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Resolving the Music Controversy
What's this disagreement all about.

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For some time now there has been a serious controversy in the body of Christ over music. It has been going on for years and still divides churches more than any other issue.


It's not a disagreement over biblical commands. Some try to argue that it is, but it's not. Colossians 3:16-17 commands us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Psalm 150 commands us to praise God with a variety of instruments. Psalm 96:1 commands us to sing a new song.

It's not a disagreement over the content of songs. Some contend that the new songs are too repetitious and shallow. But some of the new choruses are straight out of scripture, while some of the old hymns were extremely repetitious (did you ever really look at the words of "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder"?)

It's not a disagreement over majority opinion. Some think it is, but they are like the woman who complained, "I can't really believe Richard Nixon won the election—I don't know anyone who voted for him!" That's more of a commentary on associations than it is on majority opinion.

Why the ongoing, heated argument? For one thing, it's a disagreement over the familiar versus the unfamiliar. There is a sense of nostalgia about the old hymns. They were the vehicles that helped introduce some of us to the Lord. When we don't sing the old songs, we're not reminded of that great experience. There is a sense of security with the familiar. It's like going through the same routine during the holidays. "It just doesn't feel like Christmas if we don't have dinner at Grandma's."

It's a controversy over the beat of the music. Most hymns had a certain rhythm to them that we identified with church. Most contemporary music has a beat that we identify with secular music. It just doesn't sound sacred!

Martin Luther had this same problem when he set his poem, "A Mighty Fortress" to a tune from a saloon, yet today people say, "I love those stately hymns like 'A Mighty Fortress.' "

To Luther's disturbed contemporaries, however, it was like our generation singing scripture to the tune of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

It's a controversy over volume. For some, the new music is so amplified it's distracting. Even though the Bible says we should "praise him with the clash of cymbals; praise him with resounding cymbals," it couldn't have meant that loud!

It's a controversy over instruments. Each culture and generation associates certain instruments with the sacred and others with the secular. Since the piano was originally used in bars, some churches had difficulty with it and chose to be non-instrumental.

I remember people being unhappy the first time a guitar was used in our worship service. It just didn't seem appropriate. Now some are disturbed to hear drums. Others hate the synthesizer or can't believe that a saxophone—that sultry sound—could ever be worshipful. But the Bible says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

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Topics:Changes in worship, Conflict, Contemporary worship, Music, Strategy, Traditional, Worship, Worship planning, Worship service
Filters:Church board, Elder, Pastor, Worship, Worship leader
References:Psalm 96:1, Psalm 150, Colossians 3:16-17

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Displaying 1–5 of 10 comments

Steven Henry

October 28, 2014  3:46pm

It's not so much the "mod" style of worship music that bothers me. It's the entertainment, showmanship, and distinctly non-sanctuary attitude of the so-called praise teams who seem to be praising themselves more than their Divine Creator. I'm about ready to search for a traditional service somewhere that minimizes the showmanship and maximizes the devotion. However, these days being what they are, I may find it difficult to locate such a church service.

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May 05, 2012  10:08pm

Who really cares? God doesn't only "show up" when there is actual worship music being played. Who cares if people worship with the "wrong instruments" or anything else. If they are worshipping God then that's all that matters. If I am praising God through Rap or hip hop or rock, then so be it. I am praising God. NOBODY else! Maybe people shouldn't make arguing about these things, more important than God himself.

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John Smith

April 08, 2012  7:51pm

The issue has never been the music...the issue is that music has replaced the Holy Spirit and this culture is the new god. Music may move your emotions, that doesn't mean the Holy Spirit is moving....the Holy Spirit moves the heart to repentence. When music becomes the object, when the concert replaces the horns of the altar, I don't care how genuine you think you are, THAT is when it becomes idolatry. And THAT is what people are mourning. Let's cut through the silly argument of making this about something as inane as "style". It's not about style, it's about substance...always has been...most music today is pure soft rock masquerading as worship..it's not worship, so stop calling it that. Stop lying...then maybe God will show up for real.

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katby hedges

February 19, 2012  3:14pm

Actually, it's not the truth that Martin Luther's hymn "A Mighty Fortress" came from a "saloon song". "It’s amazing how many times (at least a hundred) I’ve had CCMers tell me "Martin Luther used drinking and bar tunes in his music". And it’s even more amazing what happens when asked to provide documented evidence to their accusation — it cannot be found! In the many, many times I have asked for documentation to their claim, do you know how many produced any evidence? Exactly ZERO! Why? Because it is simply not true. Here are the documented FACTS: "Of the melodies to Luther’s 37 chorales, 15 were composed by Luther himself, 13 came from Latin hymns of Latin service music, 4 were derived from German religious folk songs, 2 had originally been religious pilgrims’ songs, 2 are of unknown origin, and one came directly from a secular folk song." The hymn from the folk song was changed by Luther because it was too worldly" http://www.av1611.org/question/cqluther.html

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Angelina Aiken

February 19, 2012  11:39am

I totally agree with Richard. After a week of stress and pressures of daily life I hunger for peace and tranquility. Good old hymns do that for me. They allow my scrambled mind to elevate itself to a state of deep solemn. Secular style worship music is for your home, party or car. I never feel I need to be entertained to spend time with the Lord.

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