Music has always been a point of contention between the generations. “Turn your music down!” is the rhetoric of many parents of teenagers. This issue comes to light, even in our churches. “Drums in worship; choir robes or regular clothes; hymnals versus projection screens; and the question of outdated organs . . .” are among the issues that create tension in our worship services (Lackey). One would think that worship would be sacred and there wouldn’t be much room to make this an issue within the church, but it has been known to be the point of contention that will wear away at the very foundation of a church. What should worship look like? What types of songs are acceptable to include in a worship service? What is the church’s answer to the complaints, and how do they encourage all participants to enter into worship? Music is an intergenerational issue in our churches today that causes dissension where it should provide unity and should be addressed.
First, dissension is caused by conflict over music style. Just as in the home, style is one of the basic issues when it comes to music strife, so in the church, the style has become a major issue in what type of sacred music to use during the course of a worship service. Older people live and breathe by the hymns. The younger generation wants the new, seemingly more “alive” music to enable them to worship. The older generation seems to forget that hymns were once new songs. The younger generation seems to forget that the hymns were also written out of dynamic, intimate encounters with the Spirit. The Bible weighs in on this issue in Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.” It is okay to include new songs in our worship. It is also okay to use older, more weathered songs.
Second, dissension is caused by conflict over music lyrics. Many hymns were written in times past, with some archaic wording. At that time, Shakespeare was popular and it seems much of the wording of the hymns reflects the King James Version/Shakespeare type wording. The older generation, who grew up loving the hymns, argues that “more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition, giving us not well-shaped melodies but just one note after another” (Colson). I have heard my retired pastor father (who is in his sixties) argue that worship songs are just repetitive. It is important to incorporate songs in our worship services that are biblically and doctrinally sound. The Scripture states, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 NKJV, emphasis mine). The important thing is to verify that a song is foundationally sound, based on Scripture.
Third, dissension in worship is caused by disagreement over instruments. One article highlights, “Nearly 50 percent of Protestant churches now say they use electric guitars or drums in worship, up from nearly 35 percent in 2000, according to the recently released Faith Communities Today study of 14,000 congregations” (Grossman). Some churches only advocate non-electric instruments, while others use full orchestras. The argument against instruments, or certain types of instruments, becomes valid when the focus is placed on the instruments rather than to whom the worship is directed. If God is receiving the glory, instruments should be allowed. Psalm 150 includes a variety of instruments, and the command is to “praise” Him.
Worship should not cause dissension. Focus is the main thing that will determine if a person successfully enters worship or is affected by the aforementioned issues. In Revelation, the 24 elders state, “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created” (4:11). If everything we do, as Christians, is supposed to give honor and glory to God, it must really break His heart for His people to allow arguments over what is or isn’t allowed in worship. The genre of song is not important. Does it give honor and glory to God? Then, it is okay to use in worship. The lyrics are important. If they honor God, the song is good to use in worship. Do the instruments demand all the attention, detracting from having the focus on God? Then, they should be toned down. Otherwise, they are okay to use for worship.
The church must become unified in every aspect to disallow divisions and strife. How do we do this, when there is so much division caused by music? One of the most important ways is to incorporate a good variety of styles in a worship service. It is important for the older and younger people both to feel as though they can worship and provide music they love. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to remind everyone, all generations, what worship is really about, and upon whom the focus should be. When we do all “to the glory of God,” there can be unity, even in this inter-generational issue.
- Colson, Chuck. “Worship Wars.” CP Opinion The Christian Post , INC., 7 Aug 2009. Web. 1 Mar 2014. http://www.christianpost.com/news/worship-wars-40154/
- Grossman, Cathy Lynn. “Church music wars battle for souls with song.” USA Today News Gannett Co. Inc., 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-11-16/church-music-traditional-contemporary/51247368/1
- Lackey, Terri. “‘Ticky-tacky’ worship wars divert attention from God, consultant says.” Baptist Press. Baptist Press, 1 Jul. 2002 http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=13741
- The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.