Godliness In Selecting Worship Music

Dear Zion,

As we seek to obey God’s Word in the realm of music in worship, we must remember that there are several commands in God’s Word that do not speak directly to music, but nevertheless apply to how we treat one another. In this article, we will look at some of these biblical principles.

One way we can apply all of God’s Word is by not insisting on our favorite musical style. God has not commanded one particular style of music for our worship services, and there is no “godly” style of music. Harold Best, Dean of the Wheaton Music Conservatory, notes, “There is nothing un- or anti-Christian about any kind of music. By the same token there is no such thing as Christian music.”[1] As we have noted before, this does not mean that style is neutral. We should not sing the “Hallelujahs!” of Psalm 150 to the blues, nor “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” to the rock ‘n’ roll of Elvis, because then the accompaniment would not match the lyrics. But no matter how much I may like Elvis, I should not demand to have every hymn sound like “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog!”

This goes hand-in-hand with what the New Testament teaches us about how to treat others, even when we are thinking about music. The Apostle Paul commands us to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10), and that in humility we ought to “consider others better than ourselves” and to “look out for… the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). We can demonstrate these selfless attitudes when it comes to our worship services by not demanding that only our favorite songs or styles are played. One of the ways we “love one another” is by looking out for the interests of others, and honor them by letting them have their way with what music is played.

In fact, the New Testament uses even stronger language. In I Corinthians 6, Paul heard rumors that a lawsuit had broken out amongst the believers in the church. Such disagreements, he argued, were completely out of line for Christians. He says, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you! Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” (I Corinthians 6:7). When we cannot seem to agree over a decision in the church, our natural reaction will be to fight for our own rights. But Paul says that the reaction of Christians ought to be the exact opposite: because of God’s grace and His Holy Spirit working in our lives, we should rather be willingly defrauded than allow such a division to occur. Each of us should be willing to say, “By the power of Jesus’ Spirit at work in my heart, I can honestly say that I care more about loving my brothers and sisters than I do about getting my own way with worship music.” Of course, when everyone willingly submits to our Lord’s leadership, then everyone wins.

Another key aspect that the Scriptures teach is the dynamic between the older and mature Christians and those who are younger. Younger Christians are not to demand their way, but instead are to give honor to their elders and learn quietly from them (Leviticus 19:32). Similarly, older and more mature Christians should set the example for those younger in the faith (1 Timothy 5:1 – 2; Titus 2:2 – 3). Too often, churches are split down generational lines over music. But Scripture reminds us that we should seek to be learning from each other, with those of us who are older and more mature leading the way forward. Those of us who are younger should seek to learn from their example in all patience.

Hopefully, the last several articles have helped you to think more about what Scripture asks of us in worship. May we all be quick to sing with our whole hearts for the glory of God, because we come to worship Him. May we seek to be obedient to God’s Word in all aspects, and be willing to lay down our own rights and preferences to serve our neighbors.

Looking forward to worshiping with you this Lord’s Day,
Pastor Brian

[1] Harold Best Music Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 1993) p. 52.

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