Since I have been reading books like Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters and Can We Rock the Gospel by John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini, I have been thinking a lot about true worship.
The heart of Worship
What we first must remember is that Worship does not always mean song. We worship God through song, music, and even dance, but not those alone. We must also worship Him through giving sacrificially of our lives to Him. This includes helping the poor and sick, caring for orphans and widows, giving to the Church, praying to Him, teaching, preaching, and using any gifts otherwise for His glory. That is worship in it’s truest form. James says that true religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”.
So when it comes to music…
We must be unstained from the world and focused on Christ and His glory. We must not lead songs that simply invoke emotions, but that actually show people the love of Christ, our sin, His sacrifice, God’s glory, the Spirit’s power, and overall teach people about who God is. But we also must be culturally relevant in whatever we do. Just as the language of preaching has changed from Jonathan Edwards to John Piper, so must the language of music. Likewise, a missionary headed to Africa would be ignorant to attempt to bring an organ and expect the people to know how to sing along with that, but instead would go with a native and learn of their music styles. Nobody seems to reject international conformity of music styles to different cultures, but there seems to be a surge of people who are against culturally relevant music in the West. Interesting… and prideful on their part- saying that theirs is the best for this Western culture and then tacking Scripture on it (their favorite is the Psalm that says Sing a new song to the Lord).
What is acceptable?
Many would quote verses that tell us to dance before God and clash cymbals and say that based off of these, we are allowed to do anything we want. I will not argue for a regulative principle here (saying that we can only do what is explicitly commanded by God) but instead, go with the normative principle (we are to worship God in anyway except for that which He commands us to not do). So we must look closely at what our songs of worship to Him include. Here are some questions to ask about what you’re singing:
- Are the clear, biblical truths that are being portrayed here?
- Do people know that I am singing about Jesus?
- Could this song be sung about any one else and still ring true?
- Is God’s glory, Christ’s death and Resurrection, the Spirit’s power, or my sin portrayed as it should be?
- Is this leading to empty emotion or true worship?
If that list doesn’t narrow things down for you (and so that I may defend rock being used for worship) here are some others to consider:
- Can I hear myself singing, or is the music drowning me out?
- Are people in the congregation able to hear the words? (by the way, if not, you are just noise and not worship)
- Are the words clear and un-muffled?
- Are you screaming the lyrics? (as in a heavy metal fashion- my advice, don’t do that in a worship service, that will inhibit true worship)
- Even though I am the one people see, are they looking at me or Christ?
I am for using any music style for the glory of Christ. Music is a language by which we reach different cultures, that’s all. But we must be good stewards of that music for the true glory of God. Songs in concert and songs in worship must be different. As much as I don’t like heavy metal and screaming, I don’t (biblically) see a problem with it in the Christian Musician scene, but it should not be used for corporate worship. (This is different from Lucarini and Blanchard who, to sum up their points, see all rock music as from the Devil).
Let’s not be ignorant, God calls true worshipers. We must be worshiping Him, as Jesus commanded, “In truth and love” but we are also to speak in the language of those we are going to.