Why I’ll Never Stop Singing In Your Church

Why I’ll Never Stop Singing In Your Church August 5, 2012

You read that right. I’ll never stop singing in your church. Never.

I know. Shocker. I’m the guy who wrote Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church not long ago and stepped unwittingly into what some have called “worship wars.”

Not my intention. If that’s how you look at it, consider this a white flag.

I was just voicing frustrations that had been brewing for the last decade or so. It seems as if there are a lot of others who’ve felt the same way. You might have been one of them. But there were also many who disagreed. I tried to highlight some of both this past week starting here.

What surprised me most –although in retrospect, I don’t know why — were the assumptions many readers made about what I really wanted.

I thought I had actually been pretty clear on that point. And yet somehow others perceived that I really just had a Fanny Crosby hymn fetish, or that I had capped off my musical growth with Bing Crosby (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or that I was was just a self-righteous, selfish sop taking up space that a fresh “seeker” could fill. Well, they may be right on that last part. I confess I’ve done some soul-searching in the weeks since that post. I suspect there’s plenty of those darker motives in all of us.

But I never said I wanted to stop singing in your church. In fact, I said the opposite. I really did want to sing again. I was just letting what I experienced in your evangelical church stop me.

But enough of that.

I’m in. To stay. Now you’ll never stop me from singing in your church.

What I really want

As I reflected on my list of what I wanted for worship music in church (and yes, I know, it’s not about me), I noticed that all three revolve around one thing — more truth. I said I wanted songs to be truthful, written for adults, and timeless.

The first obviously is about truth, but so is the second one really. It’s about my desire for songs with some doctrinal depth to them to put meat on the bones of my soul. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Matt. 5:6 NKJV)

The third wasn’t focused on musical style (as some seemed to interpret it) but on those songs that have stood the test of time because of the truths with which they’ve nourished the church for centuries. I can — and do as part of my daily life — enjoy much modern music. What really bothers me most is the lack of truth in church worship music. We’ve got plenty of spirit in most evangelical churches — passion, vigor, and experiential religion. Even if we assume it’s all sincere, we’re still missing a critical half of true worship.

At least that’s what Jesus said. If that matters.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 ESV)

Picture this

It’s not even the repetition thing itself that bothers me. There’s a valid place for repetition in worship. Let me repeat that just to be sure you heard it. It’s when we repeat lyrics lacking truth that I think even Jesus could not be pleased.

I picture the disciples gathered around Jesus and a glowing bed coals beside the Sea of Galilee singing “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, Yes, Lord” about a dozen times. I see John strumming  a lyre (I’m guessing they didn’t have harmonicas) while Matthew lays down a pretty mean beat with his sandaled foot. Peter’s leading some energetic clapping, of course — when Jesus interuppts after the 13th rendition with a raised hand: “Guys, I got it. I got it. Thanks.”

There’s an awkward pause as Peter stops in mid-clap. Jesus continues: “Thanks. Really. That was — um, swell. Now can we talk some more about what saying yes to me will mean for each of you in the weeks and months to come? Peter, let’s start with you. About that trading your sorrows stuff, there’s a few things you probably should know.”

My limited options

So what are my options?

  1. Stop worshipping God with music. Just eliminate a Biblical avenue for glorifying God — the very reason for which I was created? I don’t think so. “Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.” (John Piper) If I’m called to praise him when facing an executioner’s hand, surely I should be able to keep singing in your church.
  2. Leave your church. A lot of readers lovingly suggested that I get out of their church and find somewhere where grumpy people could feel welcome. Thank you, by the way. That explains why you need to be so seeker-friendly to keep the pews filled. And I confess, running down the street seems a popular option these days. Funny, I don’t see that option when I read Acts. Our problem today is not a shrotage of churches. It’s a shortage of churches where it’s safe to authentically engage issues in a way that authentically engages the Word of God.
  3. Start fixing the problem. To paraphrase Jerry Garcia (a hymn writer of a different sort of Reformation, for those not familiar), somebody has to do something. It’s just pathetic that it has to be me. But maybe God intended it to be me — and you — all along.

What dreams may come?

So if there is a shortage of truth in modern church worship, why don’t more people speak up about it? What gives us pause?

Based on the reaction in the comments to my original post here, I think it’s safe to say that church may not be a safe place to voice concerns about the church. In fact, I think we tend not to speak up on such spiritual issues because we’ll likely be accused of something impossible to disprove — the theological equivalent of calling someone a racist or intolerant. How do you disprove a negative? What could you possibly do to prove you actually believe there’s something wrong and you’re not just a divisive buffoon secretly undermining the work of the Spirit?

I suppose you could give in to the popular passive-aggressive response, “If you really have problem with it, why don’t you get up on the stage and lead?” Let’s face it, slings and arrows hurt. And, apparently, they don’t use Nerf in worship wars. No wonder so many of us feel it’s just not worth the trouble.

But if the unity and purity of the body of Christ isn’t worth it, what are we doing? Really?

So you’re afraid. Get over it.

Let’s face it. Isn’t that what the fear of man is all about? And isn’t that why Solomon describes it as a trap? Our fear of how people might react when we speak up only tightens the agonizing vise-grip on our soul. We end up frustrated, bitter, and alone — well, maybe we could start tailgating in the church parking lot with the other parishioners waiting for the concert to end.

We can do better. We must do better. Our Lord demands it.

Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand against His Church. I know some of you feel like that’s what you’re up against on a Sunday morning. But you’re not. Not really. And as valid as my concerns are, I must never let anything or anyone cause me to hinder the advance of Kingdom growth.

Instead, I’m proposing a Biblical path forward.

A Biblical solution

There’s just no getting around it — as much as I might want to. We will have to engage in the messy business of — gasp! — making disciples.

I don’t like it. I’m just saying. But maybe that’s what taking up His cross is all about.

Let’s draw strength from these morsels of truth:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Cor. 1:27 ESV)

It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! (Prov. 15:23 NLT)

[We], speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ….” (Eph. 4:15 NKJV)

Here’s the best I can offer on how to go about this potentially disruptive strategy so we will never stop singing in church. I welcome others to offer better steps:

  1. Study. Get clear on what worship is. The Bible speaks much to what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth. Plus He’s blessed us with 2,000 years of teachers who’ve written at length on the topic. Of course, we have to sort through that stuff, but there’s a lot of helpful instruction to be had. Let’s not assume we know it all; let’s get busy knowing what we can.
  2. Commit to the Spirit’s continual scrutiny of your own soul. Jesus warned when we see a problem with someone else to “first take the beam out of our own eye.” Let’s start there. And stay there as long as needed. But then we do have a responsibility to help gently remove the splinter we noticed in the first place. How?
  3. Speak the truth in love. Judging by the reaction from some worship leaders, many seem surprised that people in the pews might not be enjoying the mix of songs they’ve been offering — and many pastors and worship leaders do sincerely pour their hearts into it. Based on the Ephesians passage below, don’t we have an obligation to go to them and respectfully voice our concerns with respect, civility, and — of course — love? I think that’s how the body grows. (Eph. 4:11-16  NKJV)

So what now?

With that said, I not only want to sing again — I will sing again! And nothing your church can do will stop me. Not even the gates of hell will shut me up. And thanks for all the helpful advice. You know who you are.

But I insist on singing as my Savior commanded me to do — both in spirit and in truth. Both with passion and understanding. With spirit-filled sincerity and Spirit-inspired content.

The irony of our human condition is that God has put us within sight of the Himalayas of His glory in Jesus Christ, but we have chosen to pull down the shades of our chalet and show slides of Buck Hill — even in church. ~ John Piper, Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

What steps can you offer to ensure we never stop singing in church? All opinions welcome! Share your thoughts with a click and a comment


Get your copy of Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church: Answers to Questions You’ve Been Afraid to Ask about Church Issues.

Finally, someone speaks up to offer answers to the questions you’ve been afraid to ask about church issues. For all those in the Christian church who feel their voices are not being heard, Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church is entertaining therapy for the frustrated soul.

Unfortunately, truth is not always welcome in the Christian church today. Yet without it, the church has little reason for existing. This book is a collection of truth-telling essays, comedic rants, and open letters offered with a twist of humor and sarcasm in the hope of focusing attention on real church issues that are often ignored.

Some readers will laugh, others will cry with empathy, while others will try to burn it – perhaps not the wisest thing to do with an e-book, but so long as they don’t use any four-letter words, I suppose it’s all good.

Click the book cover below to begin reading, learning — and laughing! — in just seconds!

Have you subscribed to our email updates? Click here to sign up to get my FREE eBook What God Wants You to Do Next and receive FaithWalkers posts in your inbox each week.

"I strongly agree with your statement. I feel that the most important relationship in worship ..."

Raising Hands in Church a Distraction? ..."
"I feel the exact same way. I hate it! Sometimes I wonder if my salvation ..."

Why I Don’t Like to Pray
"There you go. That is the difference between worshipping and praising worshipping is about prayer ..."

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your ..."
"That is funny. C'mon now. Daniel was a vegetarian. God loved /s Daniel. You are ..."

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • The reality is that as believers, we ought not to ever stop worshiping in Church, so long as we are professing biblical faithfulness. memorize Ephesians 5;15-20 and we never stop giving thanks to the Lord. Lastly, when people are being pessimistic and hurt and we can clearly see that they are being knocked about by the demons of untruthful worship, wrestling with all the components and facets of it that can drive them mad and away from the Church, we speak truth into their life. We dispel falsehood, banish evangelical silliness, repudiate shallowness, and we destroy irreverence, . We boldly preach the gospel and the glories of worship. We preach God and his grace and his worthiness, pointing not to our imperfect attempts to praise him, but our desire and future where we will join with the angels and sing “worthy is the lamb”.

    • Yes! One agrees. Thanks, Dustin.

      • Ann

        I love thinking…I really do! I analyze everything. Oddly, I go to church with A LOT of people who aren’t analyzers. What does this have to do with worship? Well, I LOVE songs that have meat in them. They really say something about Jesus and don’t repeat endlessly. The ones that cause me to think and to question. My friends – all awesome strong believers – don’t generally have that drive like i do. They love the worships songs that repeat. I could not understand why so i asked one of them. She said that she uses those repetitions to remind herself over and over again about what God has done and thank Him for that with every ounce of her being. So Yes, Lord Yes becomes. Yes Lord I know that you are good. Yes Lord I will obey. I think you get the idea. When it really gets down to it I feel that people are different and so there are different worship songs. But i am totally with you on the annoying repetition. As far as meaty truth goes, there are more ways to get truth into your head than worship. My friends are beavers for the Bible and could quote you doctrine out the wazoo but they express themselves through that awful repetitive worship. Different strokes for different folks.

        Some of my favs: In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, In Christ Alone, Lead Me to the Cross, Your Great Name, Great I Am, Cornerstone – Hillsong version, Redeemed, The Stand, Jesus Messiah, I Will Rise….There are others 🙂

  • Dick

    Thanks for you continued reflection! For me, music is the servant of worship. It’s about the worship of God, nothing more, nothing less. It troubles me though that there is so much truth in your statement, “I think it’s safe to say that church may not be a safe place to voice concerns about the church.” Let the passion be about the worship and the serving of God!

  • mary alice bright

    I’ll never stop singing in church because God longs to hear the voice he gave to me. I will sing from my toes unapologetically, even if I am a little too loud. And He deserves no less than all of the voice He gave to you too! He designed it, and He loves how it sounds.

    He has done so much for each of us, myself included. Worship requires all of my heart and soul and mind. Weekly, I put myself under the authority of the church by joining with them in worship. The leader they have selected sets before me a musical feast – sometimes unfamiliar food and sometimes fluffy dishes, sometimes meaty savory texts, and sometimes reflective poems. If it is not to my taste, it doesn’t matter… I am with my King celebrating what He has done. It might just be that the music offered feeds some other soul. Someone with needs different or greater than mine.

    Worship is the one thing we will do for all of eternity. I love John Piper’s perspective that “missions exist because worship doesn’t.” Look at Revelation there is no denying the worship it describes. We were all designed to worship something!

    Look at the obsession with sports and the fervor that accompanies soccer, football, basketball, even golf. We instinctively worship. We fill the God’s throne with other things. I long to see God worshiped with that kind of fervor and intense love. I believe that our years of yelling at a TV for fame or sports drove musicians toward harnessing that energy and attempting to return worship to the throne of God where it belongs.

    The lack of depth or truth in song, is certainly true of some but not all of what is written today. But songs are not created in a vacuum. They are a reflection of a work of God in a specific time and place. As a worship leader, I have found spending time researching the background of songs invaluable. Especially those written today. The back story is where the truth often hides. If you know the composer’s journey, it sheds light on the form and message of a song which may be only implied or inferred. The congregation needs to hear these stories of redemption and justice. They need to know how God is at work in the world through music.

    Yes, we need to be disciples and build disciples. We need to intentionally pour truth into the next generation. But to encourage others to never stop singing… that begins with turning inward and having a grateful heart. Like never before in history, we have access to music freely. Not only current music, but music from the past, decades past…centuries past. I am grateful for plain chant, and hymns. Grateful for Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin. Grateful for Keith Green and Fernando Ortega. I enjoy David Crowder and Kirk Franklin. I even like some of Lecrae. And a host of women too….Mary Mary, Laura Story, Cece Winans, Amy Grant. I could recount those from history as well and spend lengthy tomes exploring what God has spoken.

    I am grateful that God has let me live in an age when I can discover all sorts of deep wells of truth to balance some of what may appear only as deep as puddles. God is glorified in it all. He loves to hear His children sing! He is praised in rap and rock, hymns and sonnets, chant and liturgy. And I have the chance to access it all.

    When I pull together a set, I spend time in prayer before my King. Asking humbly that His Spirit would reveal to me what truth the congregation most needs to hear. Sometimes it screams out pure joy, sometimes it cries with longing for a better day. Sometimes the Spirit speaks of our need to repent and look back at the Holy Father who created all of us. And then the songs begin to rise in my heart. New and old together blending as He designs.
    For His glory alone…always only for my King. I will never stop singing in church because I love to be in the Presence of my King!

    At no other time in history, has the church been able to worship in so many different genres and styles. And we continue to grow and change as God grows and develops Christ’s Bride – The Church. She

    • Youg go, Mary! Well said. Great thought on knwing the back story of th esong although I am sure some deconstructionists will disagree shortly.

  • Adam

    Ok it looks like that worked. So I guess the only thing that stuck out to me is that you really seem to over thinking this whole thing. I’ll use myself for example. I’ve been walking with God for about 10 years now. Probably not as long as you. But 10 years is long enough for me to learn this one truth. Actually it took a lot less than 10 years. The truth is this…there is only one thing that keeps me from entering into true “biblical” worship as you so defined. And that one thing is me. It’s not the music, it’s not the decor, it’s not the body odor of the guy to my left. My flesh is the only obstacle that stands between me and Him.

    If I find myself complaining about the music (which I really do sympathize with you because I have my own hang ups when it comes to different types of music), or coming up with any other excuse about why I “can’t worship”, that should be the first red flag. After all, I have not yet resisted sin unto bloodshed. What harm could a song that doesn’t quite appease my worship music pallet do to me?

    The truth is this. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The problem with the church isn’t that the music is lacking in depth. It’s that the church’s relationship with God is lacking in depth. I don’t think I could EVER picture the apostle Paul walking into one of his churches and seeing a room of his brethren singing to God in any manner and standing up to say “brothers! This music is awful! I can’t stand singing these same words over and over! I’m out of here! Oh and by the way, you are on your own, find another apostle that likes to listen to this crap.”

    Sorry. That may have seemed like a low blow, but I’m not attacking you, simply the church. The problem with the church is that it (and yes I’m including myself at times) has become a selfish, prideful entity that values self over all else. Now I’m not saying that every church should sing modern music or hymns or any other type of music. What I’m saying is we should learn to walk as Jesus comanded us to walk… In humility. Laying down our lives. The very ACT of worship is to deny one’s self and in HUMILITY come before God and LOVE him. Regardless of what music is playing, what time of day it is, whether your boss or spouse is yelling at you….that is worship. To take off the old man and put on the new.

    So church: if you find yourself sitting in a chair or pew thinking “ugh I HATE this song” (which I do frequently enough to feel convicted as I write this), remember, it is not your duty to march up to the front of the church and tell the worship leader to switch songs. Your duty, if indeed you are a son or daughter of God, is to take a deep breath, remember that the universe in fact does not revolve around you, and quiet your mind. In my experience, my Father resists my loud selfish mind. But he draws near to my humble heart. He is not looking for someone to “take a stand” for a genre of worship music. He is looking for rest. And he finds it in a humble heart that worships Him no matter the situation.

    • Wow. All that on an iPhone? That’s impressive. And I laughed out loud at your depiction of the Apostle Paul.
      So you agree, apparently, that there is a shortage of truth in the church and that it shows up in the songs we choose to sing?

      Thanks for taking the time to leave the thoughtful comment.

      • Cecelia Fuller

        Wow, I have been on bills “side” of the worship discussion, but I think Adam just helped me find the plank in my eye. The plank of my pride I must remove in order to attempt to help others see.

    • Shirley

      Adam, I appreciate your comments and the fact they don’t seem to be done with biting sarcasm as seems to show up inevitably on this subject. In every forum on this subject, someone always says “it’s not about you”, accusing someone (me) complaining about the new “worship” styles, of selfishness. I try to search myself and sort that out in my mind and heart. Maybe I’m, then, too selfish to see that!?! (not meant as sarcasm.) It is about worshipping my Creator, but I AM involved. I have to be involved to worship “in spirit and in truth”…from my heart…from my being. People refer to “styles”…and the fact that they have always changed. I myself loved the contemporary Christian music of the 70’s and 80’s. (I wouldn’t have given a nickel for songs like “At Calvary” as I pounded them out in early childhood piano lessons). However, they (the hymns) WERE the music of the church. The contemporary style I loved was not forced onto the congregation in the name of “what brought the youth”, or what grew attendance numbers. I have a wayward son and certainly see the total importance of appealing to the youth. But when the church’s music brought the sweet Presence of the Lord, that is what drew old and young alike. Different styles/sounds of music produce different atmospheres….right? My pastor explains that “people want to go to a church with the newest style”, so he brought in a leader who ordered all instruments out except for what I call “screaming, rock-style” guitars. This is the sound that drives me out of public places. Now they proclaim it to be “worship music”?! I struggle earnestly within myself because I certainly do not want to be obstinate toward what God ordains. I know God always deserves His praise in any circumstance. It seems incredible to be IN CHURCH (not even out in secular circumstances) and have to concentrate past what feels like an assault to my ears, to offer worship…instead of the music being conducive to worship.
      I know the enemy of our soul is using every means of distraction. I was not aware until reading here, Bill, of the epic proportion of this war regarding music in the church. Even as we discuss it, it dawns on me that we probably each have a different idea of what church music should sound like. (I just can’t see how “screaming guitars” can be included. I guess that is back to my own point of view. )
      I am searching just such forums as this and my heart and asking God that my attitude be conformed to what is pleasing to Him. I want to be able to join whole-heartedly in my church’s worship service; not dread it.
      Thanks for the forum and the opportunity to vent my frustration as well as learn from others.

  • Adam

    Bill, I would just like to say as everyone else has that I think it’s great that you have this conversation going. And your heart on the matter really is remarkable. A lesser person could have easily gotten offended at people in a conversation such as this, and I applaud your open heart and mind.

    However, I think you missed my point. I don’t “agree that there is a shortage of truth in the church and that it shows up in songs.”

    I DO agree that there is a shortage of LOTS of things in the church. Especially the big mega churches. But I don’t think the shortage shows up in the songs (though there are some bad ones). I think the more troubling display of the shortage of truth and doctrine lies not in the lyrics of songs we sing or don’t sing, but in the hearts of the church itself. The fact that pastors and priests can’t live a moral lifestyle in the WORLD’S standards! The divorce rate in the church. The way Christians HATE gay people, Muslims, liberals, anyone that is different. The way the church puts its hope in America, and material possessions, and missions, and gifts and blah blah blah.

    Do some songs have watered down lyrics? Yes. But that is the very least of our problem. How big of a whip would Jesus fashion if he walked into a mega church today and saw a Starbucks right next to the merchandise strode selling copies of last weeks sermon and last month’s worship event? It makes me sick to my stomach. The entire system is so perverted from the gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached that I don’t know what to do.

    But changing the lyrics to music isn’t going to help.

    The Truth of Christ doesn’t come from lyrics….or preachers….or books. It comes from God and the Holy Spirit.

    • And God/Holy Spirit has chosen to reveal himself primarily in the truths of Scripture, correct? So we’re back to truth being at the core of the problem. How much shows up in songs isn’t worth arguing over, of course. I think we both agree that the core of the problems in the church today come from our refusal to obey the truth that God has clearly communicated.

      What do you suggest we do?

  • Hmmmm….. a few thoughts.

    1) You’ll have to convince me that there is an absence of truth in contemporary worship music. I dunno who the worship guys are in your church, but as I wrote in my response to you last week– much of the contemporary worship music (and I’m not just talking about CCM— Contemporary Christian Music– and there is a difference!) is right out of the scripture. So if this is true, and much of it is a rip right out of scripture, and you’re seeking truth, isn’t God’s Word the ultimate authority on truth? So what more truth do you want??? Is a worship environment a place where you “give” to God rather than “take”? One of the things that drives me nuts about our consumer mentality with Church is the “I’m not getting anything out of it” phrase, which seems to be what you’re saying here. As a believer, it is my responsibility to put truth in front of me, to connect with Jesus deeply in relationship and this must be my primary source of truth. When I hear people telling me that church isn’t doing this or that for me, under normal circumstances, I find that they’re depending on church to do something that they should be doing themselves.

    2) What I’m surprised did not make your “list of options” is– “Learn to Worship God Wherever I am in whatever environment I am a part of.” Although I think this would fall under the category of submitting to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit, I don’t see that tone reflected in much of your post. Little of what I hear you saying seems to address what could very well be a heart issue– you still make the assumption that there is something wrong with the “worship system”, for lack of a simpler term, and that you seem to know better how to fix it (which is why perhaps you think your leaders need to be confronted). Whether I “like” something or not, it never absolves me of the responsibility to worship. Anything shy of that is MY ISSUE and has far less to do with what is going on around me, and far more with the failings of my own sinful heart . If this is the case, then what is truly necessary is repentance for where we’ve missed the mark.

    I think this scripture would have made my list– Psalm 139: 23-24.

    If you’d like to listen to that scripture in a contemporary worship song, we sang this in worship a few weeks ago in a song written by Hillsongs called “Search My Heart.” It reminds me that my heart needs continual searching, that God is everything, and that without Him, I am absolutely nothing. Here’s the link to the song on YouTube if you’d like to listen to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiEYF5qP1ks

    John Lehmberg

  • Adam

    What do I suggest we do….well that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? Haha

    By the way, I just proof read this and it is REALLY long! So my apologies in advance. High fives for those who read the whole thing.

    So the dilema is that the scriptures are good and true, and Jesus say that they bear witness of him…but then he says directly after that “but you do not come to Me so that you may have LIFE” (or something to that regard depending on your translation)

    So the scriptures have truth in them, the spoken word of God is most definitely truth, and without a doubt the Holy Spirit dwelling INSIDE of us teaches us as it says in 1 John 2:27

    “but the anointing which you have recieved from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

    That anointing of course is the Holy Spirit. Our helper as Jesus called it. The ENTIRE REASON that Jesus came and died for us! It wasn’t for the forgiveness of sins, the Jews already had the forgiveness of sins! Though his sacrifice was needed to condemn sin to the flesh once and for all, he died so that ALL the world’s sin would be forgiven.

    I know some people may be reading this thinking I’m a heretic, that’s fine. Search the scriptures and prove me wrong. You see the reason the church is so screwed up right now is because they as a whole don’t understand the new covenant that God made with us. The OLD covenant was a covenant of law. And as Paul explains it, he called it the law of sin and death! (read Romans 7&8) Yet in this old covenant, the high priest would offer a sacrifice for sin and God would honor that.

    But Jesus did not come and die to simply forgive us of our sins. If that were the case I could just throw my hands up and head down to the local bar, proceed to appease all of the lusts of my flesh, maybe kill a few people and then die one day and go to heaven! Why would Jesus die for that?

    I know I’m preaching, but I’m getting to the point I promise.

    Jesus came and died for two reasons. Yes, to CONDEMN sin to the flesh, (some would say forgive us of our sins)….but more importantly, to RESURRECT from the dead, making way for the Holy Spirit to come and give life to us! Ever notice how the apostles didn’t receive the Spirit until AFTER Jesus was resurrected? Why didn’t he just lay hands on them and give it to them? Because a) they were fleshly men, and were unable to receive the spirit until a final sacrifice was made, and b) Jesus had not yet conquered death by the same Spirit.

    Ok I’m almost done with my soap box preaching. But you asked for it!

    So, what do we do about this situation you asked….we first off, no where in the scriptures have I ever seen it say that it is our duty to correct the church. I’m not an apostle, these churches are not my responsibility. What IS my responsibility though is my own soul. As John said, I do not need a teacher, the Spirit within me is my teacher, and it teaches me to ABIDE in Him.

    So what would I do? Nothing. I can’t save the whole world. But I do believe this: God knows what he is doing. Some will be deceived, many are called and few are chosen. I do not count myself as attained, yet I press on daily towards the high calling which is Christ in me, the hope of glory.

    You see the church suffers from thousands of years of deceit and teachers that, as scriptures say, people heap up to scratch their itching ears. No one wants to hear what I said here. They want to hear that all they have to do is believe that Jesus died for their sins, and if they believe THAT and pray a “sinners prayer”, they will go to heaven.

    If any of you believe these things and are offended at what I am saying, I ask you to open your heart and mind, and ask God to reveal these things to you. Then, go to scriptures and find anything that will back up your doctrine.

    Once you understand these things, it is obvious why the church is in the state that it is in. What is a shocker is WHY people still go? Now, in case you were wondering, I DO go to church, but am incredibly fortunate to belong to a small church that believes these same things. So I’m not just some misanthropic, angry outsider. If anything I have compassion for everyone that falls into this trap.

    Ok I’ll shut up now. I hope you understand it wasn’t my intention to say all of this, but you asked what I thought we should do, and my response is, I do what the anointing within me teaches me to do, which is….


  • wheelman

    First of all, the song you mentioned isn’t just yes Lord, yes Lord. If you sing it with that attitude, no wonder you get nothing from todays church singings.

    It, like many is a PRAISE to him!

    I’m tradind my sorrows. I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord!

    And what you seam to forget is, singing to the Lord is all about our joy in doing it, and us having a great time lifting his name and worshiping him. He is exciting, he is awesome. he is our everything! If you expect people to only sing songs from the 1800’s because you feel there is more meat, think again. Those were great songs, but so our most of the newer ones. There is plenty meat to them, and I have to question your scripture knowledge as many of them are direct from the bible, even though many wouldn’t know that!

    Siing to God, is all about loving him and singing praises to him. It’s not about song style, and young vs older music styles. I can sing any style and enjoy singing to him. Sure, I prefer newer music, because I have played and sung the old music on the platform since I was 7. So something with variety is nice. You wont hear me cry about what music is sung though, because if it is to the Lord, it’s awesome!

    • Rosemary

      The hymns from the 1800s ARE great songs, not were… 😉

  • Joe

    I try to keep it simple. If it blesses me, I stay. If it doesn’t. I leave. If the Spirit is in it I sense His presence and get blessed because I am humbled that such a Holy God came into our midst. If He isn’t then I will not sense His presence and will not receive the blessing of knowing I am in His presence. If God is not there then why am I?

  • Stephen

    “…pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” 2 Cor 4:8-9. Also seen in “Trading My Sorrows.” You know… It’s right before that part that Jesus got annoyed with the disciples for singing too repetitive.

  • Betty Bynum

    Great original article and discussion. Very thought-provoking. And there is a huge difference in personal worship–my one-on-one time with God, and the corporate worship experience called “church.” What I sing at home and in my car may not be anything close to what I sing at church. Ideally, both personal and corporate worship find a place in my relationship with God.

    One of the most difficult things for a worship leader, no matter what kind of church you’re in, is creating relevant, meaningful, genuine worship that meets the needs of YOUR people, that encourages them to communicate with God. YOURS, not the ones across the street or in the next town, or across the country. Our responsibility as leaders is to lead them to the Throne and meet with the Almighty God of the Universe, the Same One that has chosen, for some crazy reason, to love us enough to take up residence in our hearts. The One who wants our undivided, unadulterated devotion. He’s not particular in His preferences, as long as it is true and honest. New stuff is good. Old stuff is good. But it must be, for the lack of better, more eloquent terms, functional and user-friendly. If YOUR people can’t figure out how to “use the music” to reach up and out and love on God, then maybe we’re not doing the job that God has called us to.

    In my experience, it’s pretty much an established fact that 80-year olds are not going to like, much less be able to worship, if ALL they get at church is Hillsong and Matt Redman. Even the most open-minded of them will try, but will readily admit that they just “don’t get it.” The same is probably true of 20-somethings and the Broadman Hymnal. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t use both. That may be the chief reason that “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone” and “Come Thou Fount, Come Thou King” do so well “in the market.” The combination of an old hymn and a new song works well, provides a great bridge between old and new, and provides the means to keep “both sides” happy. (I won’t get into the drums vs. organ debate!)

    And of course, there are the modern hymn writers. Songs/hymns such as the Getty’s “In Christ Alone,” and “The Power of the Cross” combine the old idea of deep thinking, rich theology and the mysteries of the Godhead with the newer idea of contemporary music. At the risk of getting myself in trouble, their hymns almost have to be sung in their entirety–all stanzas. Many of the older hymns have verses that stand alone. They fit together in a theme, but are not necessarily continuous in thought. That’s not to say that verses 1 & 4 are better than verses 2 or 3. It also depends on which hymnal you use as to which verses you may get. I’ve found 7 or 8 different verses for many of the older traditional hymns, or the same 4 in a different order, depending on the denomination.

    The bottom line, for me, is that we are called to worship. Period. How I worship and how you worship will be different, because you and I are different. One is not right and the other wrong. I had a 70’s-something man tell me, when the worship wars first started, that he was offended that by calling them “hymns” and “praise & worship” songs, we implied that what he had been doing his entire life was not worship. As leaders, our call is to facilitate that worship. Each and every congregation will be different because the people who make up that congregation are different. Cookie cutters not allowed. If you are going to lead them anywhere, you must meet them where they are and take them where you want them to go. It is the same in music, teaching, preaching, discipleship or even what you look/dress like while leading them. Above all, they must, must, asolutely MUST see Jesus. Not me. Not us.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Great thoughts all, Betty. And yet there is somethign that sill bothers me about landing in the “choose your own adventure worship style.” I think Scripture does place boundaries on what worship should be. Within those boundaries we have great freedom, yes, but we must worship God as He has instructed us.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Shonna

    I just stumbled upon this posting and I couldn’t stop reading! I just said to my husband this past week “Honey, I just don’t love singing in church anymore”. This is from a girl who started out at the age of 2 doing solos standing on a wooden folding chair because I was too little for anyone to see. I am a trained vocalist and have traveled in singing groups, sung in choirs, praise teams etc for 35+ years…and LOVE Christian, Gospel, Southern Gospel, Contempory Christian, Hymns, Scripture Songs you name it, so WHY would someone like me not want to sing?
    I don’t feel like we are meeting God anymore when we praise and worship corporately. I can’t tell you how long goes between services where no one cries, no one shouts, no one dances, no one claps, rarely is there a smile, few people in the congregation even actually sing. In a congregation of 450 people shouldn’t someone be moved to feel something while engaged in the worship service, at least sometimes???
    Well I suppose by reading the posts above, some folks will yell “dry bones”, “you should always worship whether you feel like it or not” and I truly get all of that philosophy and I agree. I do try to be a mature believer and be a part of the solution. Here however lies the rub I think…I know my heart is pure, and I truly want to worship with my congregation but I am just sad. The music portion of the service has become a mini concert, a top 40 parade, a planned segment that has little connection to the worshippers in the congregation. I have always believed as a music minister that I was to use music to help build a bridge between my congregation and the throne of almighty God; that what happened in church was serious business since some people may never make it back there again. Sometimes if I close my eyes during current “worship services”, I feel like I am in a local coffee shop, or at a folk festival. Nice, but where are the life changing moments? where are the hearts that are healed? where are the relationships that are mended? where is the repentance in front of your church family? where is the healing of sickness? where is the joy of the Lord?
    I am not sure we are worshiping in spirit or in truth…just marking time until the pastor speaks. It just makes me so sad. I hope somebody hears my cry and realizes I am part of the loyal opposition. Our God is an awesome God, and we should act like it when we worship in our churches. That’s all for now, Blessings if you read this rather long comment.

  • Kelly

    Hi Bill, I found your original post while googling this very topic to see whether or not my husband and I are the only ones having a difficult time with this new philosophy of worship. After reading your comments, I believe many readers falsely label this a worship “style” issue instead of understanding that it is really much deeper. My husband (a former pastor) and I planted a church 15 years ago, and our biggest challenge was helping people understand that being a “Seeker” Church was not a style of worship but a philosophy of ministry- a genuine, intentional attitude of doing everything with the mindset of creating opportunities for people who didn’t know God to somehow grow into relationship with Him. Our music style was less important than our attitude towards others. We were a very “edgy” church (particularly for our denomination) during that time, and yet we constantly sought to be sure that what we sang, taught, modeled, planned, etc. was both culturally relevant AND doctrinally pure.
    In my opinion, the problem we are facing is that there is no longer any (or very little) theological training for “Worship Leaders.” If you can play a guitar or hold a microphone and carry a tune, you can lead worship. Their Conferences focus largely on learning the best new music to play in your church, how to organize your band, or find new singers. The good ones focus on making sure you take time to worship yourself and find ways to inspire your team to worship, too. However, what seems to be missing is instruction in how to step outside of yourself and understand your role as a worship leader, and how to lead your team in such a way that they do this as well. For instance, when you are on stage leading worship, your primary goal is to get the congregation singing and to lift up their hearts to the Lord through the expression of their voice and their words. How you dress, what you do with your hands, how you “express yourself” musically, and how you worship personally ALL affect the ability of others to worship (or not). I realize we should worship God regardless of what is happening around us. I also recognize that as humans, we are imperfect and easily distracted; therefore, someone who has the job of leading others in worship ought to do everything in their power to limit those distractions, and THEN let the responsibility lie where it may. If a worship leader or singer (who often these days is in the spotlight, literally) stretches their hands to their sides like a cross or points up to heaven every time they say Jesus, they need to be aware that the very movement they are doing naturally draws attention to themselves and away from God. This is most likely unintentional- in fact, the opposite of what they are intending!- and yet, that is what happens. If there are moving graphics on the powerpoint, people will focus attention more on the graphics and less on the words (and therefore the content). If the worship team sings in 4 part harmony from the very beginning of a song, there is a good chance the congregation (many of whom have not even been taught basic music in school anymore) will not have any idea what they are supposed to be singing. And if the music is so loud that you can’t hear anyone singing, chances are they don’t know whether or not they are even supposed to sing! Every detail matters in worship leading. And since the nature of what you are doing puts the focus on you, the essence of your job is learning how to transfer that focus onto the One worthy of the attention… no small task, even for those who are well trained, highly talented, and clothed in humility. That does not even begin to take into consideration that most musicians, by nature, have the tendency to desire the spotlight… (and I know, because I am married to one and have worked with countless others over the years!) This is not a bad thing, just a challenge that needs to be kept in mind for consideration.
    As for song choice… I completely agree that there is old music and new music that is awesome and old and new that is awful. There is good music that is played, arranged, or led in a way that it’s horrible, and vice versa. And of course, style is subjective. But I believe what you were saying (and I completely agree) is that if we are going to offer something to God (and plant it in our hearts as well), it should be something worthy of offering. Not in style but in content (and for corporate worship, sing-ability is a factor here, too). Almost all of us can attest to being in a crisis or difficult situation- whether it’s a teenage heartbreak or the unexpected death of a spouse or child- and finding a song in our heart that brings us comfort or strength. “How Great Thou Art” (old) and “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” (fairly new) are both such songs for me. The message is deep and founded in truth, and gives life to the soul. If I’m going to repeat something 7 times (which admittedly is not my personal preference of a music style), I want it to be something that will speak life to me and bring glory to God, not just something that someone wrote knowing they could make money off it because worship leaders would eat it up. There is so much GOOD music out there (old and new), that it’s a shame so much of what we offer is… well, what it is.
    What do we do about it? Train our leaders! Train our pastors what biblical worship truly is about (seminaries used to require pastors to take worship classes but no longer do), and train our worship leaders in why we worship and how they can lead it more effectively. Most colleges and seminaries unfortunately have dropped their “church music” degrees, as that training is no longer required for today’s “worship” culture. Train our worship teams that what and how they communicate when they lead worship is more important than how they sound (although, that certainly helps!!) and whether or not they are worshipping freely themselves. (Some are going to have a hay-day with that, I know). As for how to look past all this when sitting through a poorly led, highly distracting worship service… please let me know when you figure it out! We have done “family church” for several years because we couldn’t get past all this and just assumed it was our own personal hang-ups from our own ministry experience. We have begun trying to find a church home recently, and this issue is still driving me absolutely bonkers!!! It has made me appreciate all those people who came to our church plant in those early days and stayed, even though our children and youth programs were mediocre, because they felt the sincerity of our hearts for connecting people with God and felt His presence in that stinky old YMCA we met in.

    Sorry, this could have been a blog post all on its own! Thanks for sharing your views on this matter, and for letting me share my thoughts. I know you opened a can of worms! We Christians certainly like to eat our own. I think you and my husband would get along great! 🙂

    • Wow! That could have been ean entire e-book!! But good thoughts. Thanks for shring them. I agree that the issue is one of an emphasis on truth and training leaders to guide the people into truth through music. I look forward to meeting both you and your husband at some point on either side of eternity. I’ve actualy launched into miisry now to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith. So often we disconnect our lives — and our music – from what we say we believe.

      Thanks again!

  • I was going to suggest/invite you to join our small praise team, but reading further you seem happy to contnue in your group. It would be a blessing to have voices singing our biblical joyous sung in Hebrew, English and Spanish. We have sung for churches, Bless Israel events and community events in the past. The ministry went separate ways for years and God has called us back to sing those precious songs again. Hinenishalom.com is where you can finf us. We are 4 women and 1 male. We would be blessed to add more praise singers.

  • When you praise God in spirit and in truth it is an unbelievable feeling of His presence accepting your praise. When we sing Kadosh, Kadosh , Kadosh Adonai Tzvaot..which means Holy, Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty…Oh how can He not respond to our worship. We are joining the angels and cherubims which 24/7 bow before His throne crying those same words. God is Holy and there is nothing better than to sing to Him. Shalom, Peace to you and all.

  • So, I’m really late to this party. But can I say, amen, amen, and amen? I’ve been blogging about this very topic for over a year. I’ve done a lot of soul searching, repented of pride and judgement, and still don’t have many answers. I’ve led worship in the past and know its not an easy job. You feel pressure to do a certain kind of music because of the very vocal few that love that particular type of worship. I grew tired of leading songs that I really couldn’t worship to.

    With all that said, I don’t have answers. I’m trying to reconnect with music as a whole and let myself worship in other ways.

    • Welcome to the game, Jamie!Thanks for the comment. I look forward to checking your blog.

  • Michael Linger

    I think most people agree that the content, regarding the words or texts, is paramount. Scripture is the best option, but there is certainly room for poetry or words that are laden with theological meaning. Empty repetition of nearly meaningless or watered down words is … painful.

    No one ever really seems to address the music itself. Much of the music that passes as worship is poorly written. The melodies should be singable – one of the foundations of good hymn-writing, and a necessity for congregational participation. Much modern “Contemporary Christian Music” is syncopated or fragmented to the point of being nearly unlearnable. That, or it is so formulaic as to be boring and predictable. If you analyze a well written hymn, whether old or new, you will find that the harmonies are generally far more complex than what the typical guitar-strumming worship leader can comprehend, but also the PARTS are well written: The bass, tenor, alto, and soprano lines (generally the melody) are all individual melodies that blend together. Each line in a good hymn is singable in and of itself.

    Then there is the guitar itself. The guitar, as an instrument, is not evil or degrading. It is not the “Instrument of Satan.” However, it is inferior. By it’s very nature, it CAN NOT play all the parts in a hymn correctly, in a way that leads the congregation as well as a piano, organ, orchestra, or choir. It is actually counter-productive when accompanying hymns. It misses nuances of harmony, plays (by necessity) wrong chord inversions, and adds strummed rhythm where it is not needed. If a guitarist tries to accompany a congregation which is trying to sing 4-part harmony, they will not, and can not, match up as well as a piano or organ. It is actually better, if the congregation is capable, to let them sing a Capella, rather than to counteract them with wrong (or not quite right) chords. Music majors spend at least two years of intensive “Music Theory” classes, that cover the ins and outs of the math and science of the music. They learn WHY inversions, chord progressions, skips and leaps in music work or don’t work. Most worship leaders have no idea these concepts even exist. They don’t mislead from rebellion, they mislead from oblivious ignorance. I don’t mean any insult, just pointing out a simple truth.

    Are hymns in four parts necessary? Of course not. But they are beautiful and artistic. A congregation singing in parts, whether a simpler two part harmony as is found in some contemporary worship songs, or in more complex four part harmony from the hymnal is a beautiful thing. This represents the way all the parts of the Christian body are to work together. When the amplifiers are turned up or the guitar is strummed too loudly, the congregation, even if singing in unison, is drowned out and limited in its participation in worship – just the opposite of what is intended by the worship leader.

    The congregational music should “disciple” the congregation musically and intellectually. That does not mean it must be “hard” or “complicated,” but it should be the firstfruits of what the congregation offers to God. The “play it again Sam, but modulate!” mentality does not accomplish this. The congregation, and especially the choir or worship team, should be constantly striving to leave the “milk” behind and move on to “meat,” doctrinally, musically, spiritually… in ALL facets of church life.

    In “Special Music” or “Anthems” in particular, the music should not merely be a vehicle in which the words reside. The music can and should artistically restate the text. The music itself should say something above and beyond what the words themselves can say, or restate the words’ meaning in a different way. In this way, the congregation is discipled, not just entertained.

    The congregation’s singing should be paramount to the worship leader’s. The worship leader should give guidance, teach, and mold the music, but it is the congregation that is worshiping. They should not be observers of a worshiper, but worshipers themselves. Anything that gets in the way of that goal or limits congregational singing should be avoided or modified. Here are some examples:

    1. The music itself should be provided, not just words. That way, if a congregant reads music, they can participate or even help lead on new songs, or sing parts in hymns. Also, many people can learn the very basics of music reading while singing in church. This is an “Upward” Slippery Slope!

    2. Any accompaniment should serve to elevate the congregational singing. Organs or guitars, either one, should not cover up the congregation, but should amplify the offering. They should be the polish on the brass.

    3. New songs or hymns should be introduced gradually and carefully. Too many times I have heard a worship leader announce a new song, and their philosophy appears to be, “Keep up if you can!”

    4. The worship leaders should have a heart for growth for themselves. They should learn music theory if music is going to be their primary offering to God. They should understand and respect tradition. They should strive to be teachers, not just entertainers.

    I challenge any pastor or worship leader to really OBSERVE the congregation you lead during the music. Can you hear them? If not, why? Is the leadership so loud that the congregants are drowned out? Is the music too new or too boring (repetitive)? It could even be something physical, like too much thick carpet that sucks up their sound. Try fading out the accompaniment if the congregation is singing confidently, especially on a hymn – you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the result.

  • David

    Good stuff! Here’s my reasons for not liking many contemporary songs – they are not about God, they are all about me. “I’m doing this, I’m doing that, yes Lord, yes Lord,…”
    You see, even though you’re talking about what God has done for you, it’s still all about you. The focus is all wrong. It should be on God.
    The other thing to realize is that the worshp leader should lead. That seems obvious, but who should they be leading? The congregation. The only purpose is to be the someone that comes in at the right time, says the right words, and stays on pitch so the rest of the congregation can pick it right up. Lead worship, not lead the performance that is somehow supposed to take the place of congregational worship.

    • Good points all, Dave. Thanks!

    • Rob

      Then I guess we need to remove Psalm 139 from the ancient hymnal.

  • I stumbled across this website in search of where I should share the music God gave me to write and siing. Believe it or not, I am a 20-25 year old veteran of playing a pedal steel guitar and lead guitar in all of America’s Honky-Tonk Bars across the nation; 6-7 nights per week….non-stop. I also have my own recording studio where I had to endure a steep learning curve to produce a CD that took me several years to produce. Now that it is finished, you might just be shocked to hear what I have. It is about the TRUTH that all of the glory seekers try to steal on a weekly basis. If interested, just go to CD Baby and put my name into their search engine; Greely Baggett Jr. You ALL will be definately surprised to see that someone like me even exits. For what it’s worth. God Bless you all!!

  • By the way everyone, what I forgot to mention in my initial response above, is that my CD is titled “Proof Of Purchase”. You can also search the music that way at CD Baby as well. I will never make any apologies for the boldness of the messages either. The entire CD gives Jesus ALL of the glory and myself the fortunate opportunity in being his little delivery boy.

  • A small oversight here. I’m not a 25 year old veteran. I am currently 57 years of age. I should have emphasized that above more clearly that I was a professional musician for 25 years; being one of Satan’s lead players in one heck of a lot of honky-tonks and bars. I’m also a Viet Nam era Marine Corps disabled veteran. What motivated my doing this CD was for the reckoning; being that Satan nearly destroyed my life. So….I ultimately recorded it to give Jesus ALL of the glory for saving my butt…..literally…..and for exposing the devil for who he is and what he does to people. You will all like the songs, I’m sure. It’s a real breath of fresh air and down to earth where the rest of us live during the meanwhile.

  • To put things/music into a simple perspective for everyone would be to answer God concerning his questions here. God is asking “Where is the new song”? God is also asking “Where is the song of salvation”? Of course, that would be the very music/songs that is emphasized in Psalms 33:3. Thank you so much for allowing me to drop in here and visit uninvited. I just couldn’t resist though. I hope God blesses you all and directs your paths in glorifying him. He did that for me….and continues to do so.

  • David P

    Wow Michael, your post has to be the best post I’ve seen on any comment/blog for some time – it was clear, educated, common sense, etc.
    I try to evaluate individual songs on their own merit and within its proper/intended context. This means I like both old and new.

    I’m no musician, but in light of your post and David’s post, I would also like to add that language (particularly when accompanied with music that sets a mood) directly and/or indirectly influences peoples impressions, concepts, thoughts and emotions – which in turn influences behaviour, focus, attitudes, doctrine, lifestyle, identity, etc. – which in turn forms the context in which both an individual and a corporate gathering operates in. This can be for better or for worse; intentional or unintentional; conscious or subconscious.

    Last Sunday, I was reminded how many of the songs were in first person. So, just to experiment, every time the song used the word “I”, I sang the word “We”. It was interesting (but not surprising) that at each of those moments I sharply felt more connected and in unity with everyone else (even if in fact they were not). But when I go home and start worshiping to a song that uses phrases such as “Blessing, Honour, Glory to the King” or “Worthy is the Lamb” I have an experience 5+ times deeper and walk away 10x more satisfied and at peace – kind of like the feeling of eating a home cooked roast after 5 days of eating nothing but MacDonald’s.

    My 17 years of being Christian has provided some thoughts as to why this is, but I am convinced that it is much more than just my personal preference of style, genre, etc.

  • Ron Bolen

    There really isn’t any way to know who is telling the truth and who isn’t on the internet. We just have to “trust” the person writing, that they are telling the truth. I have a masters in music education, with a concentration in vocal performance. I have directed choirs in both schools and churches since I was in my late teens. I also have a masters in counseling, and I am currently in school counseling. I will be 61 years old the 23rd of this month. I’ll just come out and say it. I hate rock and roll. David Bowie said many years ago that rock and roll has always been the devil’s music, and i could not agree more. It takes very little research to find that out. Just because one puts Christian words to something, that does not make that something Christian. Strictly speaking, just musically, music theory only….lines and spaces….notes…rhythm…if you were to take a typical top 40 rock song without words, and compare it to a typical Christian rock song without lyrics, a typical person in a church or off the street could not tell the difference, for there is no difference. Therefore, if there is no difference, it’s all rock and roll. The words don’t change it. If Christian words change things, then all Mormons are going to heaven, for they use Christian words; all Catholics are going to heaven, for they use Christian words; all Jehovah Wintesses are going to heaven, for they use Christian words….just because someone or something uses Christian words does not make it Christian. The term “rock and roll” came out of the ghetto of Cleveland, Ohio. The term meant to have sex in the back seat of a car. Look it up. It was coined by a disc jockey named Alan Freed. What I am getting at is this…we as Christians are supposed to be different. What we satch, our movies are supposed to be different…what we watch on TV is supposed to be different…how we dress is supposed to be different…what our music sounds like is supposed to be different. This isn’t me talking…it’s God and the Bible…take it up with Him…not me. Scripture says, “Come out from among them and BE YE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD.” Our problem, is that we want our “Christian” MTV. But, there’s no such thing. We only have the Word of God, and He calls us to be Holy. He is much more interested in our holiness than He is in our happiness, and He is much more concerned with our character than He is with our comfort.

  • Hi Bill
    I would love to recommend a great e-book, written by a friend of mine, Grantley Morris, maybe 15 years ago, but inspiring about what Worship Music can be and has been. Bear in mind the e-book is in Word format, or html (view as web pages)
    It is called In Tune With God – The Search For Music Miracles

    Sometimes, I get frustrated with modern church music, mainly because of the new liturgy we have, only 4 songs, 2 fast, 2 slow, announcements, great new people, reprise of song, preaching, then maybe altar call.
    (I used to be music director in a church where praise and worship could go for 2 hours, with the Holy Spirit moving in waves). I love the old hymns too, new hymns and most modern praise and worship songs. I do love singing new songs, but too wonder about how many of the Hit church songs will stand the test of time, and become classic songs. I wonder too how many hymns and choruses have been written too that didn’t stand the test of time, and are no longer sung or even remembered. Our Hymn books are collections of most of those classic songs. Theological correctness is important obviously but the melodies are also memorable.
    What I personally think is best is to have a prolonged praise and worship time, going through the outer courts of praise of sacrifice and cleansing, into the Holy Place of Worship and extolling God, then into the Holy of Holies for Adoration and Communion with God.
    Sometimes, God might even want to take us back from the Holy of Holies and personal time with God, into the corporate exultation, and then to praising him and rejoicing.

    I have a trained musician/singe, and have studied/played Jazz, Classical, Pop, Rock, Reggae, Latin etc…
    I currently am singing more Classical and Operatic songs, which unfortunately doesn’t give me much opportunity to sing in our contemporary church. I did at Christmas, which was an honour. I do however also play keyboard and trumpet, and am part of the worship team, and love being able to contribute to leading people into God’s presence in Praise and Worship.
    God is so creative, and has made us creative too, I love to use sounds, and/or little melodies on the piano to inspire others.
    I really do love to sing too, and will do harmonies to whatever music we are playing.
    This morning in church we had a powerful meeting, with a real sense of God moving, not every service is like that, unfortunately. Song choice, Lyric Content, Unity but most importantly Heart attitude all contribute. As we prayed before the service as a Worship team, we invited God to search our hearts and remove anything that would inhibit God’s praise and worship. God honoured that prayer today.

    Definitely we should pray for our music teams, most have a heart to use their best for God, and lead people to God. Pray that God would direct them and use them, inspire them to write songs that bless the heart of God, and lead people to God. Pray for the church leadership to seek God for the best direction for Praise and Worship for the church they oversee, not just take a formula or liturgy because it works somewhere else or they are comfortable with it. In the Old Testament, they had dedicated Levites who trained spiritually and musically and were dedicated to The Lord and service. Most churches, don’t or can’t support a dedicated team of musicians/singers, yet we expect so much from them, and most church musicians do strive for excellence in serving The Lord.

    I also believe Praise and Worship should be culturally relevant and respectful, forcing Pacific Islanders, Africans, SE Asians, South Americans or Indians to dress in Suits and sing old hymns written for a different cultural context is less than God’s best plan for them, just as is expecting them to sing HillSong, Chris Tomlin songs or Jewish style songs with Tambourines, and a Shofar.
    We should be sufficiently mature and secure in our faith to join in the worship from another cultural (or age) group.

    Thanks for inspiring so much dialogue on this.

    God bless

  • Linda Fowler

    I was so glad I found your blog..I feel the same way you do….been a Christian for 45 years and all of a sudden the old powerful Hymns have disappeared from the churches I have attended lately. Its as if they took away steak and gave out pudding…..Why…? Is it another tool the enemy is using on this world? Of course it is!

  • Mark

    I just want to ask one questions when It comes to modern worship. This isn’t meant as a cut down, but I am a young youth pastor, who enjoys modern worship with its well place guitar solos (I happen to feel more like I am worshiping as I play my guitar even though i don’t play the solos; I also don’t think every song should have them) Any ways what did people says to Pope Gregory (I think the 6th) when he started leading them in his Gregorian Chants versus the traditional way they worshiped? To push this idea further, with his octave scale chants, we wouldn’t the hymns that you seem so endeared too. I don’t think hymn are a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, in fact I think they have there place in “worship” setting (worship in quotes because the true definition of worship contains more then 3 songs and a 30 min sermon) I also agree with you that we need some theologically deep in the music, but if everything is theologically then what about those who walk into church for the first time. If I had to describe what we do through worship music then I would describe it as an invitation to God’s presence, maybe even a part of “the sermon” but never the less a way to communicate with God. That being said a good church should be able to balance the seekers and those who have the feet cemented to The Rock.

    I guess that wasn’t quick but to sum up what I wrote, sometimes this modern shallow worship is needed so that we can bring these “seekers” and even those who aren’t even seeking yet, into relationship with God. Then through the other activities of the church (so not just Sunday morning attendance) we then push them deeper so that the understand more then the “fluff” of modern worship. Our Goal as Christians is to bring new seekers (not ones from the church down the street) not only into a relationship with God but “right relationship” (which is the righteousness like how Abraham was described) with God.

    • Mark,

      Well thought comment. Thanks. I agree that a balanced approach is needed, one that balances both spirit and truth. I just think that approach is often missing — in both directions.

      • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

        Bill, I believe there is more to it than that. There is definitely a church problem here that is not being addressed. We have been feeling so alone in it and since this is the 3rd church we do not want to change again. We know that it is wrong to sit under such loud noise, especially when it causes us to become sick with headaches and nausea. We ache for the innocent children who cannot protect their ears and the silly parents who follow like sheep the leadership without persevering with their needs to be heard and not condemned and criticized when they attempt to speak up.

    • Rosemary

      I agree – that’s why all churches should have a worship service AND a traditional service – the worship service will draw in new seekers and the traditional service should provide them with meat when they’re ready to come along for it…. we all need meat not just milk 😉

  • Mark

    I would like to add to what I just wrote and say that we can’t put to much emphasis on music and forget that God is still God no matter what kind of music we use. I think as churches and I am putting myself in this category because I was there just last year, we get to caught up on our style of worship that we forget our worship should be directed toward God and not ourselves.

    As well, Paul wrote that if it causes your brother to stumble then you shouldn’t do it. I get tired of hearing people say that they don’t like then “Modern Hymns” because once you add the new chorus is no longer a hymn its a modern song. The truth is it’s still the same song same message just revived for those who feel that hymns are to “out dated” in terms of musical style. I think we should be able to agree that Jesus Paid It All still has the same message whether is as a chorus or not. same for the many others.

  • Stephen

    What you touch on is symptematic of the deep rooted problem with Churches today.
    They have rejected truth and the one who is truth. Another gospel is preached and they have “heaped to themselves teachers having itching ears” unwilling and unable to endure sound doctrine. Their music is just an extension of this so called “seeker friendly” ministry which has seen the Church becoming more like the world rather than bringing the light of God and the truth of God to a needy dying world. The latest fadd is the emerging church cleverly propagated (although invented by the angel of light) through a man called Brian McLaren. Persecution is coming soon to Christians who stand up for truth but not from where we might think but as it was in Jesus day from the established religeous authority of the time.

    • David

      Excellent comments. You might be edified to view some of the worship services of the Free Presbyterian Churches of Northern Ireland (eg. video John Greer; Ballymena FPC) available at sermon audio. They have very conservative, reverent and God-honoring services with powerful speakers. They will not tolerate the nonsense we put up with here.

  • David

    Well, now, you just about agreed with everyone, didn’t you? Everybody feel good now???
    The white flag was a nice touch.
    May we study and learn from the example of Anne Askew, imprisoned in the Tower of London, put on the rack, burned slowly at the stake, for her uncompromising (some would say “narrow-minded”) stands on doctrine (e.g.. transubstantiation).
    If she’d only temporized a bit, things would have gone so much smoother.

    • Are you suggesting we go to the rack for a better mix of worship music? I know some think they’re already on the rack….

      • David

        Stephen did a far better job of expressing my point of view than did I. It was upsetting to read the near yapologetic tone of the white flag post. As for “the rack,” the point being made is that this particular martyr was tortured for not ameliorating her views. In the church today we tend to think that those who are most accommodating are the most pious.

        • We agree on your last remark to be sure. I’m not certain that musical style is the one to die for. Truth in our worship — that’s another matter. That one is worth fighting for.

          • emc_nyc

            Can you imagine the apostles even having this discussion? That goes to show the enormously imbalanced position that worship music has in our culture. We could have a church service without it. (In some countries where Christians are persecuted I imagine when and if they sing they sing with curtains drawn in hushed tones.)

  • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

    Bill, there was no need for a white flag as far as I could see. I read many, many great comments of people who felt good to be able to say what was in their heart without the worry that they were going to be criticized or put down for their honesty about how the music of today, be it loud or repetitive, was affecting their lives.

    • Eileen, Thanks for all your comments! I did not mean to imply surrender, as if no problem existed. However, I don’t want to simply complain without calling for a path forward that we can all take together as the body of Christ.

      Watch for an e-book version of all these thougtst coming in the next few weeks. I think you’ll like it.

  • tara gill

    God inhabits the praises of His people. I love that but i agree with your first article and for the last 20 years have found carbon copy services across the country which change little between denominations. Does anyone ask God what He would like? So each Sunday the machine starts up and we conjure up some strange fire on the alter and hope He is there! If it makes us feel good it must be good. I would rather not sing at all than sing some of the stuff we do. Dont get me wrong theres catchy stuff out there but i think its ok in your car or at a party, but if the President walks into a stadium or a queen we play a tune befitting them. An anthem to state what they represent. I would think God deserves the highest honours, after all He dwells in the High Places far above all earthly rulers. Can we stop entertaining each other and kneel before the creator?

  • Rosemary

    There is so much in the Bible to support the need for a more spiritual, beautiful, and reflective form of music such as traditional church music offers. Loud modern worship is like the ‘earthquake, wind and fire’ experienced by Elijah – but the Lord was not there! He was found only in the Still Small Voice of Calm…. and what was that about going into your room and closing the door when you want to pray to God? Because He sees all that is done in secret… there is certainly nothing there about prancing around in front of alot of other people in there!! Also, churches will always attract older people rather than teenagers – because older people are wiser people! Teenagers are fighting to free themselves of parental authority so it will always be hard to minister to them about an Eternal Father who is always in authority over us! But when they have grown up a bit and learned a few lessons, they shall remember the wisdom of the Lord and return to worship Him in church…

  • Barnabas

    I appreciate the earnest pursuit of truth. What the Church needs to focus on is not seekers of a God whom they don’t know, but pursuers of a God they know and desire to know more. My biggest problem with youth ministry, on the receiving end, was that my desire to dig deeper was held back by the immaturity of my peers. They weren’t ready for it? I think that exposure to the Word of God shapes us to be “ready.”

    All the same, I think the whole debate of style is already lost without Christ. In Christ, in spirit and truth, I believe in different styles of worship. I’ve experienced them across the world. But then, it’s about Christ. “Praise and worship” and even hymns can be misused or thoughtlessly thrown around, and the witness is the Holy Spirit. This is neither an excuse nor an accusation. I feel convicted by the Spirit when I have the wrong heart in the urban church, the village choir, or my grandparents’ Congregational.

    If I can say anything, my perspective on worship has been shaped by the understanding that worship is not just singing, but a lifestyle. I don’t believe that we can turn it on and off for church meetings. Corporate worship, at best, is a reflection of individual lives of worship, submitting to God in truth. The individuals are nothing on their own, but in their relationship with God and each other, they fulfill His purposes (something about the greatest commandments).

    I just want to add that Robin Mark has a talent for composing theologically deep, biblically rich modern hymns and songs. I rock out and also weep alongside those who desire biblical, Spirit-led worship. There’s a reason the writer of Psalm 119 rejoices in the Word of God: His law is wondrous, and every word He speaks is life to us. In that psalm is the encouragement to dwell on God’s truth, “hide it in my heart” and “meditate on it night and day,” and so on. That’s what makes good worship.

    I always like looking back on old posts like this one, and stimulating my mind and spirit with it. Blessings,


  • David Roth

    Bill, thanks for both articles. I was reminded what a Pastor friend now with the Lord used to say about how pointless pointing out the problem was without offering a solution. Our ‘Seeker’ church worship is the band of the week with a 4 song set in the perform, applaud, repeat 3X format. It often included Phil Collins/Genesis tunes and one Sunday, the theme from Superman: Man of Steel. My voice is the one crying in the wilderness because I’m looking over my shoulder at 60 and not their target demographic. But you offer solid, balanced observations with good, Biblical solutions which, falling before the right set of eyes may find a sympathetic listener. Thanks.

  • Rich Thomas

    I am a church music director. I stumbled upon your posts (this one and the previous one to which this refers) at 6:00 on a Sunday morning, while I sat in my office researching some comments to make today to my congregation regarding the reasons we sing songs together. I believe our church would be to your liking as I believe we meet your plainly stated preferences regarding what and how we should sing.

    So, while I don’t entirely disagree with you, I am still rather offended by the sanctimonious and arrogant tone inherent in both this and your previous post. Your white flag photo comes across a little sarcastic.

    In the interest of being proactive, instead of just filling up space with more and more of your words, I suggest you: Either start writing new songs that meet your standard of what the Church should be singing together, or specifically research songs that meet your criteria and helpfully compile them and (with love and maybe just a smidge of humility) offer them to your worship leaders (who don’t just take orders from you, but have to take into account the instructions of church elders and pastors, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance of their own hearts and vocations) or go find another church where they choose content you find more spiritually satisfying.

    If you’re researching songs for a contemporary worship setting, there are some great new, theologically sound hymns and songs being written by Keith Getty, Stuart Townend, Indelible Grace and others. And Jadon Lavik has several great resettings of hymns from the hymnal as well as deep new songs. As for the notion of repetition, again, I don’t disagree with you entirely, but there is something to be said for meditating on a single thought for an extended period of time. It is simple and childlike, and Jesus was pretty clear about it being a good thing to let go of our notions of maturity and advanced thinking and become like a child every once in awhile. I wonder if anybody in Israel’s congregation got a little tired of repeating “His love endures forever,” and complained about it to their worship leaders. Perhaps he wrote a blog about it.

    • Rob

      Well said. I could not have voiced it as well as you. I found the whole thing very judgmental.

  • Michele

    I am thirty-seven, and began attending church thirty-seven years and nine months ago. I read your first post (agreed with most) and your second. My first thought was to post the simple, amen brother. The past decade is overripe with simplicity, repetition and seems formulated. After singing a fourth rendition of “I can sing of His lover forever”, I felt we were half way there. I was complaining to my father, a minister, who somewhat agreed. He directed his worship leader as follows: “if someone is swinging from the rafters, you may think of singing a song a third time.” Funny, but I wish our worship leader would get the joke. I was beyond frustrated, it made me mad. Forget feeling led into the Lord’s presence, I just wanted to leave. It was like someone flicking me in the forehead repeatedly. Finally I decided no matter what they sang, how many times they repeated it, I was going to sing, clap, raise my hands and worship. Last Sunday the Spirit hit me in mid song…I feel inadequate to describe the sensation, but it was like what I imagine sticking my finger in a socket might feel like. I could barely stand, my uplifted hands were shaking. Matter of fact, my whole body began to shake. Suddenly I couldn’t stand. I HAD to kneel and pray. I lost track of time and others, I barely remember the music continuing. When I finished praying I slipped up into my seat and noticed I was no longer alone. Although no one laid hands on me, or prayed with me, I was suddenly surrounded by people with “usher” and “greeter” nametags. I can’t definitively say they were there to make sure I “didn’t cause a scene”, but that’s what it certainly felt like. My long point is this…music isn’t the only cause for concern. Folks are finding other ways to quench the Spirit. I was raised Pentecostal, and while I’ve never handled a snake (insert laugh here), I’m no stranger to shouts of praise, running, and folks laid out in the Spirit. I miss those days. Worship was, well, worship. Whatever you were led to do, you did. Now it seems as though we are on a tight program schedule, and the anointing and moving of God is left out. Like you stated, it is not all churches, but most. I know not what to do, but thank you for what you’ve started. Perhaps just letting our frustrations out of the closet will help initiate change. I pray God reign down His Spirit on us all, and cause the worship He desires. I pray for that “Old Time Religion”. I pray.

  • Cynthia Maddox

    I actually liked both your articles. No I didn’t agree with everything but i understood your frustration. Incidentally, the song used in this post (Yes Lord) is a favored song at my church. I feel virtually the same way you do about it… but i don’t see visions when I hear it. For my part, there are times when I’ve stood at my seat and wished someone would please sing How Great Thou Art, or He’s the Lily of the Valley or something else that would allow me to just stand and bask in a spirit of worship to a great and powerful God.

    What is needed is balance. The church is not made up solely of under 30 year old members. And for those worship leaders to be lead… by a still small voice instead of an amplified one.

  • Victoria Shephard

    1) I actually LIKE the “Yes Lord, Yes Lord” song, though I can’t remember the last time we did it.

    2) The only praise song that I hate with a passion is “Breathe.” Worst. Worship. Song. Ever. It’s too slow and soooo shallow. And one lady in our church loves it so it’s done from time to time. Ug.

    3) My church has always done a mixture of contemporary praise choruses and classic hymns. We start the service with 2 or 3 praise choruses. Then we might sing two hymns in the course of the rest of the service, plus the piano music for the offertory, etc. I like the mix. It’s a little something for everybody.