In recent days the Christian blog world exploded over a panel discussion by the NCFIC on Christian rap and hip hop. If you haven’t seen the panel discussion you can watch it here. However, my article here does not directly answer what happened in that discussion. There are many other people who have covered the subject with great biblical insight and humility. One of the best articles on the NCFIC debacle is penned by Timothy Trudeau. You can read Tim’s article here.
To watch what happened on the stage of the NCFIC discussion did not terribly surprise me. There has been an element of the Christian church that has been wary of the new and unfamiliar in Christian music. The idea of Christian rap is a strange concept to many. Yet, as you hear the songs by Lecrae, Trip Lee and Shai Linne they reveal men who have a heart to share the gospel and to bring glory to God through the gifts they have been given.
However, Christian rap is not the only argument that has happened in the church over music. Many of us can think of a church (even your own church) that is in a debate over worship styles. You hear the discussion all the time: “Should we sing only hymns or only contemporary worship? Should you have a combination of both?’ These conversations quickly turn to heated arguments and these arguments have cost pastors their jobs and have caused church splits.
So why all the fuss over music in the church and how can we resolve all these conflicts especially over preference of worship style? I wish I had an answer for you in this regard, but I do not. All I can do is provide some perspective on the subject and pray the Lord can use it in your life.
1) As much a people say music style doesn’t matter, it really does
Over the centuries Christian worship has changed by ways of sound and feel. The way the Christians in the Book of Acts worshiped is not quite the way Hillsong worships. If we read Psalm 150, we see worship that sounds very different than what goes on in many churches in the Western world.
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! ~ Psalm 150:3-6
Not many Western churches have a lute, trumpet and pipe used in worship. Common instruments in the Western church today include piano, organ, drums, guitar and bass. Are any of these means of worship more “holy” than the others? I don’t think they are. These are the instruments that the people have and so that is what they worship the Lord with. These are instruments that people have grown up hearing. It has become a part of the fabric of their church and their culture. That’s our true problem. Any problem a person has with a certain type of music becomes an attack on a group’s cultural identity. Great care has to be taken when we deal with someone’s culture.
2) Let’s come back to worship of the heart
I think the bigger issue over music style is the issue of the heart in worship. Worship is so much more than beautiful music strung together with powerful lyrics. We can sing some of the most classic anthems of the faith or some of the most soul stirring contemporary worship available, but it means nothing if our heart is not in to it. Pay careful attention to the words of Jesus as He quotes from Isaiah:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. ~ Matthew 15:8-9
We cannot dare rob God of the praise due to Him because we don’t like the beat of a song. We should never mindlessly sing songs with our voices from a hymnal or from a projector screen that we are not singing with our hearts. Worship is more than the physical act of singing. It is the confession of our hearts as to who God is and what He has done.
May that be our biggest concern with music in the church be about honoring and worshiping God with our own hearts. If God is not worthy to be praised because we do not like the beat of a song then our hearts feel that He’s not worthy of praise in the first place. He is always worthy of praise! May that be the song of our hearts. May our hearts daily sing to Him who is worthy to be praised.