Question: Can you clarify your position on contemporary worship music? |

TBC Staff

Question: You have stated correctly, “The Christianity that is represented by most of the contemporary Christian music and attractions would shock the early disciples….” I couldn’t agree more. But you also classify “the way in which worship is conducted” as “pet traditions having no basis in the Bible.” This seems to be endorsing the so-called “contemporary worship” and its “contemporary music.” The “anything goes” scene seems to violate the biblical principle of 1 Corinthians:14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” It has rather given credence to a phony “Christianity.” You should clarify your position.

Response: I have more than once mourned the replacement of the old hymns of the faith (filled with challenging, correcting, and edifying biblical doctrine) by shallow, repetitive choruses in which the rhythm moves the feet and hands but the words too often offer little for either the head or the heart. As for the style of music, I am not a musician and cannot comment, and specific “rules” would be hard to apply.

It often seems that much of what is known as “contemporary Christian music,” rather than being reverent and worshipful and reflecting a wholesome awe before our God, must be loud with a raucous beat and played and sung by “performers” with dress and manner to match. The real question is whether the music we offer and the attitudes of our hearts would be acceptable in heaven before the throne of God and the Lamb. That criteria, I believe, is something that today’s Christian musicians (and their pastors and elders as well) ought to pray about seriously, whether their music is performed at concerts or during “worship time” in a church. Yes, too often it seems like a performance to impress audiences rather than worship offered to God.

My comments about following tradition in worship concern the way in which worship is conducted. Obviously, that is all we can address, because we can’t look into anyone’s heart. A true believer led of the Holy Spirit could be worshiping the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John:4:23), as Christ said we must, in spite of what everyone else may be doing. We do not describe nor criticize any way that worship is conducted anywhere as not being biblical, nor do we commend any particular way of conducting worship as more biblical than another. We merely state that the way in which worship is actually conducted is often according to a tradition that is peculiar to certain denominations.

I would not suggest that everyone adopt some “contemporary” way of worship, which in itself may already have become another tradition of its own. New tradition is no better than old tradition. My concern is that we must not allow worship to become a matter of form rather than of the heart, so that the form is all many may know or understand about “worship.” In fact, the Bible dictates no form. We are there to remember Christ in His death in partaking of the bread and cup, which remind us of His body broken and His blood poured out for our sins; and we do this “till he comes” (1 Corinthians:11:26). We are thus reminded of His resurrection and His promised return to take us to His Father’s house of many mansions (John:14:1-3). But no order of service is prescribed, only that all should be done “decently and in order,” to which our consciences and the Holy Spirit in our hearts bear witness as well.