Worship is Not Entertainment, Should Christian Music Ever Be?

"If it keeps us appropriately meditating on Him, all is well. If it is just a mindless, (though beautiful and peaceful) background noise, it is not. It might be better to reserve 'God music' for times that we can meditate on it as we listen." - Proclaim & Defend

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josh p's picture

Interesting idea and worth considering but I’m not sure I’m convinced that it would be wrong to listen to Christian music doing daily activities. I could maybe see an argument for listening to scripture inattentively though.

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that if Moses indeed wrote down the Torah, then we must infer that either he was simply writing down the stories that had been handed down around campfires/hearths/town centers for millenia, or he would have had the words handed to him directly by the Holy Spirit.  Probably the best "fit" for the situation is that a little bit of both was involved; the testimony of the Torah itself is that many of the people who "inhabit" its pages had awareness of their history, and yet we'd assume the Counselor would be superintending the process to eliminate errors.

Now if indeed this is the case--and by way of analogy, we see the same thing with various ancient and even medieval literature through the bards and such--then we would infer that the recitation of sagas, to include the entire Old Testament, including the Psalms, would fulfill some vital societal role.  Part of it would be passing on one's culture, but another part of it would be more or less "something to do when it's too dark to work and you're not ready to sleep" or "what the community does when it gets together".   And if the community comes together for Psalm-singing, or to hear Biblical sagas, is that all bad?  

Probably part of this has a lot to do with how the word "worship" is used.  I tend to use the word in a somewhat restricted way from the way most do, concentrating on the notion of "bow down" (Strong's 7812) or "kiss the ring" (Strong's 4352).  The alternative is to use words like "service" (e.g. Strong's 2999), which due to usage in the Orthodox Church and more is often translated "worship" in Romans 12:1-2.  

If you use the first set of words, you're going to decide (as I do) that singing isn't worship at all, but rather praise. Perfectly good, Biblical notion, but simply not worship.  Otherwise, you're going to tend to describe everything in church service as "worship", or even every bit of our Christian lives.  Something in this second range is what the FBFI appears to be doing.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Let's go forward to the modern age, and consider some of the great movements in our country.  For starters, you've got our African-American brothers and sisters singing spirituals while they worked; the end result is that at least a certain portion of Scripture (and those songs) almost seems innate among many to this day.  Then you've got the Methodists, who throughout the world were known for their hymn-singing--witness the men in the great movie How Green Was My Valley.  Finally, we see the same kind of thing in the "camp meetings" that used to be prevalent around the country.

Which is, really, about what we'd guess from Ephesians 5:19, which is in the context of daily life, not church services in particular.  We might infer that, just as our ancestors learned, music can teach us in ways that a sermon can not.  It's why the Puritans and Separationists devoted a lot of time to Psalm-singing, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think the writer is thinking too hard. That's not a profound observation, I realize. Background music is fine.  I believe this article frames the issue from a perspective divorced from the everyday life of ordinary people. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

...but this line kind of jumps out at me:

"It might be better to reserve 'God music' for times that we can meditate on it as we listen."

At the risk of sounding stupid...why is this necessary?

If I'm listening to the newest Wilds album in the car while I'm driving, is that somehow wrong because I can't focus on the lyrics?  I cannot possibly count the number of times I've had music on while I was doing something like dishes, and inevitably I wind up thinking about God, or His character or the Scripture in the song. 

As for this:

We cannot, we must not consider Christian music as appropriate for entertainment.

Should worship be entertainment?

Not if we truly understand who God is and what worship is. I do not think the young man would disagree, but many would. If a worship service is designed simply to please the “audience” or congregation or crowd, it is entertainment based. We live in an entertainment culture. That mentality colors everything we do. It is easy to morph our approach to pleasing the crowd rather than pleasing the Master—even in our preaching. We must be constantly vigilant to avoid this error.

I agree with the points about doing music to please the congregation / crowd and that we live in an entertainment culture.  I disagree that worship is something set aside and specific actions/activities.  All of life can / should be worship (1 Cor. 10:31, no?).  To try and split life into various spheres of "this is worship" and "that is not worship and needs to be treated as entertainment" seems to be contradictory to 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

GregH's picture

Jay wrote:

...but this line kind of jumps out at me:

"It might be better to reserve 'God music' for times that we can meditate on it as we listen."

At the risk of sounding stupid...why is this necessary?

If I'm listening to the newest Wilds album in the car while I'm driving, is that somehow wrong because I can't focus on the lyrics?  I cannot possibly count the number of times I've had music on while I was doing something like dishes, and inevitably I wind up thinking about God, or His character or the Scripture in the song. 

As for this:

We cannot, we must not consider Christian music as appropriate for entertainment.

Should worship be entertainment?

Not if we truly understand who God is and what worship is. I do not think the young man would disagree, but many would. If a worship service is designed simply to please the “audience” or congregation or crowd, it is entertainment based. We live in an entertainment culture. That mentality colors everything we do. It is easy to morph our approach to pleasing the crowd rather than pleasing the Master—even in our preaching. We must be constantly vigilant to avoid this error.

I agree with the points about doing music to please the congregation / crowd and that we live in an entertainment culture.  I disagree that worship is something set aside and specific actions/activities.  All of life can / should be worship (1 Cor. 10:31, no?).  To try and split life into various spheres of "this is worship" and "that is not worship and needs to be treated as entertainment" seems to be contradictory to Scripture.  

The argument in this article does not seem well thought out but I will say I have seen it before, mostly in the classical music community. They talk about how music is consumed differently today than the past. Apparently at least from their perspective, people used to actively listen to music but now it is passive. This creates some interesting problems for composers, especially in the way of development. If a person is not actively engaged, the pieces have to be shorter and get to the point quicker. Sort of like watching a movie vs a commercial.

I am unconvinced there are any moral considerations though. Trying to go there seems like yet another desperate attempt to find some way to condemn CCM.

pvawter's picture

Ok, ok. I'm tracking with the author on this one. The way I see it, he's saying we should reserve Christian music for worship gatherings and occasions, and not use it for entertainment. That means instead of listening to CCM while I'm mowing the lawn or driving cross country, I should be listening to my favorite country station on Pandora or some classic rock albums. I'm liking this new version of the FBFI. Just saying. Smile

Larry Nelson's picture

pvawter wrote:

Ok, ok. I'm tracking with the author on this one. The way I see it, he's saying we should reserve Christian music for worship gatherings and occasions, and not use it for entertainment. That means instead of listening to CCM while I'm mowing the lawn or driving cross country, I should be listening to my favorite country station on Pandora or some classic rock albums. I'm liking this new version of the FBFI. Just saying. Smile

So the FBFI would have me dump Casting Crowns in favor of, say, Coldplay?  I see.  (Come to think of it, Coldplay's Viva La Vida illustrates Mark 8:36 perhaps as well as any other song I am familiar with, sacred or secular...)

josh p's picture

I didn’t understand the article to be making an authoritative declaration of FBFI positions. It came across to me as a thinking out loud type of thing. I don’t happen to agree but it didn’t seem that way to me anyway.

pvawter's picture

josh p wrote:

I didn’t understand the article to be making an authoritative declaration of FBFI positions. It came across to me as a thinking out loud type of thing. I don’t happen to agree but it didn’t seem that way to me anyway.

Yeah, I got that. I was just having a little fun with it.