Articles music

Published on November 11th, 2013 | by Christopher Witmer

Let’s Talk About Music

“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy, for the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the loving kindness of the Lord.” – Psalm 33:1-5

Let’s talk about music! Music is a wonderful art. Nothing speaks quite as deeply to one’s emotions as music does—especially if accompanied with poetry. Music transcends many arts in that it affects not only your soul, but your body and spirit as well. Because it is so intimate, I believe that Christians—especially young people—should be serious in their approach to music and truly seek God in this area of their lives. This may be hard, but, well, since when has that stopped us?

I do not completely know how to approach this subject because I am not exactly sure where you, my audience, stand on this issue. In some Christian circles this is a really sensitive issue, but in others it is a topic from the ‘90s. There is a huge spectrum of musical beliefs and opinions among Christians. Some people believe that anything musical is acceptable, others believe that a cappella is the only way to worship God through music. Honestly, I have rarely participated in a conversation about music that was actually beneficial or uplifting. Therefore, I do not write this in order to give my opinion or assert my own personal belief. Rather, I wish to give some suggestions to keep in mind as YOU formulate YOUR beliefs. These suggestions are mostly an assortment of tools others have handed to me which I find beneficial in my current musical processing, and I would like to hand them to you.

If we’re not careful we can easily fall into the “ditches” on either end of the spectrum. But God does not call us to get stuck in ditches; He calls us to walk with Him on the road. Again, I’m not here to define where the ditches begin and end, or show exactly where we should be on the spectrum. Rather, I’m here to provoke our thoughts and, I hope, arouse meaningful conversation. Many of you will come to a completely different conclusion than I would after applying these tools, but my desire is that you really be thoughtful and spiritually discerning in your musical choices.

And that is why I want to hear from you to see where young people are at on music in the greater church. So as you read this article, seriously think about the music you listen to and what you believe about music. When you are done, give your thoughts in the comment section below.
As with every issue in life we as young people ought to:

1. Approach the subject of music humbly.

humility

Young people have lots of energy and often lots of ideas, but because we do not have much experience—disappointments, failures, successes—we can approach life overconfidently and often arrogantly. Confidence is good, but confidence mixed with humility is marvelous—like a kingly crown. We will never persuade someone to agree with us at a heart level through arrogant argumentation. Love and care must precede truth. No one will genuinely accept truth from us unless they sense love and humility exuding from our spirit and lifestyle.

Therefore, we must not approach music as if we have all the answers, because we do not. Period. We must be willing to learn from our peers, from mentors, and from adults we do not agree with. This is maturity. And ultimately, we must be willing to humbly accept what God says through His Word, our authorities, and His Holy spirit. God made us and the world, and is therefore sovereign over us in every area of life. We must submit to this reality if we wish to be intimate with Him, particularly through our music.

While reading the rest of the tools, you will find that some apply more to the left end of the spectrum, and others to the right end. Even though one or two tools may not seem relevant to you, still apply them to your music, because I truly believe that these tools can be applied to each end of the spectrum. None of us are above needing to reevaluate our music. The occasional reevaluation of our music—and all of our beliefs—is what keeps us on the road and out of the ditches. That is why this first point is so essential. As you continue reading, approach each tool humbly realizing that it applies, in some way, to your music as well.

We must:

2. Be conscious of who we are singing for.

worship1


Photo courtesy of Dustin Bryson and Flickr Creative Commons.


When we sing, play, or listen to music we must ask ourselves “Who are we conscious of in this moment?” Check our motives. It is not entirely wrong to participate in music for other’s enjoyment, but in doing that, are we trying to build reputation for ourselves? Are our hearts projected humbly toward God, desiring to glorify Him? Or are we merely trying to impress the bros, or the girl, or the talented?

This is a tough concept to accept but we must “digest” it thoroughly. God says that He will “not give His glory to another,” and that we are to “worship no other gods.” This idolatry happens on both ends of the spectrum. Purchasing an album (whether it is hardcore rock or pure a cappella) with the intentions of impressing another human being is idolatry (even if it is subconscious). (Notice I said “impress,” not “honor”. If your authority [i.e. parents] does not want you participating in certain music, it is your responsibility to honor their wishes. To do otherwise, is a sin as long as you are under their authority.)

If our motives in listening to or playing certain music (even a cappella) are to impress others or build our own ego, we are setting that person or ourselves on a pedestal they or we do not deserve. We must knock down the pedestal as quickly as we can. This does not necessarily mean we stop or change our music, but rather change our motives.

Furthermore, we should:

3. Remember Scripture.

bible_or_bullet

I find it more than ironic that God never gives a direct “right” or “wrong” commandment about music. But throughout the entire Bible He is constantly commanding us to sing and make music. Don’t you think that if the style of music were such an important issue to the Creator of communication that He would have communicated it to us? Therefore, either “right” music is so obvious that He did not bother to explain it in scripture, or “right” and “wrong” music is not the issue we should be addressing. Because of this, we should not act like Scripture directly supports our particular musical preferences or beliefs because it simply does not (whether they be a cappella only, strictly CCM, or “anything goes”). But there are broader principles which we can apply to music, which I have placed under other tools.

As we remember Scripture, we should likewise:

4. Consider Culture.

culture


Photo courtesy of the apostrophe and Flickr Creative Commons.


If you ever get the opportunity to travel around the world, observe the musical styles of the cultures you interact with. I am positive that there are as many styles and forms of music as there are cultures, and I only have a modest amount of world travel experience. Even within the American culture, there are dozens of different styles. Being “cultural” justifies nothing—teen sex and abortion is also cultural, yet the Bible clearly condemns it. Like every aspect of culture, we must bring Christ into music—and believe me, when Christ is introduced into a culture, its music will change. How? I do not know exactly, but it will change in some way.

With all of the above in mind, don’t you think it is just slightly arrogant to pin-point one style and call it “holy”? Likewise, it is arrogant to assume God has no musical guidelines. Even we Christian who have the Holy Spirit indwelling within us can be misguided at times. Therefore, if we can be misguided, and the Scriptures are not strictly clear on music, who are we to judge one music style or form over another? Approach music humbly.

5. Remember conviction is ultimately between God and the individual.

Read Romans 14 when you get the chance. It is a simple chapter explaining, as an example, how some people’s faith allows them to eat whatever food they want, but others are weak and eat only vegetables. Or some people consider one day more sacred than other days, but other people consider every day the same. Yet Paul says that we ought to “accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Music styles and forms are not spelled out in scripture—they are disputable. Still he says “none of us lives [or dies] for himself alone… So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Jesus is our Lord. Listen to Him. Paul’s main point is that we are accountable before God for our own choices and convictions and we must hold fast to them without passing judgment on others who disagree. Ultimately, though, he says that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [or making music], but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” He says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Is our music or our beliefs about music inhibiting others from truly worshiping God? Can people enter into our music and truly worship, or is our music too formulated or too dynamic making them feel unqualified to participate. Is it too active and they get lost or maybe too drab and they feel dry? This is why it is important to listen to the Spirit as we sing because He will communicate with us and speak to us through the music and about the music.

Also, we ought to ask ourselves a question:

6. Is it quality music or lyrics?

parental_advisory

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). We should test the lyrics of our music with this verse, not to restrict us, but to benefit us. In the next verse, Paul says that we ought to put into practice what we learn from scripture so that the “God of peace will be with [us].” Paul is saying that we should promote intimacy with God by concentrating our thoughts on what is lovely and true—righteous—in nature. What we feed on is what we become: if we feed on junk food, our bodies deteriorate; but if we eat healthy food, our bodies are strengthened.

So what are we feeding on mentally or spiritually? What are we filling our minds with? This is what we will become. Thoughts generally become actions and actions determine history. Therefore, in an indirect way, the music (and especially the lyrics) we allow to penetrate our minds will affect history. Also consider the performer. How do they interact? Is “it all about them”? Do they move immorally? Do they invoke temptation sexually or spiritually? Do they emanate pride through their singing or lifestyle? I’m not writing with answers, I just want us to think about it. This is mature thinking and we are called to be mature examples.

But as we analyze our music we need to:

7. Remember that God is pleased with our singing.

Although it is very important that our beliefs and actions line up with Jesus Christ, we must not forget that God, ultimately, looks at the heart. Because God looks at the Christian and sees the beauty of Jesus Christ, when we sing out of a heart of worship to God, He is delighted, even though we may be doing it a little wrong. God’s delight in our worship for Him is beyond our comprehension. It is an extraordinary mixture of the delight a parent has for their child who just wants to please the parent and the delight a husband has for his beautiful wife who loves him passionately. Think on this as you sing and discern His will about and through music.

And last of all, as God says again and again:

8. Sing your heart out!

worship3

He loves it.

The Psalms are all about singing to God. Here are a few of my favorite Psalms (as well as a few other passages):

“But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You.”

- Psalm 5:11

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.”

- Psalm 92:1-3

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

- Ephesians 5:15-21

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

- Colossians 3:16

Cover photo courtesy of Mark J P and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the Author

is originally from Northern Minnesota but now lives with his family in Los Angeles where they moved to plant inner-city churches. He is 18 and has been home-schooled through every grade. He loves sports, travel, and music, but his passion is writing for God and lifting high the name of Jesus through his writing.



  • Ernest Witmer

    Good job, son! I’m looking forward to the discussion!!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks Dad! And thanks for teaching me so much about life and God and guiding me through my “musical journey”!

      I love you!

  • Steve

    Yes please. Very good. Single biggest concern I have about music, is it’s ability to bypass the mind and enter the heart directly. This communicates from musician, to hearer, a frightening amount of influence/impression/appetite/ etc.

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks Steve! Hmm, that’s a good thought. I have never thought of music as having that ability before, but it is so true. It is a frightening triat, if the music is truly is wrong! Something to definitely keep in mind!

  • Katrina Nisly

    You’ve nailed it, Christopher! I truly appreciate the humility and strength that comes through in your words. You’ve been given some good tools. Thanks for sharing them with the rest of us!

  • Elliot Mullet

    Way to go Christopher! As you mentioned, most of the music discussions I’ve participated in have been wholly unproductive. Most of the reasons people use to argue for or against certain types of music lacked an honest look at what scripture really says. You’ve managed to capture the heart of the issue and provide a framework in which to make musical decisions. The kind of music we listen to and/or make does matter, but it matters because of how it affects our relationship to God, and how we respond to Him in our music. And by all means, sing your heart out!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks Elliot, and praise God!

  • http://www.wordoftruthmedianetwork.com/ Grant Bingham

    those were some great points! it grieves me to see all of the worldly practices being absorbed into the modern church. I guess I’m glad to be in the Pentecostal church that i am in.

  • Patrick Schrock

    Full of great thoughts! Was cool to hear it from a teenager like me.

  • Bethany

    This is awesome! Great, basic advice for making decisions regarding any area of our lives, not just music. I wanted to ask something about point six and see what ya’ll think about it. Of course the lyrics of our music is important, but have you found that, sometimes, the lyrics can be wonderful but the actual MUSIC (not what you’re actually singing) can get you thinking or feeling not God-honoring things? I’d love to hear what you guys think about this.

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks for the comment Bethany! And I hope that others feel free to comment on this as well, even after I have given my two cents.

      I think you are right, that music, aside from the lyrics, can cause wrong feelings within us.

      My first thought is that we should not try to legislate which style causes these feelings and “is therefore wrong”, because it will be different for everyone. For instance, one person who listens to choral music may find it tremendously uplifting and relaxing within. Others may have feelings of jealousy, or pride when listening to/participating in choral. These are wrong feelings and should be dealt with (and will probably happen in most musical styles). If these feelings persist, I personally would take a break from that musical style and seek to mature in Christ. The same goes for any example. If a certain style persistently causes sexual, prideful, jealous, bitter, or any wrong thoughts to arouse within someone, they should step away from that style for a while (like, a long while) and seek God. This is one way in which the Spirit will communicate His will to us.

      This practice will do several things for the listener, including:
      1. Giving them external perspective
      2. Revealing any addictions (idolatry)
      3. Giving them opportunity to hear from God without the distraction of the immediate feelings which the music gives them

      Doing this also allows the person to have hear afresh from God when entering back into that musical style. Having spent some time away from it, breaking any previous addictions or bias’, the person can then feel whether the music settles with the Spirit within Him (if they are Christian, if not, this whole article is basically mute to them).

      Also, sometimes music which is appropriate for one stage of life is not appropriate later down the road, if that makes sense. For example, I listened to some fairly “hard” music at a fairly rough point in my life, but since then I haven’t felt at rest listening to those bands or songs because of where I was as a person at that point in my life. This is where Romans 14 (point 5) really comes into play.

      I suppose this comment should be a ninth point, huh?

      Anyways, enough from me–too much! I want to hear from others! :) And what were your thoughts, Bethany? Maybe you didn’t have any? Thanks for bringing it up anyways.

      • Bethany

        That is a very mature way of dealing with it. In fact, in dealing with anything! It’s funny how we know there are fundamental rules for a Christian, but sometimes we tend to think that those rules apply to everything else but “that ONE thing.” So much of this is just an issue with the Lordship of Christ. What are you willing to give up to have a pure relationship with Him? These are really good points. Thanks so much Christopher!

  • http://upwards.weebly.com/ Ci Chong

    wow. thanks so much for taking the time and effort to think through this huge topic (which, sadly, can easily become unnecessarily complicated and sensitive!) and sharing the results. I think you’ve given some very good, heart-of-the-matter guidelines that everyone who sincerely wants to please God and glorify Him, regardless of convictions or backgrounds, can benefit from. Thanks for the insights! :)

    • Christopher Witmer

      Praise God, Ci! I am glad that people have found it useful! It was a pleasure writing it, though, like you said, at times somewhat complicated and technical. :)

  • Sierra

    Great post Christopher! The balanced approach was really refreshing. Thanks.

  • Ruth Brown

    This was an extremely clear, humble, BIBLICAL look at music. Thanks for sharing with us what God has shared with you! I know one (actually, the main) thought I’ve heard in judging musical style is association. I guess it would probably fall under your section on conscience. For example, when I hear drums, I hear the music intensifying and, essentially, God being honored in what’s simply a louder way. When my dad hears drums, though, he associates it with his adolescent, unsaved lifestyle. Do you think these are just associations, or are they something more? My question is really this: does music itself have morality, or is it relative–it’s wrong if it, raising sinful thoughts via association, affects you negatively? This has been on the back burner of my mind for several years, and I’d appreciate any insight you have.

  • Sarah Phillips

    This is great! It’s truthful look into music; we need it into today’s culture. I have chosen to not listen to certain things because they hinder my relationship with God, yet other things draw me closer to Him! We have to remember; God created music so that we could glorify Him through it! The only way that music has become corrupt is where we have corrupted it. I’ve had people tell me, “But some of that Christian stuff is just as upbeat as the other stuff…there isn’t a difference.” Honestly, I think it doesn’t matter to God whether you praise Him through a hymn on the piano or an electric guitar solo; it matters where your heart is. Yes, it can be hard to accept that us, as a Christians, do not need to listen to things that might be popular but come between us and God; but like you said, since when has that stopped us? :) I think it’s a choice everyone needs to make: will you honor God with everything? Even your music choices?

  • Chad Chaffee

    I really appreciated this. Music is powerful. Sometimes I hear people say that music doesn’t have that large of an influence over them, but if that were true I just don’t think movie makers and video game designers would spend the outrageous amounts of money on sound tracks that they do. I believe it’s pretty well established that music influences us, whether we know it or not…or whether we believe it or not.

    If I could add one more thing to your list, it would be: Be Considerate.

    Once we’ve come to a decision about what is right for us, we must remember that others may not have come to the same conclusions, or that they may still be struggling to know which way God is leading them in that decision. We must remember that, first, we are not God and have no right pushing our views onto another. A simple and humble explanation of what we have found to be true in our lives is great, so long as we don’t go on to insist that another MUST believe what we have come to believe. If we feel that another is making a poor choice, then out of love for that person the best response is to pray for them adamantly. But if their choice is not affecting others, we have no right to demand anything of them.

    I think this extends to how we interact in church functions and social gatherings also. No matter what we have come to believe–even if Jesus Himself were to agree with it–if we try to demand our way about it and end up alienating other (even one other), then it is wrong. Period. Church should be a place where we are at home. Where we are ALL at home. If I truly love my conservative brother, I’m not going to insist that MY style of music is played in church, and thus rob him of his home, so to speak… And visa versa. (Brother or sister, of course). If it came down to it, it would be better that no music be played in church, than for some to walk away, never to return. I can listen to my music later. Music should never be more important than each other. Jesus said, “this is how they will know that you are mine, by your love for one another.” It so said when I see people fighting over such trivial matters, as though their love for their music were the more important principle.

    Oops…sorry. I didn’t mean to write so much. Hope it made sense. God Bless!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks for the comment Chad!

      I really like your point to “Be Considerate.” It is very relevant to this topic. I guess it parallels Point 5 with Romans 14. Because so many things in Scripture aren’t explicitly clear, we need to be careful about passing judgement or forcing beliefs on others. But we should all personally wrestle through things God may be trying to communicate to us (and wrestling may involve friendly conversation), and stand firmly but humbly in the convictions we come to. Even beliefs that are clearly laid out in Scripture must still be accepted on a personal basis rather than heavily legislated. [SIDE NOTE: This is part of why healthy families are so important and helpful! If godly families can pass on healthy convictions generation to generation, the church doesn't have to legislate the convictions.]

      Anyways, I appreciated what you said and don’t have much to add because you articulated it well. I just like to talk. :)

      • Chad Chaffee

        Thanks! And me too–you and I live in similar boats. Haha.

        • Rebekah

          “Be Considerate” SO important! I attended a church that this was NOT practiced at all, and the result was a divided church.
          When a few of us choose how the music should be and shrug others concern off, we aren’t following Romans 14. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy lots of types of music, but I try not to expect others to share my views. Seems as if music is tearing many churches apart and seperating the older folks from the younger. I doubt God is smiling on that.

  • Ben Klazinga

    Thanks for writing this!

    I find myself in a rather interesting church, musically. First of all, it’s Exclusive Psalmody, which essentially means that they believe that the only music worthy of singing in church is that which is divinely inspired, i.e. the Psalms. So, we have a book of the Psalms translated into a metric format, along with a wide variety of tunes that we can apply to each song.

    Second, it’s completely a cappella. Our church doesn’t have any instruments in it, not even a piano. Instead, the whole congregation sings the Psalms in four-part harmony. This is done with the aid of a precentor, a person whose job it is to start off the congregation with the right tune (selected beforehand out of many that could be applied to the metre of that particular Psalm) and set the pace. The precentor pretty much has to have the loudest voice in the church. Before services we usually have a ten-minute lesson from one of our members, who happens to be a music teacher, on the four parts of a particular tune.

    The third thing is less doctrinal and, in my opinion, slightly annoying. We usually tend to sing sitting down. It’s not that great for circulation when you’re singing, but it stems from our churches tradition of praying while standing up. You can’t be standing up the whole time.

    The end result is a rather impressive sound, with the entire congregation (most of whom are great singers) singing the psalms entirely a cappella in four-part harmony. I’m not personally convinced of the Biblical necessity of these traditions, but since my family came to this church I’ve found musical instruments in church to sound kind of odd, and occasionally overbearing. I thought it would be an interesting take on the subject to share here. What is your opinion on the different styles of music used for worship in the church?

    • Christian hanna

      Not that my opinion matters much, but I would think that music may be reader’s discretion, but in 2 Samuel, it is recorded that David danced around the ark to music, and several other places are mentioned to have music, and it be good. I mean, David played the harp, and he was a man after God’s own heart, so I believe that there is no exact rules on music in the Bible

  • Ruth Brown

    Thanks, Chris. You gave me a lot to think about! Especially the verses from 1 Corinthians. I’ve read that passage a hundred times, but it struck me reading it through today that Paul almost goes out of his way to NOT draw lines anywhere. He purposefully makes everyone decide exactly what course of action they have to take to “do all to the glory of God.” So thanks :)

  • Ruth Brown

    Thanks for the concern, Grant. I agree that our music shouldn’t emulate the world or simply exist to please our fleshly desires. However, I think that we should be careful to not just assume that certain styles are okay or are better than others. It’s easy for us, the current younger generation, to assume that because something is older (and thus less popular), it is better. Plainly put, that’s chronological snobbery. I would remind you that when gospel songs and 6/8 time entered the church, people thought they were evil and worldly, too. I like your ending advice: “ask God about it.” I often forget that step–thanks for the reminder!

    • http://www.wordoftruthmedianetwork.com/ Grant Bingham

      well, I actually have been studying this subject of music genres for a few months and have come to the conclusion, not that other genres are evil or anything, but that I prefer southern gospel and hymns because, as my church’s technical director puts it, “I like southern gospel and hymns because they give the gospel message in a very clear and understanding way.” you see, not that others are evil or even less good, but just that it speaks to me CLEARLY, now please note i speak for myself alone.
      ~Grant

  • Christopher Witmer

    Thanks for your thoughts, Grant! You seem to have a heart for God and truth! Bless you brother, and keep it up!

    I would say though, that our goal as Christians is not to be separate from the world. Our goal is to be intimate and one with Christ. There are good things which the world does that Christians ought to do as well–even more so. But there is a lot of sin as well, which is what Jesus is referring to when he says not to be “of the world.”

    I think we should focus more on what Christ did/is doing and patterning our lives after Him, rather than focusing on NOT doing what the world does. I know it’s cliche, but be known for what you DO not for what you DON’T DO.

    I agree: I love good ‘ole Southern Gospel and the beautiful hymns sung in a cappella four-part harmony. But maybe instead avoiding “Gospel-less” genres, we should storm those genres with the beauty and loveliness of Christ, eh? Have you heard any of Lecrae’s stuff? I think he’s doing a good thing for the hip-hop culture, and he’s doing it WELL. Some of us need to be careful about listening to things just because it’s popular and cool, but I do think Lecrae’s making a positive impact for people already in hip-hop.

    Anyways, blessing to you Grant!

    • http://www.wordoftruthmedianetwork.com/ Grant Bingham

      thanks Christopher! I realize I am guilty of being narrow-minded from time to time, so sorry. didn’t mean to. ~Grant

  • Michael Tan

    This is an amazing article ^_^ learned a lot!.

    Music has been a part of our daily lives whether we like it or not, we hear it, we sing it. so little that we know that it affects us deeply in our minds. unconsciously it plants a seed of idea in our mind and as we listens to it, we cultivate that seed and eventually it will come out of us.
    well for me it doesn’t matter whether it be a a cappella or accompanied by instruments because I believe that God allowed musical instruments to be made for His Glory. the critical point (for me) is the lyrics and the video because it is in those things that determines whether who is being glorified.

    genre really isn’t the big deal right :) whether it be punk, jazz, rock, RnB, pop. as long as it glorifies the right person because I know heavy metal bands who plays for Jesus. I have a friend who writes and sings metal songs for Jesus. :)

    well thats my idea. and let me say it again , This is an amazing article ^_^

  • Monica Berndt

    I just talked with my pastor about music in the church. I have grown up in a church were we have only sung hymns to a piano or organ and I have always loved both the musical and Biblical quality of hymns. I’ve also been a services in churches where they sound a bit like rock concerts as you mentioned, Grant. I think that there are certain types of rhythms and music that stir up emotions that should never be present in a church. We need to remember that God isn’t going to be impressed by how outwardly passionate we look/feel. He is concerned with what our heart is feeling and those feelings, in a church especially, need to be godly and reverent. I’m not saying that we can’t be passionate about God, but we need to be careful about how we direct that passion and whether we are using it to praise God or to impress others.

    • http://www.wordoftruthmedianetwork.com/ Grant Bingham

      Yes Monica, I agree 100% ~Grant

  • Nels Potvin

    Can you please enplane what the ‘sinful desires that all teens have’ that the church caters to? (As a 17 year old I am confused by this)

    For me, southern gospel is not worshipful at all, But I can see that it is from some peoples hearts. I really enjoy as worship bands such as For Today, or Sleeping Giant, because as I hear the words of the songs which praise God the music also speaks to me. I don’t think that it is talking to a ‘sinful’ desire I have. I think that it’s just how God wired me.
    And people can express themselves in worship to God in many ways. Jumping around and singing the words to God is a valid expression I know for me.

    • http://www.wordoftruthmedianetwork.com/ Grant Bingham

      well you see, I probably could have worded that better thanks for saying something. what I meant was our flesh (basically sinful desires everyone is born with). our flesh is the thing that loves to, maybe not sin, but just get as close to the fence as you can. so you know I try my best to be in the center of God’s will (I’m not perfect, not even close i still sin almost every day, but the thing I have learned is, that to be a man after God’s own heart you don’t have to be perfect just have to be purely repentant every time you realize you mess up). It gets really sad when I see my friends getting as close to the fence as they can, and the thing is, they think I’m insane myself for not doing the things they do.

      yes and that probably is just how God wired you Nels, Isn’t it awesome how we are all special and unique. ~Grant

  • Michaela

    One thing that was overlooked here was music as an art form. Yes, most of the music most people listen to is not classical, and I’m not limiting this just to classical music, but I think that music is more than just the lyrics or the instrumentation. Music as an art form can bring glory to God without saying one word about him. Have you ever heard Beethoven’s fourth? Have you ever seen a Ballet? Have you heard a choir sing in a different language? Is not the beauty of these things reflective of God’s glory? I think so. And I think that’s something else to consider when forming your beliefs about music, though it is on a slightly different train of thought.

  • Johanna Lim

    Hi Christopher,

    I’m always encouraged by your articles. They are well thought-out and professionally written.

    I was especially challenged by point 1, paragraph two: “And ultimately, we must be willing to humbly accept what God says through His Word, our authorities, and His Holy spirit.”

    Your attitude of submitting to our earthly authorities while formulating our own beliefs and accountability to God is just what I needed to hear. Thank you for taking the time to write this article.
    God bless!

  • Barbara Mishkov

    As there are many genres and types of music, there are many types and kinds of people. All original; not one the same. This makes me think of all the different laughs out there, all the different smiles that God had designed. All the different voices that sing and some maybe more pleasant than others yet every vocal cord is not only capable of singing but was also made for praise. My point is that the variety and originality is so beautiful because God is creator and the master of originality but its so much more so when its used for Gods glory. Whether its rap, rock, hymns or psalms when Jesus Christ is the focus then Gods word does not return void and the words and truth will penetrate the hearts of every ear that hears. I honestly love it all. Rap, rock, pop, hymns, russian hymns and songs, its all awesome when its praising my savior.

  • Anna Katherine Clarke

    Thank you so much for whiting this! You really humbly, and biblically showed the true view of music. I have been struggling with what type of music really honors God. It is so easy to become side swiped into the wrong song, which does not honor God. Music is not black and white. It is hard to draw the line on what honors God and what does not. (For me at least:) But, this really helped me understand what the true purpose for music was. Thank you!:)

  • Christian hanna

    I liked this article, but here’s my predicament: I play drums, and my church is very conservative…. Enough said. So these same people go see concerts that have drums and other percussion instruments, and so it would appear that their line at church and their line in their personal lives is very different. So what then? Should I not worry about anybody and offending them? Or should I never play in church just to keep everyone happy? (I’m sure it doesn’t help my case that my drum is a djembe) thoughts?

    • Hannah

      As long as you are doing what you’re doing out of love for God, keep doing it. Other than that, instead of asking whether you’ll offend anyone, think about whether you’ll prevent anyone from worshiping Christ (or make them stumble on their spiritual walk). If that’s not an issue (and I don’t see why it would be if these people go to concerts with percussion instruments), then I see no issue. As always, pray about it. God knows so much more than us!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Good question! Dido to what Hannah said! Except I might caution you to be very sensitive to those in authority at church. Is your pastor okay with drums in the church? Is there a certain image or reputation that your church is wanting to be known by, which your pastor, or other people of influence feel would be hindered by having drums in the church? Don’t undermine those in authority–it never works (particularly in the long run).

      Several thoughts:
      1. Since drums are not usually a necessity for worship, be sensitive about bringing them into the church, since it is predominantly conservative (submit to one another, Ephesians 5). Don’t feel ashamed about using them for private worship or gigs, but make sure you are doing under authority if you actually bring it into the church, where someone, or a group of someones are trying to lead a congregation to the best of their abilities.

      2. Avoid divisions. If bringing drums into the church would cause arguments, or divisions of any kind, just avoid it. (Not that you never have conflict: debate or reason things out. But don’t spark an “us verses them” division.)

      3. However, if there are certain people who just do not connect in any way with how the church worships through music, you could respectfully ask those in authority if there is any better way of including these people in the worship service. The final conclusion may not be exactly how you think it should be done, but at least it will be better then it was.

      4. Don’t shove your drums on anyone. God’s less concerned with our outward styles and ways of worshiping and more concerned with our hearts. If our hearts are bent toward Christ, He can fix any “outward” problems. But if our hearts are turned away from Christ, it doesn’t matter how perfect our services run and our music styles are: it’s not worship.

      My casual thought: You can always play your instruments at home or during a gig, so why upset a brother in Christ? But like Hannah said, take it to God. He knows about this stuff. :)

      And remember, you’re not responsible for any hypocrisy on other people’s part.

  • Jorin Gedamke

    When we’re talking about church, I think we should remember something. This isn’t the time for encouraging, “you’ll get better” music. That’s okay for the radio, but in church it’s worship time.

  • Guest

    I just kind of want to make the point that music that “sounds kind of secular” can be just as uplifting and used to praise God as well as any other type of music. For instance, the song “Ready Or Not” (by Britt Nicole) “sounds kind of secular” and even has rapping in it (which for some Christians is apparently totally taboo), but I listen to that song every morning and it gets me really excited about sharing the love of Christ throughout the day. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t understand why you think that music that sounds different from what is popular is “better” than music that sounds similar. If songs that were sung in the style of hymns became popular, would that make hymns less holy?

    Again, I am not by any means trying to attack what you believe, so I hope it doesn’t come off that way. I’m simply trying to understand where you’re coming from.

    • http://www.wordoftruthmedianetwork.com/ Grant Bingham

      Hey, thanks for making that point. And I did not feel attacked in any way from your reply, that being aside.

      In my opinion, it’s all about closeness to God and hearing his voice. Our personal convictions should dictate what we listen to, what we say, and so on. The closer you get to God, the farther you’ll want to be from the world. When you get farther from the world, you will actually begin to not enjoy worldlier (new word!) things you used to. The reason for this is God working in your life, now don’t get me wrong here, just because you still enjoy secular music doesn’t mean you’re not getting closer to God (it’s a process) but you can make it step by step

  • Bruno Rosa
  • Marynia

    I listen to a variety of music, but when it comes to looking through the Christian artists on my iTunes I find that a good 80% are hard rock, which I absolutely love. The likes of Flyleaf (the former lead singer, Lacey Sturm, appears in a Billy Graham video on this site sharing her testimony), Skillet, RED, We As Human, Thousand Foot Krutch… etc.

    In a majority of these bands there is (apart from heavy music, but also some surprisingly light and delicate violin/piano/acoustic music) some screaming. I know that some people associate this as something “Satanic” or wrong, which baffles me to be honest. To me, it is like there are different genres of music– this is a different genre of singing. It also, to me, is a way for me to hear passion in singing about injustice, pain, God’s glory, hope, joy, all sorts of different things. It’s a way of showing passion and punctuating phrases when simply normally singing isn’t always enough for the worshipper (of course that is always the personal opinion of the worshipper and/or listener). I’d like to know what others here think about it. Do you find hard rock Christian music and screaming to be ‘wrong’? Personal opinions? Objective opinions? Biblical views?

    Thanks

    Marynia (15)

    • http://the-ingblog.blogspot.com/ Inge Lane

      Hi there Marynia! I noticed no one has replied to your comment yet. I have a personal opinion if that might help. I’m not necessarily a hard rock lover, but I see nothing wrong with worshiping God in that way! I agree with the whole passion thing! Everybody is passionate about different things and therefor different things will evoke passion in their hearts! I love dub step and electronica and I like to worship God with that. I worship God in many ways, and I feel like if God has given you a passion for something it’s good and you can use that to worship Him! :) Hope that was helpful. And once again it’s just my opinion!

  • http://the-ingblog.blogspot.com/ Inge Lane

    I’m so happy that you did not just jump right in and criticized music genres!

    My personal belief is that if the intentions are pure and good, anything goes! The beat itself is just amazing to me, whether it’s a Capella or dub step! I feel that the beat just shows off how amazing God has made us to hear such incredible sounds! Lyrics are a bit different for me though. A message – good or bad – can be directly communicated through the lyrics, and I think that’s what influences how I see a song the most for me! If the lyrics are talking me down a road and twisting my good intentions into something bad – for example as you mentioned at point #2, idolatry – I either change the way I see the song or chuck(delete) it for good. I’ve seen how songs with explicit lyrics effect me. You sort of get desensitized to what their singing about and before you know it, you’re in a ditch! And it works the other way to! If I listen to song that glorify God, I feel more motivated and it leads me to worship!

    Wonderful article! I can see God has blessed you with much insight and knowledge! :)

  • Awesome sauce

    Number six: My greatest weekness. I listen to a lot of music-because it has a good beat, or because the rap is good, not because it is God honoring. I needed this-thanks

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