The Music and Worship Dilemma
Types and styles of music vary from culture to culture. Music is used to express our inner emotions, thoughts, highs and lows in life. It is therefore very easy to blend the worship of God with the music in each person's own culture that he was raised in. Consequently, this union of cultural music and worship makes it somewhat unfruitful for some Christians to worship God using the music of another culture. The emotional construct may not be there, at least not immediately.
For example, in Guyana I was raise in a Christian home. The main cultural music styles of our country were Reggae, calypso and European pop. These were regarded as "ungodly music". The religious community embraced hymns and country gospel music. These two styles of music were introduced to us by missionaries from Europe and America, and any other style of music used in the Christian arena was rejected as of the devil or worldly. In the early 70's, outreach groups like "Youth for Christ", and "Youth With A Mission", went to Guyana and introduced to us contemporary Christian music of that day like "Oh Happy Day", " We're going to change this land", "The blood will never loose its power"..., and songs composed and sung by Ralph Carmichael, Andre Crouch and Mahalia Jackson, etc. These did not sit well with the older Christians. They thought that the devil and his gang had invaded the church. The younger people received contemporary music well.
When I came to the USA in 1976, I landed in Texas and lived in the country side. The only music I heard was country style music. At first I could not understand the words because of the Texas dialect, but because I was raised in the church with country gospel, I could only assume the all the songs I heard were Christian songs. I felt really blessed and felt like worshipping God continually until several weeks later when I began to understand the Texas dialect. That was an eye-opening experience for me. I struggled to worship as I attended churches that did not worship with the music I was raised on and also thought that Country Gospel music style was hijacked by the secular world.
My understanding became clearer 15 yrs later when I attended a secular function that featured live German music, and to my amazement, the tunes played seemed like they were from the hymnals. I then questioned my boss about it who expressed shock that we use this style of music (hymnals) in some of our churches at worship services. He told me that those hymnal tunes have been used in the clubs and pubs in Europe for ages and not in their churches. He said that music was of the devil. I heard tunes like "Victory In Jesus" and Wings of a Snow White Dove". They were drunk, dancing and having a good time. Later, by research I found out that when some people got saved, they added Christian lyrics and poetry to the already exiting tunes and cultural styles. He claimed that those tunes were not used in their churches. They sang anthems and chants in their services.Another experience I encounter was when my uncle was visiting me from Canada. We attended a Christian concert, and as the artists performed, I proudly identified the different styles of Christian music that were incorporated. He was astonished at my labels and said that in Canada, any song with Christian lyrics in just labeled, a "Christian song". He expressed his concern to me that our Christian community is too divided.
1 Corinthians 1:10
Sectarianism Is Sin
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Many Christians view worship as at the heart of our relationship with God, both as individuals and a community. In worship we focus on God, on hearing a message based on the Bible, on prayer, and on the sacraments. Of course individual Christians can do many of these things in private. However in worship we ground our life as a community in a corporate experience of God. Worship services vary from formal services with wonderful classical music and well-planned liturgical actions, to a small group gathering around a table and using an impromptu service with contemporary music. We do not go to church in order to meet God so that we could worship Him. We do not need an altar, choir stand, electronics, a praise and worship leader, a beautiful building, and musical instruments to worship and praise God. God is a Spirit, and we must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23).
Our bodies are the temple of the living God. We must keep it holy because God lives in us. (Acts 17:24; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 12:1-2)
Worship is not an action that we incorporate to usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not like a cobra snake in a basket sitting in front of the congregation waiting on our actions like snake charmers, while we play and sing special music in order to make Him rise out of the basket and perform for us. He is housed in our bodies because we are His is temple.
Praise is the act of making positive statements about a person, object or idea, either in public or privately. Praise is typically, but not exclusively, earned relative to achievement and accomplishment. Among Christians , praise is an impassioned exaltation of God, typically as an expression of gratitude for one's life or being. Praise could be expressed through spoken words and songs of any cultural style using all the voices and musical instruments we could put our hands on. Truthfully speaking, we do not need music instruments and electronics to praise God because we could praise Him with our mouths and all that is within us. (Psalm 51:15; 150:6)
1 Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! 2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!
O praise the Lord, all you nations: praise him, all you people. 2For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endures for ever. Praise you the Lord.
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Psalm 22:3 - But you are holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.
According to Dictionary.com, a hymn is a song of praise, ode, or thanksgiving to God or a deity. It is usually a type of religious song, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), which means "a song of praise". Ancient hymns include the Egyptian Great Hymn to the Aten, composed by Pharaoh Akhenaten; the Vedas, a collection of hymns in the tradition of Hinduism; and the Psalms, a collection of songs from Judaism.
The Western tradition of hymnody begins with the Homeric Hymns, a collection of ancient Greek hymns, the oldest of which were written in the 7th century BC, praising deities of the ancient Greek religions. Patristic writers began applying the term ὕμνος, or hymnus in Latin, to Christian songs of praise, and frequently used the word as a synonym for "psalm".Originally modeled on the Psalms and other poetic passages (commonly referred to as "canticles") in the Scriptures, Christian hymns are generally directed as praise and worship to God.Since the earliest times, Christians have sung "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs", both in private devotions and in corporate worship (Matthew 26:30; 1 Cor 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13; Revelation 5:8-10; Revelation 14:1-5).
One definition of a hymn is " a lyric poem, reverently and devotionally conceived, which is designed to be sung, and expresses the worshiper's attitude toward God or God's purposes in human life. It may be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it".Many Christians today view hymns as God-ordained songs written in the standard hymnals not being aware that the song writers of old attached their lyrics to the musical tunes (of the then culture) that were adopted from the clubs and pubs of Europe. After sinners got saved, they used the music they knew and added the words of their poems to declare their worship, praise and adoration to God. That musical style was a mark of their culture which still exists today. Just visit a traditional Hofbrau house, close your eyes , and listen to the music. You will think that you are in a traditional church setting. The very old hymnals have the subtitles to the original songs the music was taken from, printed below the title of the Hymn. Example: "He Looked Beyond My Faults" (O Danny Boy). All this research was just to let you know that we as Christians should not be subjected to culture and the styles of music, but the words of worship, adoration and praise that are generated by the heart. God will never divide his people. (Malachi 3: 16-18)
John 4: 19-24
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. ”21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
Jesus said, "He that believes in me, as the scriptures had said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water" John 7:38
God and True Worship
In John 4: 19-24, Jesus told the woman at the well that many people are more concerned about a particular place of worship and do not know who God is. He also told her that the time had come when the true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth because God is a spirit. (John 4:23)It seems as if Christians today are more concerned about the building, the musical instruments, the sound system, the singers, the dancers, etc but not worshiping God from their hearts. It is time to realize that worshiping God just requires a pure, thankful and repentant heart, (Psalm 51:17) and not a building or mechanical instruments. Like I mentioned before, worship is not an action that we incorporate to usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not like a cobra snake in a basket sitting in front of the congregation waiting on our actions like snake charmers, while we play and sing special music in order to make Him rise out of the basket and perform for us.When we look out of the window and see the birds fly, the ants at work, and all nature at work, we see the awesomeness of God and we could worship wherever we are like David and say " O Lord our God, how excellent is your name in all the earth". (Psalm 8)
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth,Who have set Your glory above the heavens!2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants. You have ordained strength,Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,4 What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,7 All sheep and oxen— Even the beasts of the field,8 The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.9 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Psalm 19:1 - The heavens declare the glory of God;And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Psalm 29:2 - Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
Isaiah 29:13; Mathew 15:8
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
Amos 5:23 - Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments...
Do not let culture dictate for how you praise and worship God, but rather let that same spirit of thanksgiving influence your culture. Cultural biases hinder outreach and true fellowship with believers of different cultures.
Acts 17: 22-31
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD"
"Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
River of Life Evangelistic Outreach