For many years I have had trouble accepting loud music in church. I have been forced to skip evening services. The church has done this hoping to draw young people. I plug my ears every Sunday and have written letters to the pastors. Others of my age are afraid to speak up. I need fellowship with my brothers and sisters. Yes, we have a seniors church meeting once a month, but must I really accept that the body of Christ has become “choosers” and mainly caters to young people? I do not know a church where the music is tolerable. We have been tolerant for so many years. It has become very stressful, and I feel that I am being forced to attend church less. Do I really have to return to a dead traditional church?
The volume of music in many churches has definitely increased in recent years. There are various reasons why this has occurred. Many churches are attempting to appeal to the “younger generation” and some are using loud contemporary music to draw non-Christians into their churches. Some pastors are also using the “younger generation” and evangelism as an excuse when many pastors admit that they prefer loud music. They grew up with up it. When this occurs they are purposefully ignoring the older generation. One pastor some years ago admitted that his church was designed for the younger generation and not for older folks. The older folks were welcome, but his ministry was designed for the younger generations. How many pastors feel uncomfortable with the older generation since they are themselves members of a younger generation?
Music and Worship
In some churches the music is extremely loud and can cause damage to one’s hearing. Consequently, some people have a greater difficulty hearing and some people have “ringing in their ears.” Medical authorities state that loud sounds and loud music can result in increased deafness. Sustained loud volume over time diminishes the hearing ability of our ears. Many orchestra and band teachers have a moderate to significant hearing loss due to repeated exposure to loud music over the years. Hearing loss comes gradually. Some people might not realize that they have hearing loss since they can increase the sound volume to compensate. They prefer louder music since they cannot hear the softer tones. Unfortunately, extremely loud music in a church subjects everyone to potential hearing loss. Audiologists are currently reporting a significant increase in the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss among the younger and middle-aged generations. Reportedly, one-third of all college students are suffering some degree of hearing loss. So should we crank up the volume and cause even more loss?
The type of music that one likes is actually not the issue. It is also not important that we have an “emotional experience” while singing. An emotional experience does not define worship. Worship is something that honors, praises and glorifies God. That can occur with or without emotion. One can have an emotional high and not worship God. Worship is the glorification and adoration of God. Unfortunately, some are worshiping the “worship” experience. Some seek the emotional experience. People can enjoy orchestra, flute solos, guitar music and rock concerts because they enjoy the music without words. Here is a simple test if you think that you are worshipping God. Do you think about the words of praise that you singing to God? We can actually worship the rhythm and melody and never truly worship God with honor and adoration. The emotional response can occur because of the music and not because of a deep seated love and respect for an almighty and glorious God. If the words of the song are empty, the doctrine is in error, or the words of the song are meaningless, then God is not honored either. How can we praise God when the words represent error? How many of our songs today are about ourselves and not God? We can have an emotional experience without honoring God.
Worship can occur while we sing, when we give money and as we listen to the teaching of the Bible. I wonder how many people would feel that they had worshipped God if the music was flat even if the words greatly praised and honored our God? The music style and volume are actually not the real issue. The words and the thoughts of the one singing results in praise. So why are many so eager to push for a particular style or volume?
Purpose of Sunday Morning
The music ministry of a church should seek to minister to the family of God and not just one segment – the older or the younger generations. It should minister to everyone and without inflicting physical harm or discomfort. The ultimate issue is the words of praise! Rather than ministering to all generations, some churches have decided to minister primarily to the younger generation. They have ignored God’s command in Leviticus and dishonored their fellow heirs in the Lord. They are dishonoring those who have faithfully gone before us.
You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. (NASB) Lev. 19:32
Some churches are using Sunday morning as an evangelistic opportunity and have ignored the purpose of the church worship service. The purpose of the church is explained in the book of Acts. There we discover that the early church gathered on Sundays for the ministry of the Word of God in order to equip the believers for the ministry of the church.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (NASB) Eph. 4:11-13
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (NASB) Acts 2:42
The church did not come together on Sunday mornings for the exclusive purpose of evangelism. Evangelism was performed primarily by individuals during the week. The pastor does not have the responsibility for performing all the ministries of the church, including evangelism. His primary responsibility is to teach the Word of God, and equip fellow Christians perform the ministries of the church, including evangelism (Eph. 4:11-13). In 1 Timothy 4:11-16 the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy, a pastor, to give attention to the teaching of the Word of God. Paul encouraged Timothy to work hard at teaching the Bible. He did not mention evangelism, music, collecting money or special events. It is important to notice WHAT the apostle Paul did not include in the following instruction to Timothy.
Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (NASB) 1 Tim. 4:15-16
The priority of Timothy’s ministry was the teaching of scripture. It was not a soft comforting message devoid of scripture. Timothy was to work, be absorbed – to be consumed with his teaching. When a pastor is consumed with the depth and quality of his ministry, God will expand the breadth of his ministry.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (NASB) 1 Cor. 3:6
Churches that are designed to reach primarily the younger generations are violating the Lord’s command with respect to the older generations. In fact, how can the church fulfill the following exhortations?
Older women likewise are to . . . encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. (NASB) Titus 2:3-5
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (NASB) Hebrews 13:7
No group in the church should be ignored. People will have different views as to what they prefer in a worship service. The church should attempt to provide a variety of praise styles when singing. It is an insensitive, unloving heart that says, “I will ignore one or more age groups.” Jesus did not ignore the one lamb in favor of the ninety-nine (Matt. 18:12). He did not ignore the older generation for the upcoming younger generation.
Believers are command in scripture to share Jesus Christ with those who do not know Him (Matt. 28:19-20). Fellow believers should invite everyone to join them at church. But the priority of the Sunday morning ministry is not to seekers. Those who are seeking will find Jesus as they listen to the Word of God. The expectation of the Holy Spirit is that the Bible will be taught. It is the primary tool of evangelism.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (NASB) Rom. 10:14
Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who draws unbelievers and calls them to God. It is not our methodologies and programs. The Bible is a two edged sword that pierces to the heart (Heb. 4:12) – not the music, unless it contains scripture. It is not the praise portion of the service that is the issue, but the absence of a passion to know Jesus Christ through digging into the Bible. One cannot know God by observing nature or presenting stories about the Bible. The Bible reveals Jesus (Luke 24:44). It must be the priority in the service. Each verse should be explained so that the hearers can understand what it is saying. A balanced worship with strong teaching of the Word of God is what every Christian and non-Christian needs. I would encourage you to look for a church that you can attend. It is important that you meet with other Christians (Heb. 10:24-25). Ask the Lord for guidance. We will be praying for you.
1. American Academy of Family Physicians, News & Publications (http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000501/2749.html).
2. Gregory Mott. “The iPod and the Fury.” The Washington Post, January 17, 2006.
3. American Academy of Family Physicians, Ibid.
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