Conflict Over Musical Styles

For Christians, our calling is to worship God and to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth with our whole lives. Many equate worship as being a song. Worship is so much more than just a song but it very well can include a song. Music is a tool we can use to worship God. All throughout the Bible, God commands us to sing. Psalm 59:16 says, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. He has given us the gift of music and the ability to use our voices, minds, and hearts to bring Him glory. Musical styles in worship can consist of styles from the current contemporary culture, ethnic cultural standards, and the historical church cultural standard. Conflict over musical styles in worship can be stemmed from age gaps, different cultural backgrounds, but ultimately, it’s rooted in the individual selfishness of our sinful hearts.

Conflict over musical styles in worship can be attributed to the various age gaps a church has. Most churches consist of many generations and different ages of people. This is a beautiful thing and I believe the church shouldn’t sway from this. The church learns so much from its members when there’s young people, middle aged people and older people contributing to its ministry. This age diversity is what partly makes the church such a unique and beautiful place. The young men should always learn from the older men and the young women should learn from the older women. Titus 2:2–5 says, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” I love the book of Titus because it gives us perfect instruction on how to have a functioning church which can breed a functioning society. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Likewise, the older generations can learn from the younger generation. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Unfortunately, some churches are moving away from age diversity within the church. Many churches now have multiple services, one for the older crowd and one for the younger crowd. This separation is often times rooted in the conflict over musical styles in worship and musical preference. The Lord didn’t design church to worship Him separately. One way to eliminating the conflict over musical style and getting back to unity within the church is to get back to teaching the word of God in its true context.

Culture plays a huge factor as to why there’s conflict over musical styles in worship. There can be a person who has an upbringing and is comfortable singing loudly and clapping during praise and worship and there can also be a person who didn’t have that same upbringing and who may not be comfortable singing loudly and clapping during worship. I think there’s beauty in both singing loudly and in quiet reverence, when it’s done biblically. Worshipping God should only be done in Spirit and in truth, no matter the culture. God sees the heart and He’s the only true judge. James 4:12 says, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Conflict over musical style in worship is ultimately rooted in man’s sinfulness. Our selfishness and failure to humble ourselves and place our neighbors needs above our own is evidence of this. Constantly, the Bible tells us to love your neighbor. Ultimately, this lack of love for our neighbor is even a more deeply rooted issue. When we don’t love we have not only sinned against our neighbor, but we have sinned against a holy and righteous God. David says in Psalm 51:4–6, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Our problem isn’t with someone else, but our problem is with ourselves and with God. The sinfulness of our sin is what needs to be preached more in order for people to become unified when encountering diverse musical styles. We must do whatever it takes to repent and return to the elementary principles of God like Hebrews 5 says.