God’s Favorite Music

A disagreement over worship style was part of the story of the first murder. In Genesis 4, Cain praised God with the fruit of the ground while Abel worshipped with the firstlings of his flock. They both did what was natural based on their preferences. God respected Abel and rejected Cain. This conflict ultimately led to jealousy, strife, death, and the loss of fellowship with God. Sadly, we have not learned much throughout the history of the church. Today, we are still fighting over worship style and reaping the same results as Cain and Abel. Traditionalists armed with their hymnals fight against the contemporary warriors marching with PowerPoint and the praise band. The resulting battlefields are very ugly and the damage to our fellowship with God is costly. In my travels, I have listened to the frustrations and struggles of church leaders and lay people regarding worship style. The many miles and countless discussions compel me to offer some observations and solutions with the purpose of encouraging the church to discover a path to a fulfilling music ministry.

Since most of the Christian music world is focused on style, we now have old people music, adult music, and youth music. The outcome is that each generation closes the door and mutes the volume to wonderful enriching messages found in the music just outside their age group. Therefore, every age is missing out. A style-focus also is a major factor motivating some churches to offer a traditional service and a contemporary service. People then choose the style of service they prefer. Typically, the preacher still delivers the same message but the music style is different. I have even observed that some pastors change clothes between the services to be more “contemporary” or “traditional” to fit the style of the service. Having two services may be a good thing. Personally, I’m not interested or qualified to debate the need for multiple services or other proposals made by church leaders to be effective. I greatly respect the difficulty they face to do the right things to reach their community. However, I feel it is so important for us to stop majoring on style and start focusing on substance.

Style will always be important but substance should always rule. Music without substance has no spiritual significance. The music ministry must be more than just preparing for the message. It must be part of the message. The substance of music should always fulfill two purposes: praise and proclamation. Songs about God prepare hearts to sing songs to God. Adoration naturally follows revelation. In other words, as He is revealed to us in an anointed, Bible-based lyric, we can’t help but praise Him. This is God’s plan for music. In Colossians 3:16, we are instructed to teach and encourage one another with songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. This wonderful scripture contains both purposes of music. Singing about and to God.

Some of today’s musical authorities say otherwise, but it’s ok to sing to people about God. This is not performance focused as they claim. This is simply what teaching and encouraging others is all about. God desires and delights when we talk about Him, especially His Son, Jesus Christ. People are drawn to our churches when we lift up Jesus. This is scriptural and natural. People want and need to learn about God to know God. Music is an awesome tool for that purpose. How often are we reminded of God’s love and benefit through the message of a song? During times of adversity, believers cling to truths they can sing by heart from their heart. Songs lift those who are discouraged and remind us all of a loving, ever-faithful God. We must all remember that songs of proclamation have helped bring the church through trial and persecution. Their message of hope will also surely help us as we keep the faith in all our tomorrows.

Equally, we must also sing to God. There is nothing more vital in music ministry than to express our gratitude to Him. Motivating a group of believers to praise Him in the intimacy of knowing Him is the ultimate purpose of music. We acknowledge the closeness of God when we sing to Him. Over and over, the believers in the Bible expressed their thanks, love, and adoration to God through song. This has always been God’s deepest delight. To be loved by people is His greatest joy. When we praise Him through music heaven and earth embrace in harmony. It has been said that a song is one of the most perfect forms of prayer. I know it’s all part of His plan.

To me, the very best aim is to balance our music ministries with songs of praise and songs of proclamation. You can find these songs in every style. The hymns and gospel songs are refreshing wells of truth that will still encourage and teach about Him as well as praise Him. The contemporary songs are absolutely awesome tools of praise and teaching. Begin fostering a substance-driven music ministry where message is king and Jesus is the main thing. Stop talking about style and teach all ages to look for God in God’s music in all its forms. When we make it all about Him, I believe people will eventually stop feuding over worship style. This will probably take a while, but it didn’t get this way overnight. I would simply like to encourage church leaders to consider the tremendous benefits of opening up the eternal treasures of all those who have been and will be moved by the Holy Spirit to bring the God of heaven to the people of earth.

Remember, God respected Abel, but I believe it was not because of his worship style. It was because Abel knew God and praised God, the two ultimate purposes of music. God does not have a favorite music style. He does have a favorite music substance, His Word. He does have a favorite music subject, Jesus. And in case you’ve ever wondered, the song of heaven will be the perfect song. It will remind us of the Lamb slain before foundation of the earth as we sing worthy is the Lamb! Proclamation will be in harmony with adoration. Finally, we won’t care about style! Let’s start practicing for heaven’s sake!

8 Comments

  1. majorshadow

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    Song Title: “Hosanna”
    Hear @ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYk5dwG0y1Q

  2. Bruce

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    Bro Jim,
    Please tell me what Gods musical style is? If you say scriptually and from biblical times,this is Gods favorite, then we need to go back to the Aribic instruments and aribic tunnings,I dont know about you Jim, but I thank God that music, music technology, and musical insrtuments have changed.
    There is no such thing as “Christian music” there are only christian lyrics and styles, southern gospel, traditional, black gospel, contemperary, country, rock, blues,and a dozens more but these are all prefrences.
    If the word is given thru song then what does it matter the style, You know God doesn’t even hear the outward sound or style we make, he hears what comes from the heart.
    What does it matter if we bring in Hollywood or Nashville music into our churches. You said yourself you like most southern gospel, well what is most southern gospel? It’s a form of country music, same chord progressions same instrumentation. Hmm thats sounds a little “Nashville” to me.For that matter many of our sacride hymns that were writen 200 years ago were melodies taken from popular bar and pub tunes. And those wonderful annointed writers were ridaculed at that time for bringing the “WORLD” as you say into the church. So fast forward to today,look at what you are saying. Phil Cross is in pretty good company. I wonder how many “religious” people Fanny Crosby had to endure in her day. Remember religious people are the ones that put our Lord on the cross.
    I agree there are many songs that are shallow. There are many churches that have shallow worship or no worship or its emotionally or performance driven. But you are being shallow to say that your way is the correct way, or your prefrence of instruments and how they are played and the volumn level they are played at are the correct way. I have a pretty good idea the “STYLE” of music thats probably done in your church. Do you think your style of music would go over in a “Cowboy Church” or your way of approaching music would go over in a “Black Gospel” church? How bout a “Christian Rock” church? Lets take it a step farther, lets go over seas to Asia or Africa. Haiti a country destroyed by earth quake, the following day a call to worship was started by the loud beating of the drums, hmm i bet you guys dont start your worship service with the loud beating of a drum. But Jim thats ok, ITS A PREFRENCE,what matters is the subject as Phil put it, Its about JESUS!JESUS!JESUS!and making Him famous and lifting Him up. If that is the drive and motivation of the pastor, worship pastor, choir, worship team, musicians and cogregation then its gonna be a great sunday.And if the people go out from the service challenged,encouraged and ready to live and share the gospel then thats what you call true worship, what we do on sundays is only a small part of worship, true worship is not about a certain style. True worship is about a lifestyle.
    And your 7/11 comment,PS 47:6 KJV.says, Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. Guess your not a fan of Psalms.
    And your comment on immproperly used distractive instruments, PS 33:1-3 KJV, says, Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the Lord with the harp; sing unto Him with the psaltry and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. That pretty much says it all.
    Oh and lastly no matter what the “final style” may be, with millions of saints all around rejoicing,its not gonna matter, guess what,its gonna be loud brother. And I bet every style will be represented, every tongue, every tribe, every nation.Oh my stars what will you do?
    Lets give praise to God that there is a generation of true worshippers out there. Lets stop getting our uderware in a wad over stuff that God is probably laughing at. 100 years from now whats gonna truely matter?

  3. Martin

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    Actually you must be careful with you thoughts using the scripture reference. That is because while the argument was over worship it was, more importantly, over scriptual worship. While as a choir director and what you would call a worhship leader I am faced with the decision and as I listen to 100’s of arrangements during the year I only select 10-20 songs that will, in my opinion, be scriptual and encourage an attitude of praise and worship. The main thing is that since the Bible has never changed, only rewritten by man, I am faced with the task of using only music that represents the Gospel and directs all the honor and glory to God not man. Now as to the style, I have my opinion on style but it is mine and while I disagree with a style that brings the world into the church it is not my business outside the 4 walls of my church. Too many musicians are bringing hollywood and nashville into the church and that my friend is wrong. Music should encourage chruch attenders to an attitude of worship not entertain them, music should set the table for the preaching of the Word. If the music distracts from the Word it is wrong, no matter the style. I have a personal like for “most” southern gospel music but there is some I would never allow in my church, there are some “praise & worship” songs I like but I am not a fan of the 7/11 concept of chanting but again that is my likes and dislikes. What matters is how you stand before God and I disagree with your thoughts that God does not have a favorite music. You see not only the subject is Crist but the music itself must present Christ in a scriptual manner. I love instruments since the Bible loves instruments, I personnaly play a horn, however, it has been my observation that instruments improperly used can distract from the song itself and the words not heard, let alone understand. Yes the Heavenly style will be the one that matters the most but don’t attempt to rationalize wrong style based on the final style.

  4. Philip Hare

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    Bro Jim,
    Please tell me what Gods musical style is? If you say scriptually and from biblical times,this is Gods favorite, then we need to go back to the Aribic instruments and aribic tunnings,I dont know about you Jim, but I thank God that music, music technology, and musical insrtuments have changed.
    There is no such thing as “Christian music” there are only christian lyrics and styles, southern gospel, traditional, black gospel, contemperary, country, rock, blues,and a dozens more but these are all prefrences.
    If the word is given thru song then what does it matter the style, You know God doesn’t even hear the outward sound or style we make, he hears what comes from the heart.
    What does it matter if we bring in Hollywood or Nashville music into our churches. You said yourself you like most southern gospel, well what is most southern gospel? It’s a form of country music, same chord progressions same instrumentation. Hmm thats sounds a little “Nashville” to me.For that matter many of our sacride hymns that were writen 200 years ago were melodies taken from popular bar and pub tunes. And those wonderful annointed writers were ridaculed at that time for bringing the “WORLD” as you say into the church. So fast forward to today,look at what you are saying. Phil Cross is in pretty good company. I wonder how many “religious” people Fanny Crosby had to endure in her day. Remember religious people are the ones that put our Lord on the cross.
    I agree there are many songs that are shallow. There are many churches that have shallow worship or no worship or its emotionally or performance driven. But you are being shallow to say that your way is the correct way, or your prefrence of instruments and how they are played and the volumn level they are played at are the correct way. I have a pretty good idea the “STYLE” of music thats probably done in your church. Do you think your style of music would go over in a “Cowboy Church” or your way of approaching music would go over in a “Black Gospel” church? How bout a “Christian Rock” church? Lets take it a step farther, lets go over seas to Asia or Africa. Haiti a country destroyed by earth quake, the following day a call to worship was started by the loud beating of the drums, hmm i bet you guys dont start your worship service with the loud beating of a drum. But Jim thats ok, ITS A PREFRENCE,what matters is the subject as Phil put it, Its about JESUS!JESUS!JESUS!and making Him famous and lifting Him up. If that is the drive and motivation of the pastor, worship pastor, choir, worship team, musicians and cogregation then its gonna be a great sunday.And if the people go out from the service challenged,encouraged and ready to live and share the gospel then thats what you call true worship, what we do on sundays is only a small part of worship, true worship is not about a certain style. True worship is about a lifestyle.
    And your 7/11 comment,PS 47:6 KJV.says, Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. Guess your not a fan of Psalms.
    And your comment on immproperly used distractive instruments, PS 33:1-3 KJV, says, Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the Lord with the harp; sing unto Him with the psaltry and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. That pretty much says it all.
    Oh and lastly no matter what the “final style” may be, with millions of saints all around rejoicing,its not gonna matter, guess what,its gonna be loud brother. And I bet every style will be represented, every tongue, every tribe, every nation.Oh my stars what will you do?
    Lets give praise to God that there is a generation of true worshippers out there. Lets stop getting our uderware in a wad over stuff that God is probably laughing at. 100 years from now whats gonna truely matter?

    1. Susan Voorhes

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      Philip,

      I totally agree with you! You just keep up the good work and God will continue to bless you!

  5. Jim Brothers

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    Actually you must be careful with you thoughts using the scripture reference. That is because while the argument was over worship it was, more importantly, over scriptual worship. While as a choir director and what you would call a worhship leader I am faced with the decision and as I listen to 100’s of arrangements during the year I only select 10-20 songs that will, in my opinion, be scriptual and encourage an attitude of praise and worship. The main thing is that since the Bible has never changed, only rewritten by man, I am faced with the task of using only music that represents the Gospel and directs all the honor and glory to God not man. Now as to the style, I have my opinion on style but it is mine and while I disagree with a style that brings the world into the church it is not my business outside the 4 walls of my church. Too many musicians are bringing hollywood and nashville into the church and that my friend is wrong. Music should encourage chruch attenders to an attitude of worship not entertain them, music should set the table for the preaching of the Word. If the music distracts from the Word it is wrong, no matter the style. I have a personal like for “most” southern gospel music but there is some I would never allow in my church, there are some “praise & worship” songs I like but I am not a fan of the 7/11 concept of chanting but again that is my likes and dislikes. What matters is how you stand before God and I disagree with your thoughts that God does not have a favorite music. You see not only the subject is Crist but the music itself must present Christ in a scriptual manner. I love instruments since the Bible loves instruments, I personnaly play a horn, however, it has been my observation that instruments improperly used can distract from the song itself and the words not heard, let alone understand. Yes the Heavenly style will be the one that matters the most but don’t attempt to rationalize wrong style based on the final style.