As a worship pastor for years, I have heard every complaint. I once was berated loudly in the foyer of a church because I failed to instruct the church to stand up when singing Amazing Grace. This person felt strongly that it was sinful to sing this song seated. I didn’t exactly respond well to that attack when I asked this church member to support their position biblically. I was in my twenties at the time and needless to say, I have learned a lot since then.
While not biblical, we naturally attached personal and spiritual experiences to songs that we then project unfairly onto others. Inevitably we then create systems or traditions that are more rooted in preference than in Scripture.
One cannot deny that music is intricately woven into the DNA of corporate worship. Instruments, dances, and vocal projection have played a role in God’s people declaring praise. When we unfold the scroll of Revelation we discover that songs will be part of our eternal declaration.
In the meantime, while we are faithful sojourners, we must ask some pertinent questions. Style or substance? What do you prioritize when it comes to music in church? Be honest now! Oftentimes we are guilty of settling into a genre of music that we prefer or that connects back to a memory and personal experience. Naturally, then we guard that.
The tension comes when a diverse group of people gathers and experiences collide, preferences intersect, and styles merge. Worship wars are not a new thing and thankfully I “feel” like many of these conflicts have subsided on the back side of COVID. After a lockdown, we are less likely to argue about song selection when we are simply grateful to gather.
It is likely that these conflicts will rise again in the future as we settle back into a rhythm of comfort. We must learn from the example of Moses in Exodus 15. The object of our praise is what matters most. The supremacy of Christ and the full authority of a sovereign God must be the object of our praise.
Pay close attention to the songs we connect to. Many of them are more man-centered and seek to validate our insecurity. Moses demonstrated a healthy response to who God is, what God has done, and what He will do. Our songs and the theology of what we sing must declare His majesty and properly position us in submission to His authority with joyful expectations for His glory forever.
Believe it or not, this can be done in a highly liturgical context, in a house church with no instruments, or in a modern context with lights and fog machines. Our heart must be on who we worship. We are not gathering to perform. We are gathering to celebrate the goodness of God in the land of the living.
When you gather and as you go throughout each day, intentionally sing songs that declare His greatness. Be wary of songs that focus too much on us. Stretch yourself to learn new songs in new ways that elevate His majesty. Be disciplined to reflect on old songs that resonate with eternal truths. Enjoy the edge of an electric guitar solo and embrace the moment to strip away all instruments and harmonize with your brothers and sisters. Ephesians 5:19 emphasized that variety is beneficial and ultimately the object of our worship is what matters most. To Him, through Him, and for Him be all the praise!