Don’t Waste Your Music
Some Christians might argue (especially in Reformed circles) that as long as gospel truths are present in the songs we sing together, our gathering has been a success. Helping our people see and respond to Jesus with biblically orthodox words is the most important factor in worship services, but don’t waste your music. God has made music a powerful tool. As a body of believers we can communicate, memorize, express, and emotionally connect with truth through music in ways that no other medium allows. When we see music in its proper place, our job as worship leaders and pastors becomes less about truth and good music being at odds with one another, and more about utilizing great music to highlight truth. Let me unpack this.
Style Polarizes a Crowd
If someone walks into your church service and hears your new pop-country band for the first time, I guarantee you they aren’t paying attention to the words. They are either thinking about how much they hate the music or how much they love it. Music is not a neutral tool. It polarizes a crowd. People draw much of their cultural identity from the style of music they listen to.
Can Musicians Be Too Good?
Nothing is more distracting than the guy who wants all eyes on him, and not on Christ. The front man isn’t the only worship leader on stage; the players are too. Our gatherings can’t be a musician’s competition between his glory and God’s. We have one target in mind, and all band members should be shepherded to aim there together.
Don’t Water It Down; Change It Up
Since stylistic choices and musicianship can be a distraction, the tendency in churches is to make worship music “broadly palatable.” Watering the music down may remove a stumbling block to some, but it can also dilute the power of the medium. If we have to work in the confines of music and all the cultural baggage it brings, we must also take advantage of the cultural benefits. Keep in mind that there is diversity in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5). Change it up from week to week. A good sign that you have the right balance of styles is if every congregant has one band they love and one band they hate. Seeking to find balance is our lot as worship leaders and pastors. One day we won’t be distracted by musical style or sin, and every tribe, people, and language will come together (Rev. 7:9-10) singing praises to our Savior! This is a hope we look forward to. Until that day, we will make the most of this gift that God has given, using it as a tool to point to his unparalleled worth and glory.