What Music Is Most Glorifying to God?
Let’s talk about one of the most controversial subjects in all of Christianity. While perhaps a few Christians do not have a stance on the various views of election, every Christian has an opinion on what music is best in corporate worship scenarios. Why is this? Because music is so fundamental to the life of a believer. We see this throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament with David’s Psalms and national worship led by Hezekiah to the New Testament and the early church’s hymns. Music is how the people of God gather together and throw adoration before God and exalt Him for His wondrous deeds and holiness in unison.
So what style of music does God want us to worship Him in? That’s a tricky question. Because as much as the Bible mentions singing and music, there is no mention of a particular style or genre which God’s people are supposed to worship Him in. It’s just not in there and this is where the debate comes from because we don’t have black and white, we have a shade of grey here. As one discusses this topic, one must also understand the passion that will undoubtedly come out from opposing views. We’re talking about worshipping God, every Christian should be passionate about how they choose to do this. So of course, Christians will be a little more “touchy” around this subject then perhaps other subjects, because it’s so personal and important.
So if there is not a certain style of music that is called for in the Word of God, how could we possibly come to a decision about the style that should be used in worship? Well, it’s the same as any other grey matter. We take Biblical principles and apply them to our subject. So some of the things that must be considered is association with the world, so we should probably not sing “Amazing Grace” in the tune of “House of the Rising Son.” Nope, uh uh. No. Other principles need to be considered as well, will this style go against consciences in the church? Will this style lead to division? After these basic lines have been drawn, I think the conversation must lead to the end goal of worshipping as a congregation.
Here are some questions to ask about the style of worship music in the church:
Does the music get in the way of the words?
The music style in itself is not worship. Rather, the words are what informs our hearts. These words need to be grounded in the Word of God. We should not be confused about what they mean or how they relate to God. For example, as a teenager my home church would constantly sing a song that’s words went “Blaze Spirit Blaze, set our hearts on fire.” I would think to myself, “What does that even mean?” The words are critically important in worshipping God and if the music distracts you from the words, it’s wrong. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Get ‘em Pastor Dean, get those drummers and guitarists!” Sorry friend, but many hymns would also fall into this category. A corporate worship song that is so focused on the musical style will undoubtedly lead one’s mind away from the words resulting in a performance rather than a song of worship.
Does the music help in the congregation’s singing?
The point of congregational worship is not so the band or music leader sings for the church, it’s about all of the people of God singing together in worship to a Holy God who deserves all of our adoration. If the music style gets in the way of that then it’s time to rethink the style. As already mentioned, some hymns run into this problem but a lot of contemporary songs also fall into this trap. Many contemporary songs on the radio are designed to be ballads and sung by one person not an entire congregation. At the same time, there are many “modern hymns” that are being written today that are contemporary but still singable for a body of believers. The point for both sides of the argument is to look beyond the obvious and see what songs that have deep theological truths would be singable for the church as a whole. Now this does not mean that songs cannot stretch the congregation at times, but that should definitely not be the norm.
Does the music reflect the context of the church?
Now this point is not nearly as important as the first two, but I’ll talk about it anyways. The congregation should be singing in a style that speaks to their context or at least the context that the church finds themselves in. If a church is in a rural area that is more traditional then it probably would not be wise to have a rock band on stage every Sunday. If the context is more urban (and thus less traditional) then a church will have a difficult time having visitors come back if they have a style that is so foreign to those walking through the doors of the church. This is another important factor that must be discussed in this conversation.
So what music style is most glorifying to God? A style that does not get in the way of the words. A style that helps the congregation sing. A style that reflects the context of the church. Are there other things to consider? Absolutely, but I believe these are paramount.