Here is my question: What is your take on the “worship war” that seems to still be a hot-button issue for many Southern Baptists, i.e., the whole contemporary Christian music (praise and worship/choruses, especially) versus the traditional If-is-isn’t-in-the-Baptist-Hymnal-then-it-shouldn’t-be-sung-in-Church camp…or, maybe even a step further, Contemporary Christian music that is more rock music (or even rap or hip-hop) oriented versus its secular counterparts…is this music worldly (and evil) because of the beat, regardless of the lyrics?
This question came via email several weeks ago. My response is below:
I thank you for this – very, very, very important question. It saddens me that it has to be a question – but it is one, and an important one at that.
It saddens me because music has become a ‘war’ in churches – especially Southern Baptist
It saddens me because of what I saw/read happened
by self-proclaimed “Christians” at a Switchfoot
concert. I hate it for Switchfoot
AND I hate it for the blind protestors who are obviously hate-filled crazies (to put it mildly).
It saddens me that the most difficult and stressful position to fill at churches like FBC El Dorado
– compiled by many young and
many old generations – is the Worship Pastor position.
It saddens me because I fear we have made the mode of music what we worship rather than the God the truths from all good Christian music points toward.
To answer your question, my “take” on the worship war is that – though it is a tragedy – it is something we cannot ignore. It is part and parcel to the way church is and operates. Right or wrong, it just is. Opinions about music in most traditional churches (such as FBC El Dorado
) are alot like belly buttons – everybody’s got one.
Some want nothing but the pipe organ.
Some want a full band.
Some want just an acoustic guitar.
Some want no guitar.
Some want rap.
Some want choir robes.
Some want hymnbooks.
Some want screens.
Some want a music leader who waves his arms.
Some want him to have gel in his hair wearing skinny jeans.
Some want a guy who can lead a handbell ministry.
Some want a guy who can lead Sunday morning worship and do it perfectly for 500 kids during Vacation Bible School.
Some one a guy who will revive the great youth choirs of old (of which I was a part, by the way!).
Some like the old hymns sung the old way.
Some like the old hymns sung a new way.
Some like the praise choruses that repeat over and over and over.
Some like the 1st and 3rd stanza only.
Some listen to Gaither’s
every Saturday night.
Everyone has an opinion. Including me.
In many churches – especially one like ours – it is simply impossible to please everyone with a particular style of music. It simply cannot be done. It has been and is a “worship war” and I am not real sure it will ever go away.
One solution, however, is to work hard – over and over and over – to emphasize that, at the end of the day, worship is not about style at all. It is about expressing our adoration and love and trust and faith in the God we SAY we have come to worship. I believe a primary job of any worship leader is to help us sing to and reflect on truth(s) about God Himself. Regardless of form or style – if the lyrics are dripping with biblical truths – BRING IT ON! Biblical truths set to music enable our hearts and minds to emotionally engage AND help us remember the truths throughout the week. I am much better at singing a couple of lines of a good hymn than I am at quoting Scripture. Music enables us to do this and remember it. Ultimately, it is about us focusing on the truths being communicated in the song itself. This doesn’t mean that style doesn’t matter and should be ignored. But it does mean style should not be the FIRST and ONLY factor involved.
Rap music is not my music. I do not come from a culture in which rap music is the medium of communication and I do not have the ear for it that I have for other forms of music. But I do admire its virtuosity and the hold that is has on so many, for whom it is a first and dominant musical language. I want that language taken for the cause of the Gospel and I pray to see a generation of young Gospel-driven rappers take dominion of that music for the glory of God. I see that happening now, and I rejoice in it. I want to see them grow even more in influence, reaching people I cannot reach with music that will reach millions who desperately need the Gospel. The same way that folks who first heard Bach desperately needed to hear the Gospel.
The good, the beautiful, and the true are to be combined to the greatest extent possible in every Christian endeavor, rap included. I have no idea how to evaluate any given rap musical expression, but rappers know. I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing. Our rapping Gospel friends will encourage one another to the greatest artistic expression. I want to encourage them in the Gospel. Let Bach’s maxim drive them all — to make (their) music the “handmaid of theology.”
To that, I say “AMEN!” This sentence is golden: “I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing.”
If it is Switchfoot
– and Switchfoot’s
style includes language saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth – it is a wonderful thing.
If it is rap . . .
If it is country . . .
If it is heavy metal. . .
If it is Tony Weston at FBC El Dorado
– and the style includes language saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth – at the end of the day, it is a wonderful thing. . . whether we like the style or not.