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Music divides the church

Posted by on Jul 20, 2011 in blog links | 13 comments

Music divides the church

My friend Lew has written a very good and very important post called “Distracted By Jesus? – Music Divides the Church.”

Lew’s post is about music “in the church” and how that music tends to divide people. Some want traditional (meaning 50-100 year old primarily) songs, while others want contemporary (meaning more modern) songs.

And, if we don’t get our way, we’ll take our pipe organ or electric guitar and go play somewhere else.

It’s true. It seems that music brings out the worst in many Christians.

Here is part of Lew’s post:

Think about it, you’ll hear older people complaining about how the newer music is not reverent enough, not respectful… or they just do not “get it”. And the younger generation wants something more hip and upbeat, traditional hymns just bore them. But for the past 200+ years, we’ve traditionally played music during the Sunday morning meetings. We have to play something, right?

I’m not sure that removing music would help, I’m sure that would divide as well. To be honest, I do not know what is the best answer, it seems like no matter what you do, it will cause disunity among the church.

So, what do you think? What is the problem here? What’s the solution?

(By the way, you’ll notice that I did not use the term “worship.” Worship (true worship) never divides the church.)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-20-2011

    I prefer “traditional” music but it kills me that people think that “traditional” music is somehow more Biblical because it is a few hundred years old and sounds more churchy.

  2. 7-20-2011

    Music is not the problem…considering your own preferences above your brother is in fact the issue.

  3. 7-20-2011


    It sounds “churchy” because that’s what we’ve heard “in church”.


    I think that was Lew’s conclusion also. This shows how immature the church is (in America, at least).


  4. 7-20-2011

    Great post. Is the bottom line being fully “surrendered and mature” to experience the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit no matter what, how, with whom, where, etc.? I say it’s a lifelong area for growth and loving humility. Other “dividers” and distractions come to mind… – We songs/I and Me songs, formal/casual dress, children’s programs, mostly young people/mostly old people, Calvinist/Arminian, Bible version used, pews/folding chairs, hymnals/lyrics on screen, offering/no offering taken, Communion in service/only in small groups, live teacher/video, etc., etc., etc.

  5. 7-20-2011


    For me, the music isn’t the problem. The words which accompany the music are sometimes a problem. Some of the old a lot of the newer stuff is so self-centered that I cannot sing it.

    A few younger people have told me that the music is the most important for them. As one young fellow (about 28) told me, that was a #@*# jam session. The ten or so around him agreed.

  6. 7-20-2011

    This is a timely discussion and one that we are dealing with indirectly with some dear Christians considering leaving their church over. Of course, there is always more than just one issue, but so many of the problems with music simply point to a deeper problem that was mentioned earlier regarding immaturity. But if you look at the “system” of the church or the structure, these problems will be produced every time a new church is planted in a traditional/institutional manner. I believe there are many reasons why music in particular is a sensitive issue such as music being the only participatory act during a worship service and therefore people take special ownership of this versus the sermon. Obviously, when it is done without the worshipful aspect, then it is just music and music is preferable or able to be preferred. We do not necessarily choose the kind of music we like, but at times it almost appears as if the music chooses us. However we begin listening to a certain type of music, it is chosen according to our personal make up and tastes. Therefore, music without worship is personal preference and unfortunately it gets confused in churches with what people call worship and therefore hold onto so dearly.

    I would like to poll the audience and ask what is the difference between music in a church service and worship with a community of believers? What does that look like?

    Is there a place for music in the gatherings for communities of believers (church) that is NOT worship?

  7. 7-20-2011


    I agree that maturity is a lifelong pursuit. Those disagreements that you list – and the fact that we allow them to separate us – shows that we still have a long way to go.

    Aussie John,

    Wait… you expect people to pay attention to the words they’re singing?


    You asked, “Is there a place for music in the gatherings for communities of believers (church) that is NOT worship?”

    I think we would need to step back and ask another question first: “Is there a place for ANYTHING in the gatherings for communities of believers (church) that is NOT worship?”


  8. 7-20-2011

    I perceive that when I sincerely obey the call to “speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” then I tend to speak in a language which is conducive to an engaging conversation. I find that if I am seeking only to express myself and/or perform for others then I am more likely to create spectators- and, possibly, some fans.

    My thoughts are drifting to the lyrics of the Beatles’ song “With a little help from my friends…”

    “What would you think if I sang out of tune,
    Would you stand up and walk out on me.
    Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
    And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
    Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
    Mmm,I get high with a little help from my friends,
    Mmm, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

    Are we performing or are we communing?

  9. 7-21-2011

    since my mom was either the music director, organist or pianist (yes all three at differing points mostly in small inner city churches) I am biased. But she was adament it not be a performance but to His Glory. I loved the way she would have an old saint sing a solo to Jesus with her ancient shakey voice. She was going to meet her Savior soon! Or the teen to play his favorite contemporary christian song on guitar…not real professionally.

    But the best had to be singing old hymns at home. The whole family around the piano.

    I despise the music war because it misses the whole point. I despise the sound system arguments. We are blessed to have piano’s! Any sound system.

    We are too rich and spoiled.

  10. 7-21-2011

    Lydia, I agree with your observation about “gathering around!”. It’s a cliche but from my experience that experience reflects the cliche accapella Kumbyah campfire that I guess Jesus and his fishfry friends probably experienced on the sea shore: when we live out our speak-to-one-anothering, let’s reflect what the One did with the others who were His first followers.

  11. 7-21-2011


    That’s a great song to add to this conversation! Thanks!


    I’m guessing that if your mom talked to some of those people who were concerned about performance, vocals, and sound systems, they would also say it was all for God’s glory.


  12. 5-10-2012

    It still seems to me that the point of music in our modern services should be the same as it has been historically, a tool for the visitors/unbelievers. Worship should occur as a result of us being together for a single purpose. Great Post, thanks for starting the discussion.

  13. 5-10-2012

    Revival Sermons,

    If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that music is a good tool for evangelism. What about music and those who are already believers? (Most of the arguments that I’ve seen – as indicated in the post above – are between believers and what music is appropriate for them.)