I signed up for a music streaming service subscription today. The first thing I was asked was what styles of music I most enjoy listening to. There were all kinds to choose from as I scrolled through the list: pop, country, electronic, R&B, hip hop, rock, dance, indie, jazz, classical, blues, reggae, metal, Latin, oldies and Christian.
I then went down a mental rabbit trail: is Christian music a style? Does God enjoy a particular sound over others? Does music have to sound a certain way to be worshipful? Furthermore, should Christians hold an ecumenical council to seek the Lord and decide what music He would be most pleased by?
Music that “sounds Christian” has been something I’ve been forced to meditate on more than I would like to admit. I’m going on my twenty-first year of playing an instrument on a worship team. During this timespan I’ve gotten a myriad of comments ranging from “the music was so powerful and worshipful today” to “the music sounded like a bad jazz club this morning” and everything in between. What about the sound of the music was so worshipful? Was God honored in the tempo we choose to play the music in? Is Christ more exalted when we play songs in major keys rather than minor keys? Could there be instruments God prefers to be played when we make music for Him?
The Heart Behind the Music
God consistently makes mention in the Bible that our hearts are the driving force in everything we do – including music. People’s hearts motivate who or what they are making music for, who or what they are singing to and why people ultimately listen to the music they listen to.
Therefore, in harmony with the whole of Scripture, God is more concerned with the heart behind the music we make than the musical style. Or more simply, God is more concerned with the gift than the wrapping paper. Nowhere in the Bible is there a mandate that we are to write or play a certain style of music, but rather a call to worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). I would like to make the argument that God’s favorite music style is whatever style His children are into making when they are worshiping Him rightly with their hearts.
The Apostle Paul says to “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:18b-19, emphasis added). Similarly he says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16, emphasis added).
So I’m suggesting God can be exalted with soft music and loud music, slow music, fast music, happy sounding music, sad sounding music and everything in between – when our hearts are rightly worshiping Him.
This organic approach to “worship” music is one of the reasons why we joyfully embrace musical diversity during our worship services at The Well. It is likely that no two weeks will be the same musical style during the singing portion of our weekly worship services. We embrace the creativity of our musicians because they have been fashioned after the Creator of the universe to display His glory through music. We also realize God is after people of every tribe, tongue and nation, who are reached in different ways, even throughout the diverse city that is Fresno, CA.
How Do We Respond?
Everyone has a particular musical style and preference that suits them best. My parents love when the organ and piano are cranked up and a choir harmonizes in four parts. I love when a synth and a drum machine lock together, and a single melodic hook soars over the top. But we can both sing out strong in whatever setting because of who God is and what He has done for His children.
So together, let’s be a rejoicing and singing church! We may not all agree on one musical style, but we can all certainly agree to worship the one who created music in the first place.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. – Psalm 96:1-2