The following is an excerpt from Week 7 of Pure Praise: A Heart-Focused Bible Study on Worship.
Any song that honors God and is scripturally accurate is, in fact, “suitable” to be sung at church. However, not every song is suitable every time the church gathers. That is because of a thing called sensitivity…
While particular music styles should not become a personal “issue” with us, style still needs to be considered. We’ve already established that the kind of God-honoring music we sing and play does not determine our vertical relationship with God and how He responds to us. On the other hand, though, what we choose may have an adverse effect on the horizontal relationships we have with other people. And, the way we treat each other does ultimately affect how we relate to and please our Lord.
Carefully read the following verses: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV) “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
Now, with those verses in mind, let’s consider the following situations between Christians. Were the characters in each of these short stories loving and honoring toward one another, or were they unloving and selfish?
Scenario #1: Joe bought a CD of his favorite kind of music, Alternative Christian Rock, as a Christmas gift for his girlfriend, Jenny. He told her they could listen to the music when they were together in her car. Problem is, Joe knew that Jenny couldn’t stand rock music. She preferred Bach and Beethoven!
Question: Did Joe act lovingly toward Jenny or selfishly and unlovingly?
Scenario #2: A youth praise team decided it was time to “show those old people some good music for a change.” So they did a modern song on a Sunday night that had screaming guitars and loud drums. When the senior adults cringed and placed their fingers over their ears, the students didn’t bother to turn down the volume; instead, they played more loudly than usual.
Question: Did the youth act lovingly toward those seasoned adults, or were they selfish and unloving toward them?
Scenario #3: The young adults of a local congregation asked if some of the new, more “contemporary” choruses could be included in the Sunday morning music services. However, the charter members voted down the younger crowd. They rejected the idea without even sitting down to talk to the “young folks” and consider their reasons for wanting the change.
Question: Did the charter members show love toward the younger people and prefer them over their own selves, or were they unloving and self-centered?
Scenario #4: Sarah was asked by a friend to come and sing a solo at her friend’s church. The friend explained that the church was more reserved and traditional than most. So, even though Sarah personally preferred singing a more contemporary song, she selected an older piece she thought the people there would enjoy and relate to more.
Question: Did Sarah exemplify a loving and honoring attitude toward that traditional congregation or a selfish and unloving attitude?
Of all the people we just read about, which one got it? Which one seemed to understand and embrace the principle of sensitivity toward other believers? It was Sarah. She was willing to put aside her personal preferences and “agendas” and focus, instead, on ministering to the people she was singing to (and, therefore, minister to her Lord! – See Matthew 25:40).
Why is it that we want to force our music on other believers just because we like it? Who is it we apparently love the most: them or ourselves?
[It’s important to note here that “specialized praise” times are healthy and valuable for the Body. Those meetings can and should focus on the specific music preferences of the particular group that’s gathered there for worship, whether it be teenagers, ladies, senior adults, etc. Also, some churches have purposefully chosen to reach a narrowly-defined population group. When those congregations come together for corporate worship, the members expect the songs to be of a certain music style. That’s not being unloving; that’s being strategic!]
Please understand something here: In this lesson we’re not speaking of music as a tool for evangelism. We’re not considering Christian music vs. secular. Furthermore, we’re not evaluating “specialized praise” gatherings. Rather, our focus is on respecting each other in the entire family of God. And in this spiritual family of ours there are all types of musical interests!
To help his congregation appreciate their different music preferences, Dr. Adrian Rogers used an ingenious illustration. During a Sunday morning message he asked every one who enjoyed eating liver and onions to raise their hands. Fingers and arms could be seen scattered throughout the large sanctuary. Then he posed another question: “Who doesn’t like liver and onions?” A sea of hands sprang up everywhere. He then compared eating that vile food (at least, according to my taste buds!) with liking certain songs. He concluded, “We all have different tastes in music, just like we each have different tastes in food.”
The problem is not in our varying “tastes.” (Actually, that’s a blessing God designed for His people!) The trouble comes when we want to treat every worship service like it’s our own personal “tasting fair,” and we’re the judge! That way, if we don’t particularly like a song, we can reject it and toss it out of the service. Somehow, I don’t think that’s exactly what Peter had in mind when he said, “All of you should be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble.” (1 Peter 3:8, NCV)
Excerpt from Week 7 of Pure Praise: A Heart-Focused Bible Study on Worship. For more great advice on leading worship, check out the new Worship Leader Coaching with Dwayne Moore. It starts this January and you can sign up today!