are under consideration in intelligent discussions of music philosophy.

5. “They think that if a song wasn’t written by an independent Fundamentalist, we can’t use it in corporate worship.” This is perhaps the silliest straw man I have heard (and I’ve quoted this word for word from a real sermon). No conservative argues this or practices this.

6. “They elevate music standards to the level of Scripture.” Some conservative may view their music standards as pretty important, but is it really honest to say that they raise their standards to the level of Scripture? I would suggest that this is simply another straw man, ad hominem attack that is simply untrue. Again, we are all trying to correctly apply the Bible’s principles to our musical choices in worship.

7. “They think that music is the most important thing we have in our worship.” Again, this kind of charge is unfounded. There may be some who believe this, but I think you would be hard pressed to prove that any majority of people consider this to be true. In fact, I would suggest that those who prefer contemporary styles of music could fall under this charge just as easily, if not more so. Stereotypically, it is usually more conservative people who view music as merely “prelude to the preaching,” and more progressive people who view the music part of the service as “worship,” and the preaching separate.

8. “They think that biblical music is classical music.” Again, I’m quoting this charge word for word from a sermon, and again, it is a completely unfounded charge. Some conservatives may argue that classical forms have the best capacity to support biblical truth today, but no one is going to argue that David played Mozart on his harp!

9. “They think that certain instruments are bad.” Those who make this charge point to drums, for instance, and claim that conservative insist that drums are always bad. Yes again, this charge is silly. Any conservative would agree right along with the progressive that it is how an instrument is used that matters. It is not that drums are used but how they are used. Plenty of conservative churches have orchestras with percussion instruments. What is even more silly with this straw man argument is when the one making it exclaims, “Don’t they know that the piano is a percussion instrument? Maybe they should get rid of that too!”

10. “They think that repetition is bad.” Again, as with the syncopation straw man, making a universal statement like this does not in any way accurately reflect the arguments of conservatives. It is how repetition is used, in what kind of musical context, etc., that matters. Again, a common silly statement made with this kind of charge is, “If they don’t like repetition, maybe they should read the Psalms some time,” or “They’d have to get rid of Handel’s Messiah, because that sure has a lot of repetition.” It’s easy to blow down straw men of our own creation, isn’t it?

11. “They think it’s dangerous to allow emotions in music.” I feel like I’m repeating myself, but again, no Christian conservative thinks that emotion itself is bad. Emotion is at the heart of biblical religious and worship, and conservatives themselves call music the “language of emotion.” What concerns conservatives is certain kinds of emotions or emotionalism.

12. “They think the music issue is black and white.” Some may have implied this with how they have set up certain standards, but in reality, no one would say this. Everyone on either side of the debate recognizes that music is a very complex issues with lots of factors involved. They wouldn’t be involved in the debate if they thought it were black and white.

When we set up these kinds of straw men in order to discredit opposing positions, it is usually because we are unwilling to take the time and effort to intelligently engage with the deeper philosophical issues underlying each position. Now admittedly, on both sides of the debate, there are plenty of arguments being made that are unworthy of engaging. But to characterize everyone on a given side of the debate by one or more of the sillier arguments is dishonest.

Again, I truly believe that having discussions and debates about music is a healthy and important practice. But as we discuss these issues, let’s be sure that we are charitably and accurately representing our opponent’s positions.

What kinds of straw man arguments have you heard on either side of the debate?"

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Jay

Pass the popcorn . . .

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Thank you

Scott's article extremely helpful.  Fair and balanced!

Pastor Mike Harding

Not A Straw Man

Quote:
9. “They think that certain instruments are bad.” Those who make this charge point to drums, for instance, and claim that conservative insist that drums are always bad. Yes again, this charge is silly. Any conservative would agree right along with the progressive that it is how an instrument is used that matters. It is not that drums are used but how they are used. Plenty of conservative churches have orchestras with percussion instruments. What is even more silly with this straw man argument is when the one making it exclaims, “Don’t they know that the piano is a percussion instrument? Maybe they should get rid of that too!”

I'm sorry, this is not necessarily a straw man argument. I've personally seen how adding a drum set (not drums in general) or an electric guitar can immediately solicit objections because "those instruments don't belong in the church."

T Howard wrote:

T Howard wrote:

 

Quote:

9. “They think that certain instruments are bad.” Those who make this charge point to drums, for instance, and claim that conservative insist that drums are always bad. Yes again, this charge is silly. Any conservative would agree right along with the progressive that it is how an instrument is used that matters. It is not that drums are used but how they are used. Plenty of conservative churches have orchestras with percussion instruments. What is even more silly with this straw man argument is when the one making it exclaims, “Don’t they know that the piano is a percussion instrument? Maybe they should get rid of that too!”

 

I'm sorry, this is not necessarily a straw man argument. I've personally seen how adding a drum set (not drums in general) or an electric guitar can immediately solicit objections because "those instruments don't belong in the church."

It is absolutely not a strawman argument. Bring in something like a cajon into a BJ-style church and watch what happens.

 

T. Howard wrote:

T Howard wrote:

 

Quote:

9. “They think that certain instruments are bad.” Those who make this charge point to drums, for instance, and claim that conservative insist that drums are always bad. Yes again, this charge is silly. Any conservative would agree right along with the progressive that it is how an instrument is used that matters. It is not that drums are used but how they are used. Plenty of conservative churches have orchestras with percussion instruments. What is even more silly with this straw man argument is when the one making it exclaims, “Don’t they know that the piano is a percussion instrument? Maybe they should get rid of that too!”

 

I'm sorry, this is not necessarily a straw man argument. I've personally seen how adding a drum set (not drums in general) or an electric guitar can immediately solicit objections because "those instruments don't belong in the church."

Yep, that one has long NOT been a straw man---it is longstanding standard fare among traditional-music onlyists.  It's only lately being acknowledged that the old "drums are categorically unacceptable in churches" (for example) trope has undergone revision.  A recent Kevin Bauder article is an example:

[Excerpt]: "At the end of the day, the real question is not what instruments we can have in church. The real question is how we should expect them to be played. The answer to that question has to be gauged by what the particular way of playing—the musical form, style, idiom, or individual composition—is saying. For worship, meaning determines suitability.

Suggesting that Psalm 150 requires the regular use of all categories of instruments is probably an overstatement. Not many churches can put together a real orchestra. Most cannot field a band, or even a piano trio. Better to say that all instruments—including loud cymbals—are authorized for use in worship. Acknowledging that fact, however, does not answer the question of how they ought to be played." - http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/loud-clanging-cymbals

Do read the entire article.  It's certainly indicative of a new mindset within Fundamentalism.  He wouldn't need to argue & conclude that "all instruments---including loud cymbals---are authorized for use in worship" if that was already an established, accepted fact.  Nor would it be something requiring newfound acknowledgment.

Sadly, not all straw men

We can debate how representative these arguments are of the conservative music movement as a whole, but count me with Greg and T. Howard in noting that there are people arguing against specific instruments (e.g. Wally), and there are people arguing against off-beat music (e.g. Bill Gothard, Andrew Pudewa), and the like.  Not as much a straw man as it ought to be.  

And as helpful as it is when people point out bad logic in the matter, it is simultaneously critical for both sides to try to define, from Scripture, what the purpose of music in the church might be.  The application follows from the principle.

Making more popcorn

Since TylerR ate more than his share, and I've got another :37 seconds remaining on the microwave... Smile

Straw Men Used Against a More Progressive Philosophy

1. “Contemporary Christian songs are written by theological novices.” 
2. “The lyrics of contemporary Christian songs are shallow.” 
3. “Contemporary Christian music is just entertainment-oriented.”
4. “They just want to impress the world or be like the world.” 
5. “Contemporary Christian music always communicates sexuality and/or rebellion.” 
6. “CCM artists are all worldly, ungodly, and often commit adultery.” 
7. “Those who use pop music in church are just trying to attract unbelievers.” 
8. “They’re just a bunch of 7-11 songs; 7 word repeated 11 times.” 
9. “Contemporary churches are all about what happens on the stage.” 

If most of the people involved in the interminable debates on 'CCM' (which is a term I am beginning despise) would just realize that it is entirely possible to be 'pro-modern music' and remain opposed to the things in the list that Dr. Aniol noted above, maybe we wouldn't need to talk about this so much.  Dr. Aniol rightly attacks such intellectual laziness in this article; I hope this article gets a wide audience and appreciated that it was shared here.

Joining the popular conception of 'CCM concerts' with what pro-moderns actually want to do may be fun and easy, but there are very, very few modern musicians out there that act and think about music on the levels that they are continually portrayed as operating at.  I have found that they usually interact with it on a much deeper level than I ever had thought to go.  Frankly, if the 'anti-modern music' people would read a little of the things that Bob Kauflin (for example) writes, they'd realize that Lucarini and Blanchard generally engage in polemics against straw-men - which is a big part of how I gradually went from a very strong anti-modern music position to a more moderate one, but that's a long story.

I think we all agree that church is not entertainment.  But there's a huge difference between 'we need three songs on sermon topic __________' and 'we need to intentionally prepare hearts for worship of who God is'.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Props to Snoeberger and Aniol

The Aniol piece is valuable because it can help us avoid defending positions using arguments that can be instantly discredited.  And sadly, many of the arguments have been used and are still being used in the pulpit as a substitute for biblical teaching and application.

The charge of worldliness in the church is a serious one, and must be articulated and advanced further.  But I am convinced that ultimately, the deciding factor of worldliness cannot rest on our cultural sensibilities, for the reason that we have chosen them, and not God.

Props to Aniol and Snoeberger for more eloquently expressing this important point.

John B. Lee

Made a second bag while I was at it...

And I've got 2:12 to go, so...

6. “They elevate music standards to the level of Scripture.” Some conservative may view their music standards as pretty important, but is it really honest to say that they raise their standards to the level of Scripture? I would suggest that this is simply another straw man, ad hominem attack that is simply untrue. Again, we are all trying to correctly apply the Bible’s principles to our musical choices in worship.

The thing with this one is that I have continually noticed that while someone who is anti-modern music would say this is not true, it is when you push past it that it becomes clear that they believe that the use of modern music does put you in a level of disobedience to God (and therefore is a sin issue).  

That's why I made my very first remark on this thread - that once again, the 'convergent' issue really revolves around what music you use. That's why the FBFI articles are serious issues - if the FBFI believes that convergents are in sin, then reframe the debate to make it clear and save everyone time.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Little room for the New Testament in all this

When this discussion comes up, there is almost always an appeal to get back to the Scriptures, and then readers are pointed back to the Old Testament, the psalms in particular. But this sort of misses the point. We are talking here, in this debate, as to what the assembled church should do. When it comes to preaching, baptism, the Lord's Supper, the selection of church officers, and other issues that relate to local church life, we go to the New Testament to see what instructions are there for the New Testament church. However, when we go to the NT to ask of it what the assembled church should do in regards to worship music, we find precious little. There are two parallel verses by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians that mention speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and Spiritual songs, and then singing and making melody in your hearts. Nowhere in the NT do you find a role defined for musical instruments in the life of the assembled church. Nowhere in the NT do you find a narrative that describes this going on in the life of the assembled church. Conversely, we do have descriptions of what did go on, and this included the teaching of doctrine, fellowship, breaking of break/communion, and prayer. Reading of Scripture also gets in there. When it comes to the leaders of which Christ gifted His church, we find Pastors/Teachers, Evangelists, etc., but no worship/music leaders.

I concluded from my study of this subject that churches would be much better served to keep the music time much shorter, and give the larger share of time to teaching/preaching, prayer, the reading of Scripture, and fellowship. The shorter music time should be dominated by human voices singing truth to one another, rather than an entertaining concert or show.

The common evangelical approach that puts on a huge concert for 30 minutes and then tacks on a 20 minute sermonette is totally foreign to the NT. Sure one can put up a huge building and draw hundreds of people that way, but it isn't healthy NT church-life as prescribed and demonstrated in the NT.

Imagine if a typical mega-church of 2000+ people announced they were clearing the stage of instruments, and replacing the 30 minute show with three or four congregational vocals sung by the attendees, and they were going to fill the rest of the time with corporate prayer, the reading of Scripture, and increasing the length of the sermon. How many in the crowd would leave in a huff to attend the next big-box church down the street?

The tail of music is wagging the dog of assembled church life in America.

Much of the worship war melts away if the assembled church went back to the NT and started to model what is there in regards to what to do when the church assembles.

But I don't expect it to change.

 

I Miss The Hyms and Conservative Music.

When I was in College I attended 10 th Street Churc ie mid to late 70s. Dr James Boice was the Pastor then and the church was formerly Pastored by Dr Donald Gray Barnhouse.

Back then it was one of the few gospel preaching churches that did not go with the white flight out of Philly.

A lot of students from Curtis School of music school went to the church and some Sundays a brass and string classical group formed mostly of  Curtis Students  would play while we sang hymns.  The memory of that blows my mind how beautiful it sounded.  So in defense of the hymns I say bravo under the right circumstances. 

NT vs. OT

Darrell, while I'd agree with you that a lot of the emphasis on music is misplaced, and I'd welcome it as well if some of the emphasis were taken off instrumentation and put on lyrics and the preached Word, one question I've got regarding your comment is how we can dispense with the OT in this regard, especially since the NT, as you concede, repeatedly admonishes believers to speak to one another in psalms, and our Lord specifically chose to quote the psalms quite a bit in His earthly ministry.   So even apart from the issue that the OT is also God's Word to us (if a bit more difficult to apply and understand), the NT itself tells us not to ignore the old.  

I'm good with understanding that Temple services are different from a church service, and I'm good with cutting back on the way things are usually argued.  I'm even better with the notion of stopping the practice of assuming that a piece will be "more musical" if only more instrumental parts are added playing about the same notes.

I just don't think the Scriptures support precisely what you say here.  There is also the reality that, as the early church was (I'm told) largely comprised of slaves, instrumentation may not have been an issue simply because they couldn't afford them, and even if they were, detection by Nero and his ilk would tend to put a bit of kibosh on boisterous music in the church.

(though that would suggest quiet a cappella arrangements may have been well known to early Christians for that reason)

It starts with the lyrics

Darrell, while I'd agree with you that a lot of the emphasis on music is misplaced, and I'd welcome it as well if some of the emphasis were taken off instrumentation and put on lyrics and the preached Word

I think that's where we should start with an analysis of the kind of music that should be used for congregations.  If we start with the lyrics and content of what people sing, a lot of music never even makes it to a stand for music practice.  There have been several times where my wife and I have talked with the pastor or worship leader and we decided to tweak the lyrics so that they were more sound doctrinally.

I also think that there's a special emphasis in the Bible on the content ​of the songs and barely any concern with how​ the song sounds, and that it's written for a reason by the authors of Scripture.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert

Hi Bert, far be it from me to dispense with the OT. My point was to limit the discussion to the precise question of what the assembled church does when gathered together. When the local body of Christ assembles together, then something more is going on than just a bunch of individuals hanging out together. The church is Christ's bride--His unique organization for this dispensation. So whenever a question arises about the function and practice of this unique relationship of believers, we must run to the NT for answers. Yes, the OT is there for our learning, but there was no NT church in the OT. So our learning about NT church belief and practice must be grounded firmly in the NT Scriptures. And when it comes to the question of music, the book of Acts, for instance, is absolutely silent in this regard except for Paul and Silas singing within the walls of the jail in Philippi. But the book does say what the assembled church did find important, and music didn't make the list. We assume it happened, and Paul suggests there should be singing in the verses I mentioned. But clearly the thrust of the NT is that music is a tail, and the dog is the teaching/preaching, reading of Scripture, prayer, communion and fellowship. Hence my point that most of the so called "worship war" goes away if church music as a whole got put back into the middle of the back seat of the car where it belongs instead of in the drivers seat. But this will never happen, because impressive performances fill the pews. We need to get back to the idea of filling pews with the proclaimed truth from the pulpit.  

Darrel, your comments are

Darrel, your comments are encouraging to me.  I am a church planter who is not gifted musically (other than writing lyrics).  Part of my challenge is that although I am not deaf, there are certain sounds that I cannot hear at all.  Church planters usually do not have a lot of musical talent to draw from- even finding a piano player can be a challenge.  Just accepting that we don't need a piano is one of the benefits of some of the "modern" trends.  

Hmmmm....

It could be that it's the tail, or it could be something that was so pervasive, people didn't feel the need to mention it.  I'm not sure about ancient Greco-Roman society, but in other mostly illiterate societies like those of the Middle Ages, teaching was predominantly--bards and all--in lyric/poetic form.  So when Paul tells people to "speak" to one another in "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs", he may be appealing to something that was quite pervasive in that culture.

Might be somewhat different today where we are at least theoretically mostly literate, but I think we neglect the lyric form of communication at our own risk even so.  I don't want to argue it along the lines of "drums are bad hymns are boring", as the matter has largely become today, but there's some thinking to be done.

The common evangelical

The common evangelical approach that puts on a huge concert for 30 minutes and then tacks on a 20 minute sermonette is totally foreign to the NT. Sure one can put up a huge building and draw hundreds of people that way, but it isn't healthy NT church-life as prescribed and demonstrated in the NT.

Imagine if a typical mega-church of 2000+ people announced they were clearing the stage of instruments, and replacing the 30 minute show with three or four congregational vocals sung by the attendees, and they were going to fill the rest of the time with corporate prayer, the reading of Scripture, and increasing the length of the sermon. How many in the crowd would leave in a huff to attend the next big-box church down the street?

The tail of music is wagging the dog of assembled church life in America.Much of the worship war melts away if the assembled church went back to the NT and started to model what is there in regards to what to do when the church assembles.

But I don't expect it to change.

Of course you will get something like that at many evangelical megachurches.  But there are many many conservative evangelical churches that do not follow that pattern.  The gospel coalition church that I am part of spends about 40-45 minutes of its Sunday Morning worship with the preaching of the Word.  We also read Scripture, celebrate communion, greet one another, take up an offering, and publicly pray.  We also spend about 25 minutes singing praise songs, most of which are in the style of CCM and Black gospel.  My vocation happens to be the director of an urban ministry so I get to speak in conservative evangelical and certain fundamentalist churches all over the Midwest on certain Sundays.  Interestingly, the majority that I've spoken at are not the caricature of an entertaining concert where the tail wags the dog that you keep on projecting.  In fact, only 2 churches out of about 50 that I can honestly say seemed like they were trying to copy a set from Hillsong, which was quite distracting and really took away from glorifying Jesus.   By the way, from 1997-2004, I was a keyboardist of a Christian Rock band that traveled all over the Midwest doing concerts so I know the stark difference between a Rock Concert and a worship service utilizing CCM.  

Darrell Post wrote:

Darrell Post wrote:

Imagine if a typical mega-church of 2000+ people announced they were clearing the stage of instruments, and replacing the 30 minute show with three or four congregational vocals sung by the attendees, and they were going to fill the rest of the time with corporate prayer, the reading of Scripture, and increasing the length of the sermon. How many in the crowd would leave in a huff to attend the next big-box church down the street?

The church (Baptist) I belong to qualifies as a megachurch: we recently broke the 4,000 mark for attendance.

Our services generally include about 20 minutes of songs/singing (which might be 4 or 5 songs, depending on their length).  The congregation's singing is robust---my observation is that there are few passive observers, whether the singing is accompanied by our 50-member choir, organ, piano, string quartet, full orchestra (at times), or worship band.  (We have 6 weekend services.)

In contrast, a quick calculation shows that the average length of my pastor's 10 most recent sermons is 51 minutes.  (Videos are online, so it's easy to see their duration.)

We also have scripture readings, generally 4 prayers, an offering (simultaneous with one song), communion (not weekly though), and etc.

Announcements are not a standard component of our services.  We have video announcements that run on two 14 foot screens prior to the services, and we figure that people should read their bulletins or look online for that sort of information.

I'd venture that very few of of our people (at most) value the music over the preaching. 

Value music over preaching? Not so much

I have visited a lot of churches over the years, and can really think of only one evangelical church where the music was elevated over preaching--and even there, the major problem was that nobody considered whether the music actually was conveying the Word of God to the People of God to prepare them to interact with the Creator.  it was really the same problem that led to a lack of preaching.

I do see a lack of preaching in the mainline churches I visit from time to time (like when visiting my grandmother), but that's really more an artifact of high church (Lord's Supper as center of service instead of the sermon) rather than an overemphasis on music.  

Don't get me wrong; I believe Darrell and I would agree that there's a huge problem with thinking it's more musical to add more instruments or turn the volume up to 11, and that there's not enough emphasis on sound preaching. I am just not quite convinced that the problem is an overemphasis on music as much as it is a distorted emphasis on music, and I am not yet convinced that music is "the tail".  I'd rather suggest that the relative quiet on music is because it was so expected (one would speak in song like the Welsh?), because getting too loud could be lethal to believers (Nero et al), and because it was one part of their church life that they weren't getting wrong as much.

And I'd suggest that as we get a more Biblical view of music, it'll help out both preaching and music.

Importance of Music/Singing

Darrell Post wrote:

But clearly the thrust of the NT is that music is a tail, and the dog is the teaching/preaching, reading of Scripture, prayer, communion and fellowship. Hence my point that most of the so called "worship war" goes away if church music as a whole got put back into the middle of the back seat of the car where it belongs instead of in the drivers seat. But this will never happen, because impressive performances fill the pews. We need to get back to the idea of filling pews with the proclaimed truth from the pulpit.  

Darrell, I really appreciate the emphasis on Scripture (something missing from most music discussions), but I'm afraid you are missing the point of the verses to which you referenced.  Music is not the tail and the dog teaching/preaching, etc.  The very verses you pointed us to say that our singing IS teaching. If we are singing songs with good lyrics, we will often be singing Scripture and many songs are simply prayers to God as well.  Music and singing are not simply a time killer that needs to be put back in its lowly seat on the bus, but it is a vitally important part of what the church is commanded to do.  It is a powerful medium to communicate Scripture, admonish, teach, edify, and bring our praises to God (sounds like preaching doesn't it?!).  I contend that the worship wars will NOT go away simply by viewing music as an unimportant part of our worship services.  On the contrary, I believe they will only go away if we view it as Paul intended...a tool that is vitally important in worshipping God, edifying one another, teaching, and admonishing.

Ricky,

 "...it is a vitally important part of what the church is commanded to do."

Then why didn't the NT make this a priority in prescribing it, and demonstrating it? The NT does tell us what the the church did when they met together. The NT chose to list the things that made the cut, and music didn't. And I didn't say music was unimportant and I didn't call it a time killer. My contention is that the focus has shifted from worship to a performance. And as that shift has been successful in adding to the numbers in the pews, the length of the performance has often grown and the time spent on preaching and prayer has shrunken. My impression is that much of what goes on in the name of worship today would get the same reaction from God as when He said this in Isaiah 1:11 "I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle" or Amos 5:21-23: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen."

I appeal to these verses because there are churches where the leaders will make a drastic change in the area of music, and when members appeal, those who cannot in good conscience participate, they are told they either have to change their view or leave the church. So members are being forced out of the local churches, abandoned by their brothers and sisters who then show up the next Sunday and sing How Great is our God while their abandoned brothers and sisters suffer the loss of being torn away from the body of Christ.

 

 

 

Darrell Post wrote:

Darrell Post wrote:

 "...it is a vitally important part of what the church is commanded to do."

Then why didn't the NT make this a priority in prescribing it, and demonstrating it? The NT does tell us what the the church did when they met together. The NT chose to list the things that made the cut, and music didn't. And I didn't say music was unimportant and I didn't call it a time killer. My contention is that the focus has shifted from worship to a performance. And as that shift has been successful in adding to the numbers in the pews, the length of the performance has often grown and the time spent on preaching and prayer has shrunken. My impression is that much of what goes on in the name of worship today would get the same reaction from God as when He said this in Isaiah 1:11 "I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle" or Amos 5:21-23: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen."

I appeal to these verses because there are churches where the leaders will make a drastic change in the area of music, and when members appeal, those who cannot in good conscience participate, they are told they either have to change their view or leave the church. So members are being forced out of the local churches, abandoned by their brothers and sisters who then show up the next Sunday and sing How Great is our God while their abandoned brothers and sisters suffer the loss of being torn away from the body of Christ.

The problem is some fundamentalists don't have the discernment to tell the difference between the conservative evangelical churches and/or fundamental churches that I described above that do not fit your caricature (and there are many of them) and the contemporary evangelical church that is performance driven.    To them its all the same.  If the church has a worship band, then they are somehow imitating the world.  And somehow the younger folk stole their church when they attempted to move the church out of the nostalgic fundamentalist church culture from a half century ago.  

 

Determining priorities....

....in the early church is difficult without the context, really.  

Per:

Then why didn't the NT make this a priority in prescribing it, and demonstrating it? The NT does tell us what the the church did when they met together. 

Well, let's think about this a minute.  The 1st century church is said by the Church Fathers to have come out strongly against the pagan theater and postnatal infanticide, neither of which are mentioned in the New Testament.  Do we argue--and of course this has huge implications for the pro life debate--that it was unimportant because it's not in the NT?  Or were these issues that came up as the gentile church grew and the Scriptures were applied to new areas? 

Really, the "music is the tail" is an argument from silence, which is of course a logical fallacy, and it really ignores the fact that illiterate cultures (anyone but the rich in Rome, really) tend to use poetry and song far more extensively than do literate societies.  Examples include the works of Homer, medieval and Dark Ages sagas (e.g. the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, norse sagas, the Koran and Hadith, etc..), the Minnelieder of the bards of the dark ages, the stories that became Grimm's Fairy Tales, and the like.  If we believe Moses indeed wrote down the Torah, 2000 years after many of the events happened, we might guess that the Pentateuch also falls into this category.  

In the same way, there are a lot of hints that, at least outside the movement of the Pharisees, reading the Old Testament was not common among the Hebrews.  Remember the weeping when the book of Deuteronomy was found and read in (?) Josiah's reign?  Notice how many OT citations Jesus makes of lyric/poetic books like the Psalms and Isaiah?  I submit to you that, while not technically an illiterate society, Israel did indeed rely strongly on oral tradition--the Talmud is, despite being written down almost seventeen centuries ago, referred to today as "Oral Torah" in honor of this.

And in a society, it would make no more sense to tell a man to sing, or how to sing, than it would to tell him how to breathe or walk.  

Good Points

I thought I'd pass this article along - the author made some great points, which have not been raised here thus far. 

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

This.

In the same way, there are a lot of hints that, at least outside the movement of the Pharisees, reading the Old Testament was not common among the Hebrews.  Remember the weeping when the book of Deuteronomy was found and read in (?) Josiah's reign?  Notice how many OT citations Jesus makes of lyric/poetic books like the Psalms and Isaiah?  I submit to you that, while not technically an illiterate society, Israel did indeed rely strongly on oral tradition--the Talmud is, despite being written down almost seventeen centuries ago, referred to today as "Oral Torah" in honor of this.

This is something that I've thought about a lot over the last year or so.  We live in a hyper-literate age, where the Bible is available via cell phone, printed volume, online, in music, and you really would have to work hard to avoid the Bible if you didn't want it.  Pre-Gutenberg Press, printed or written copies of any book, let alone the Bible, were extraordinarily expensive and rare.

So I don't think that it's fair to say that the Israelites/Greeks/Jews in the OT/NT would have the kind of familiarity with the Bible that we do...and, as a side note, I wonder if maybe our ease of access to the Word creates a callousness to it?

In any case, someone mentioned the responses of the people to the reading of the Word in the OT and how it seemed like access to the Law was rare.  There are a couple examples of this:

And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to [King Josiah], and reported to the king, "Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD." Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us."
-2 Kings 22:8-13

And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, "Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written." So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.
-Nehemiah 8:14-18

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

The NT does tell us what the

The NT does tell us what the the church did when they met together. The NT chose to list the things that made the cut, and music didn't. 

Darrell,

So are you saying that (1) Eph 5:17 and Col 3:16 aren't in the NT, (2) Eph 5:17 and Col 3:16 don't refer to the gathered church, or (3) Eph 5:17 and Col 3:16 don't speak of music? Or is there some other option that you are appealing to?

Not so Fast

Regarding Bert's suggestion that the Tanakh might not have been too well known outside the psalms and some of the prophets:

  • The early apostles quoted Deut 18 often extensively, to take one example (see the sermons in Acts)
  • Also, look at Stephen's comprehensive exposition of the history of Israel's apostasy in Acts 7. 

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

TylerR wrote:

TylerR wrote:

Regarding Bert's suggestion that the Tanakh might not have been too well known outside the psalms and some of the prophets:

  • The early apostles quoted Deut 18 often extensively, to take one example (see the sermons in Acts)
  • Also, look at Stephen's comprehensive exposition of the history of Israel's apostasy in Acts 7. 

True, but Moses commands that the law be memorized and reinforced by the family unit during upbringing (Deut. 6).  It does not presuppose that a lot of people were walking around with copies of the Torah, and my original points about the difficulties in getting a written copy of the law still exist.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Let's remember the point

Just for clarification, the point here is not that people didn't use the prose portions of Scripture--it's said many had it memorized or close to it--or that people didn't read at all.  It's simply that, given the difficulty and cost of hand-written books, you would have an oral culture where people depended strongly on poetic devices and the poetic/lyric word to convey information, and in light of that, you would need to tell them to sing just about as much as you would need to tell them to breathe.

And yet, the Scripture tells them to use this means of communication with each other as to "speak to one another" in this way.  So I interpret the NT quite differently than Darrell did above.  It is to say--"Hey, what you did to communicate your allegiance to Caesar and Zeus before?  Change the lyrics and it's OK."  In other words, it is to say "what you were already doing has some virtue to it--don't do guilt by association, brothers."

And really, how much specific information do we have about how a pastor is to preach, beyond preaching the Kingdom of God and the Gospel?  We are not taught expositional, exegetical, or topical preaching, and the main examples of sermons we have are recounting the history of Israel--really coming very close to how the Psalms do this at times, no?  So at a certain point, we are left to figure things out from the depth and breadth of Scripture, as far as I can tell, in both areas.

Responses

Larry, I mentioned those verses further above. What I was arguing is the tail shouldn't wag to the dog. In Acts there was actually a list of things that the early church did when assembled together. Teaching the Apostles' doctrine, fellowship, Lord's Supper, and Prayer, but music was not listed. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, but it wasn't in the list. Similarly, when we look at the list of church leaders given by Christ to the church, worship leader or song-leader didn't make the list. I am not saying that we should or shouldn't have one, just that it didn't make the list--again another indication that music in the life of the church should be held in check and not become dominant.

Joel, you wrote "If the church has a worship band, then they are somehow imitating the world.  And somehow the younger folk stole their church when they attempted to move the church out of the nostalgic fundamentalist church culture from a half century ago."

The distinction I would make here involves what they do with it. If they are going have their own millennial CCM night or do something like that on their own, that's one thing, but when on Sunday morning they force it down the throats of people who cannot do it, then they do force these people from the church. That is not love. Maturity would be loving the body to the point where one is willing to sacrifice what they believe they are free to do so as to strengthen the body of Christ and not force people to leave the church.

When individuals believers assemble together, it is ultimately a place where everyone builds one another up, sacrificing and serving one another. Not a place where one walks in and says, I have my rights to do this or that even though I know the offense it is to others. Ladies shouldn't walk in wearing mini-skirts thinking that it is their right to do so even though they know it is problematic for some in the church. The assembled church is a place where brotherly love dominates and sacrifice and service to others is the standard. I know it wasn't technically a church gathering, but Christ washed the disciples' feet. But today many cannot even set aside something as periphery as their "Christian rock" music or CCM -- they would rather force others out of the church and congratulate themselves on that outcome as though it was progress.

 

 

In Acts there was actually a

In Acts there was actually a list of things that the early church did when assembled together. Teaching the Apostles' doctrine, fellowship, Lord's Supper, and Prayer, but music was not listed. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, but it wasn't in the list.

I am curious as to why you limit the input of Scripture to this particular list or to Acts in general. Are the epistles not authoritative as well? This seems to narrow a methodology to me. I don't think the tail should wag the dog or that music should be dominant. I am more curious as to the precise question here.

Larry

Larry, The book of Acts is largely descriptive. It tells us what the early church was doing. Maybe the early church was a singing church. We don't know because the only mention of music in the book was Paul and Silas singing in the Jail in Philippi. But in the list of things the verse says about the what the church did when they met together, the author didn't mention music though it would have been easy to do so had it been important enough to include. I have not discounted the parallel verses in Eph and Col as Paul clearly talks about believers singing truth to one another as well as singing in your hearts. But even here, Paul never defines a role for instruments other than the human voice.  

But given that some are willing to split churches over music, it seems like the NT as a whole is concerned about a lot of other things. Believers should be more concerned about the health of the body of Christ than coming in demanding one kind of music even if it forces other members to leave the church.

The distinction I would make

The distinction I would make here involves what they do with it. If they are going have their own millennial CCM night or do something like that on their own, that's one thing, but when on Sunday morning they force it down the throats of people who cannot do it, then they do force these people from the church. That is not love. Maturity would be loving the body to the point where one is willing to sacrifice what they believe they are free to do so as to strengthen the body of Christ and not force people to leave the church.

When individuals believers assemble together, it is ultimately a place where everyone builds one another up, sacrificing and serving one another. Not a place where one walks in and says, I have my rights to do this or that even though I know the offense it is to others. Ladies shouldn't walk in wearing mini-skirts thinking that it is their right to do so even though they know it is problematic for some in the church. The assembled church is a place where brotherly love dominates and sacrifice and service to others is the standard. I know it wasn't technically a church gathering, but Christ washed the disciples' feet. But today many cannot even set aside something as periphery as their "Christian rock" music or CCM -- they would rather force others out of the church and congratulate themselves on that outcome as though it was progress.   

 

The immaturity and lack of love goes both ways.  My experiences in a GARBC church and my father's experiences in 3 different GARBC churches as a worship pastor have also shown a dark side of those church members who leave because the music changed.  At my father's churches, my dad (who is now retired) tried to implement a more blended service with the great hymns of the faith (using more traditional instrumentation along side praise choruses with a praise band and it was met with resistance from a minority of people; usually those who had been taught along the way that CCM and/or music with a 2/4 beat or the use of drums was somehow sinful, worldly or the devil's music (take your pick).    My father was yelled at, slandered, called a traitor, a deceiver, and the list goes on and on.  My father showed an incredible amount of patience, sacrificial love, and was willing to flex as he tried to blend the music,  but it was the traditional people who demonstrated that their personal preferences became a hill to die on stampeding everything and everyone in their path.   Eventually they did leave, but it was because they of their lack of love and failure to control, rather than being the poor little victims that you make the traditionalists out to be.   I had a similar situation at the church that I attended before we help plant our current church.  20 years ago, the worship band that I was a part of helped blend the music.  Again the music utilized the great hymns of the faith blended with praise choruses.  However, certain people were bent out of sorts and it brought the worst out of them.  One older gentleman threatened to take the drumsticks and pierce the drumheads because he was so angry.  Another lady wagged her finger in my face for 10 minutes telling me that I was leading the young people of the church on a path of destruction to hell.  The leaders of the church showed an incredible amount of love and patience for about 2 years, but eventually came to the point where they said that the blended music was the direction that the church was taking and if they didn't like it, they could leave.  At the same time, there was alot of discipleship and teaching that took place to undo the crazy teaching that often accompanies the people who stir up trouble when there is a movement of change in music.  Actually in that case, most of the people stayed, except for one family.  

Lest you think that I am naive believing only those with a more contemporary view of worship and music have taken the high road,  let me give you one example that actually supports your scenario; where a pastor came into one of the church's that my father was worship pastor, made the church music use solely CCM, steam rolling over those who didn't like the music, and forced them to leave.  I will give you some context.  The former pastor wanted nothing but hymns and John W. Peterson cantatas because he felt that any sort of contemporary music was worldly and sinful (he called music sung by Steve Green "genital" music).  Eventually he left and for a couple years before the new pastor came in, my father began introducing some praise choruses with a partial band along with hymns in order to blend the music. Actually the congregation was fine with the blend.   But then the new pastor came in, forced my father out (because he wanted a younger, hip worship leader) and hired a worship/youth pastor demanding that he use a "CCM-like" band in order to try to bring younger families in.  When certain people began protesting the changes, he forced them out of the church.    The immaturity and controlling nature of the pastor continued for 10 more years in other ways until it lost a total of 200 more people and eventually they became a satellite of a local mega church that used the location as one of its multi-sites.  

Joel

Joel, the details in your whole post illustrate the points I have been trying to make. The NT focus is that when we assemble together we should be all about teaching/preaching, reading of Scripture, prayer, fellowship and communion. Music should be minimal and directed Godward, and not be about entertainment.

"...hired a worship/youth pastor demanding that he use a "CCM-like" band in order to try to bring younger families in..."

This sentence right here illustrates the danger. Once we succumb to the pragmatism of trying to use music to grow the church we are headed for trouble.

My aim is to not defend or argue the point from any given anecdote, and I understand that lack of love can happen from any perspective...that is why I think God would respond to our churches with the words of Amos I mentioned above. God would rather we not sing or play instruments at all until there is a real heart-revival and mutual submission to His will and to love one another.

I will say that those aiming to force others to participate in CCM often haven't really been good at listening to the other side's perspective. The sounds of rock and roll were more or less born out of the sexual revolution where that generation found the perfect rhythm and beat to help them celebrate and accentuate their free sex and drugs. The reason they found it to be the perfect musical vehicle for their message goes back to the truth that music has a voice. Without any words, music can carry a tone that communicates violence, romance, the light-heartedness of a circus, or a military marching drill. So the CCM advocate approaches the traditionalist and says he needs to start singing and enjoying CCM, and what the traditionalist hears them say, is you want me to start saying God's love sounds like a sexual orgy, and His grace sounds like a war, and his mercy sounds like a migraine headache. Yes, when that happens they are going to be under the temptation to wag their finger in faces for ten minutes instead of handling the encounter with grace.

For me, I will never accept the sounds of Rock and Roll as appropriate to ascribe worth to God, any more than I would look at modern art with it's random blotches of paint and say, "that's beautiful." My contention is that this falls under the idea Paul had in mind in Romans 12:2 where we are called upon to exercise discernment to determine what is good, acceptable, and perfectly aligned with God's will. That said, I embrace newer songs and am not stuck in the 19th century as is often the caricature. I used to really like "In Christ Alone" until the church I attended sang it almost every other week and completely wore it out. Conversely, I don't embrace all older songs either. "In the Garden" was my father's favorite song, but the lyrics say virtually nothing Biblical.

But I am not going to be anyone's judge, we all get to stand before the same Judge one day. But when one group walks into the assembly and sets aside their obligation to serve and love one another and instead forces brothers and sisters in Christ to swallow what is detestable to them, that's where I say the church would be much better off for everyone to leave these things in their homes and get back to ministry and service while gathered for worship. No worship happens if believers have been trampled in the process.

Darrell, I still don't

Darrell, I still don't understand for the life of my how you can ignore commands of Paul in the epistles simply because we don't have an explicit description of congregational singing in Acts. Don't we normally value presciption over description for sake of clarity?

And you are also ignoring 1 Cor. 14:26, where Paul clearly stated that when the Corinthians came together they each brought a "psalm." Of course the problem in the Corinthians church was a lack of order in worship, so Paul is rebuking them for the fact that everyone is speaking/singing out with their own psalm, teaching, tongue, revelation, and interpretation, rather than doing things decently and in order, but he is not rebuking them for the fact that psalms were sung (otherwise we would have to say that teaching should not be allowed in NT churches because that is mentioned in this verse, too).

BTW, "psalm" (psalmos) "as a rule refers to a song accompanied by a stringed instrument" (EDNT), so the uses of this word in 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16 might prescribe, and at the very least allow, the use of instruments in worship.

Interestingly as a side note, often an argument is made against drums as inappropriate for worship because of their evil association due to worldly use. Please note the entry in TDNT on the use of the words psallo (to play a stringed instrument) and psalmos in Greek literature:

Psallo perhaps meant originally "to touch" (etymologically akin to psylaphao), then "to pluck" the string, to cause it to spring, of the string of a bow, Eur. Ba., 784; Dio C., 49, 27, 4, "to play a stringed instrument," Aristoph. Eq., 522; Menand. Epit., 301, "to pluck" strings with the fingers, Plat. Lys., 209 b, with kitharidzo and kapeleuo as not a manly activity, Hdt., I, 155, 4, cf. the antithesis: to bear weapons — psallo, to play the flute, to be a brothel-keeper and merchant etc., Plut. Apophth. Xerxes, 2 (II, 173 c). When Alexander skilfully plays a stringed instrument at a feast his father reproaches him: "Are you not ashamed to play (psallein) so well?" Plut. Pericl., 1, 6 (I, 152 f.); In teaching : didazei...kitharizein e psallein, Ditt. Syll.3, II, 578, 17 f. ( 2 nd cent. B.C.). To practice one's tekne and organon is needed, one cannot play the flute without a flute nor psallein without a lyre, Luc. De Parasito, 17.

Psalmos is "plucking" the string of a bow, Eur. Ion., 173; Herc. Fur., 1064, or "playing" a stringed instrument, Pind. Fr., 125, distinguished from
kitharismos in a list of victors (in a contest for young people), Ditt. Syll.3, III, 959, 10. Elisha was seized by the Spirit of God while engaged in psalmos, playing a stringed instrument, Jos. Ant., 9, 35, cf. also 7, 80; ode and psalmos are mentioned in the Bacchic procession, Plut. Alex., 67, 5 (I, 702 c), auloi, psalmoi, methai among pirates, Pomp., 24, 5 (I, 631 b); dances, tinklings, psalmoi, and licentious nights are mentioned in the description of a Parthian Sybaris, Crass., 32, 5 (I, 564 d), with fomigyz (thus denoting the instrument?) De amicorum multitudine, 8 (II, 96 e).

And yet Paul was not swayed from commanding Christians to speak, teach, and admonish one another in psalmoi.

 

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg,

Greg,

I haven't ignored the commands of Paul. I was the first in this discussion to bring up the verses in Colossians and Ephesians.  My point is there is insufficient information from the NT that suggests music in the life of the early church was what many churches have made it today. And even in Paul's instructions there certainly was no role defined for musical instruments. I have dealt with 1 Corinthians 14:26 in my study, and it really provides little to the discussion. Again, my call is for the church to go back to serving one another, and bearing one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

 

 

Darrell, the very word Paul

Darrell, the very word Paul used refers to singing accompanied by a musical instrument.

By your comments you are completely minimizing the commands of Ephesians and Colossians and the clear example in corinthians, and arguing from silence in Acts.

And though your caricature may be true of some churches, it is not true of many churches, even those who use contemporary music. Our SBC church (large for Iowa) has about 30 minutes of songs and then normally about a 50 message.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

not arguing from silence

Greg, I am not arguing from silence. In Acts we are told what the early church did when they assembled together. We are told there was the teaching of the Apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Music was not in the list. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't, but regardless, it clearly wasn't important enough to the writer to include in the list. Your appeal to the TDNT article is a stretch, to get it to apply to this issue. Nowhere did I suggest that all churches are struggling in the area of music.

And for the third time, I am not minimizing the parallel verse in Colossians and Ephesians. I am saying that today's church has made too much of music as a part of assembled worship as compared to what the NT emphasizes throughout the entire book of Acts as well as the letters to the churches. And again, the thrust of Paul's instruction in Colossians and Ephesians is that of human voices singing truth to one another--again, no mention of instruments (this does not mean I am arguing against instruments, merely pointing out that the NT does not define a role for them in the life of the assembled church).

Something is wrong when your pastor who you love sits you down and tells you that you have to change your view of music and change your conscience or you need to leave the church. Maybe you haven't been through that, but I have. And having had that sense of abandonment, I went to the NT and examined every single time music is mentioned and I was stunned at how little there is in the NT, and how the entire focus of the NT as it relates to church life is more along the lines of teaching sound doctrine, prayer, brotherly-love, bearing burdens, service, sacrifice, and so on. But I was told to leave because of something that gets scant coverage throughout the NT. My point is, that although I was a casualty of the "worship-war" my contention is that this should not have been a war at all. Grace, love, humility, service, and sacrifice and deferring to one another should reign in a healthy church.

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