28 Jan 2015 @ 6:33 PM 

Styles of songs sung in a Sunday morning church service are an item of debate amongst Christians. It can be enough to drive parishioners from one church to another. Just to be clear, I believe that there is going to be disagreements within the Christian community. The disagreements can be separated into two areas. The big things such as how to receive salvation which is through forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus and salvation as a gift through Him alone. Then there are the little things like what color to paint the walls in the church, which version of the Bible to read, and what this post is about – styles of music to be played in a church service.

I’ve been going to church most of my life. I was brought up in a very conservative Southern Baptist church where we had a very structured service, sang hymns, and had a choir. I say this because I’m sure that my background has a lot of influence on how I view a church service.

I enjoy singing hymns in church service. Maybe its just because I’m familiar with it, and those who know me know I don’t like change. Maybe there’s more to it than that. When I was going to the small First Baptist Church in¬†Springer, NM, I took my first spiritual gift inventory test. Spiritual gifts are a whole other topic, but I learned that my spiritual gifts were in the following order:

  1. Music
  2. Knowledge
  3. Service

I guess that explained why I enjoyed singing in the choir and ensemble group in church as well as singing in a chorus group in Jr High and High School. Although I don’t know the first thing about playing an instrument.

While I was in college, I first started seeing “worship” music being sung in a church service. I enjoyed it at the time. It was something different from the hymns I had sung in church up to that point. Being a young college student I was up for something more hip and cool ūüôā . I can remember my music minister at the time, Charlie, telling me that he was getting a lot of resistance from older¬†members in the church about¬†the new songs he was introducing to the congregation. In a small college town like Starkville, MS, college students made up a significant¬†percentage of the congregation on Sundays. Charlie told me that he had decided that to keep the peace, he would sing mostly¬†familiar songs on Sunday Mornings and only introduce one new song each Sunday. It seemed like a reasonable compromise. This was my first experience with the controversy of music in a worship service.

After college I found myself in many different churches as I lived¬†around the country. I was noticing that a lot of the churches in the places I was visiting were singing newer worship music except for some of the older churches I would go to where they continued traditional hymns. There was one Baptist church I went to while in Denver that was extremely conservative. So much so that I had to stop going there because of the legalism. They sang the old hymns. I remember a two sermon series they did on the evils of modern Christian music and worship/praise songs in church. I even remember the worship leader mocking churches who did not sings hymns while leading the service one morning. I didn’t agree with¬†their message.

Fast forward to more present day. The church I go to now is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is not as conservative as what I grew up with, and for that I have been blessed. It has helped me to learn more about moving away from the legalism I grew up with and helping me to experience the grace and love of God that I had heard about in church but never really grasped.

When I first moved here, I was still recovering from a rebellious time in my life where I had basically told God to take a hike. This began after I had lost my job in Colorado. At first I kind of liked the worship songs we were singing. Most of them were new to me. Apparently if I had been listening to KLOVE instead of ChristianRock.Net, I would have probably heard them. After a while, I started growing tired of them and began to miss the old hymns that I had sung growing up.

On a trip my wife and I took to visit her grandmother in Oklahoma, the topic of music in church came up. Her grandmother made an observation that¬†helped put into words what I had been thinking. Many of the lyrics in the newer worship songs these days focus more on the singer than on glorifying God. I believe that worship time in church on Sundays should be about singing God’s praises and exclaiming His glory. We are just the instrument for that worship.

In our church, we have two Sunday morning services. The first service sings more traditional music while the second service sings contemporary praise/worship music. The older members of our congregation tend to go to the first service as they tend to prefer traditional music. I go to a Sunday school class during the first service where we are currently studying Isaiah. I have been learning a lot from it. There isn’t as much to choose from as far as small group Bible study groups go during the second service. Because of this, I continue to go to the second service despite my preference¬†for different music sung during the service I go to.

I have to hand it to the worship team at our church. They really do a good job of playing music and singing. I’m sure they must put a lot of practice into what they do. For that I am grateful. However, during the worship time of the service, I feel like I’m at a concert. I don’t feel compelled to join in to the singing. At first I thought maybe it was just because I wasn’t as familiar with the music, but after a few years of being exposed to it, that is no longer the case. During worship, I just stand there with my hands in my pockets listening. I would sit, but everyone else feels compelled to stand, so I just stand with them.

I’m not really sure why I don’t want to sing the songs. It may be that its too loud, that the music isn’t inspiring, the lyrics are too weak and repetitive, the harmonies are buried in the loudness, the composition of the music is too bland, or maybe its just that I’m too stubborn to want to like something different. So before you say I’m this old guy who yells at the kids to get off my lawn, you should know that I am not yet 40. The music I listen to, well, its not all classical and gospel music. I would put the bands I listen to up against any Millennial who thinks that their music choices are more modern and energetic. Disciple, Wolves at the Gate, August Burns Red, Skillet, and Thrice are just some of the bands I enjoy in case you were thinking I felt drums had no place in the worship service.

Most of the songs that we sing just seem really weak. I feel like the lyrics in many of the old hymns are much more powerful. I understand that worship can¬†elicit emotions. However, the purpose of a worship service should not be to get people to exhibit emotions. While people are free to exhibit emotions, it should be as a result of the Holy Spirit moving in that person, not because the person leading worship chose a song for the purpose of getting people to show emotion. At times I feel like some of the songs we sing are just repetitive incantations with the goal of getting people to exhibit emotions. I believe¬†that goal is incorrect. Emotions don’t have to be hand waving, dancing, and crying. It can be other things as well. The links below talk more about that.

The peril of both manipulatively emotional worship and emotionally sterile worship is false worship.


There are many appropriate emotions for worship. Joy is certainly one, but there are others: reverence in the presence of our Creator and Redeemer; sorrow for sin and fear of our Judge; love for God and for one another; peace in our reconciliation, and anticipation of God’s promises fulfilled. Engaging emotions in worship means feeling, not necessarily feeling good.

To worship God with our mind alone, our emotions alone, or our bodies alone is an abortive act that dishonors the One who so fearfully and wonderfully made us.


Experiencing emotion in worship doesn’t have to be standing, waving your hands in the air with streams of tears running down your face. If that is how the Spirit leads you, by all means, do it. If the Spirit is bringing up other emotions during worship, by all means do not suppress it. If the Spirit is not causing you to express emotions, do not fake it. Unfortunately, most emotion I experience during our worship service¬†circulates around “I wish they would sing something different”.

This subject is something that has been on my mind for a while. This past Sunday, our closing song was the one that I dislike the most. So much so that when they play it, I get up and leave the service. I’m sure the song¬†is well known:

How He Loves
(originally by John Mark McMillan)

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us allHe is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us allYeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us.

I believe this is one of those songs whose primary intention is to elicit an emotional response from the congregation. While there is nothing wrong with the congregation exhibiting emotion, manipulating the congregation with repetitive incantations that do not glorify God but instead talk about how we are getting something is an approach¬†I just do not agree with. Here, it is the selection of words that causes the emotional response, not the connection with the Holy Spirit. You should also notice that the name of Jesus and God are not mentioned one time in that song. I don’t feel like this song is worthy of being included in a time of praising God. There is power in the name of Jesus, and we should not be wasting our time and God’s time in a worship service singing songs that fail to mention His glorious name. There are plenty of other songs that could be sung that make a better attempt at glorifying God. I will list a couple of short modern songs that are favorites of mine:

Holy and Anointed One

Jesus, Jesus
Holy and anointed One, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus
Risen and exalted One, Jesus

Your name is like honey on my lips
Your Spirit like water to my soul
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet
Jesus, I love You, I love You

There’s Something about that Name

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away
But there’s something about that name.

Now I ask you after reading the lyrics of those three songs, which one is more capable of worshiping and bringing glory to God?

Unfortunately, because our church does not have a choir, I don’t really have a way to use my spiritual gift of music. There’s the option of trying out to sing with the worship team, but seeing as how I don’t feel led to sing with the congregation, I doubt I will fit in with helping to lead worship.

I do not believe that I am incapable of exhibiting emotions in worship. There have been times in my life when I’ve been singing in private where I raise my hands in worship, cry, feel happy, and feel sad. I can’t say that I have often felt those kinds of emotions during corporate worship at my present church.

In the mean time, my wife and I bought some hymns on CD so we could sing hymns on the way to church. I want my kids to be exposed to hymns so they can experience more than what they will be getting in our worship service.

My wife told me about this post that some of her friends were sharing. Its Let’s Stop Singing These 10 Worship Songs. He’s got some good points.

I’m writing this because I just want to express how I feel. If nobody reads it, that’s OK. I just need to get it out.

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Categories: Religion
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 28 Jan 2015 @ 08 05 PM

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