Friday, June 25, 2010

A Quick and Easy Test For Worship Music in Church

Here's my test to determine whether the music in a worship service is appropriate: move those performing the music to the back. If it changes the character of the worship experience, it is not appropriate for a church service.


Wonderer said...

"Here's my test to determine whether the music in a worship service is appropriate: move those performing the music to the back. If it changes the character of the worship experience, it is not appropriate for a church service."

This does not make sense. Here is the reason why. There are several denominations that have their choir, "band", instruments, and other items that are either placed off to the side, the back, or the even in the balcony in the back and they are still able to worship.

Just my thoughts

Wonderer said...

I would consider this a better test of "worship", why don't we start with each of us looking upon and examine our own heart, and our personal relationship with God before, during and after our own worship.

Your thoughts?

Martin Cothran said...

I'm not sure whether the fact that a relationship with God is strengthened after a particular experience is a test of whether it is a good worship experience or not. Aren't there things that are not worship that strengthen our relationship with God--such as, for example, suffering?

Martin Cothran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hannah Lashbrook said...

That's a very good test. And very true, too.... just think about watching a really emotional movie that moves you to tears and depression. Was it done on purpose? Of course. Was it something really worth getting sad and down about? Probably not. But the directors knew how to guide the emotions of their audience, and much of contemporary worship music is written and performed with a similiar goal in mind. Of course we all want to feel as though we love the Lord and are moved to tears when thinking about Him, but if that experience is 'pushed' upon us by masterminds behind the music, how could it possibly be real worship? And if it is not real worship, how could it be appropriately honoring the Lord in His house, or how could there possibly be an real effect to the way we live our lives? Some thoughts your statement made me think of......

Francis Beckwith said...

Martin is making a veiled reference to what my wife and I call, "tip jar worship team."

The music in Church should not be indistinguishable from a badly done KISS concert.

Martin Cothran said...

I should note that this post was not mine, but was by my son Thomas, who posts occasionally on this blog (and comments frequently on it) and who has his own blog: Tearing Down the Mask of Maya, which can be found at

Thomas M. Cothran said...


The test is a heuristic that gets at who the focus of our worship rests on. Note that I didn't ask whether such an arrangement would work, but whether it would change the character of the experience.

Given that the style of most "praise band" style worship is so close to rock or pop bands, and they are set up in a way similar to a concert, the style of the music and the physical arrangement of the musicians encourages the worshipers to focus on the people playing the instruments rather than on God.

I'm not even opposed to having ornate churches that might cause worshipers to be focused on human beings. But a worshiper focusing on Mary holding the baby Jesus reminds one, for example, of the truth of Christs diphysitism, while focusing on a man with an electric guitar strung over his shoulder serves no similar function.

Wonderer said...

Hannah, I am not picking on you, but rather responding to your comment. So please don't be offended.

Music is like any other form of external input that your mind and body receives. Yes, Musicians, Directors, Writers, Politicians, New Casters, and well pick any other type of profession - they all know how to play with the emotions of the audience. BUT, you have the one thing that they cannot control. You have the power to let them control and manipulate your emotions.

I say this because of the church that I attend. I see individuals lift up their hands, stand up, bounce, cry, sleep, play on their IPhones and Black Berries, and do many other things. Each individual has made a decision on how they will allow the "musician" affect them individually.

Try this experiment at home on in your car. Turn the radio on to any random channel, one that you normal do not listen too, and see how the music affects you, and see how you allow it to affect you. My point is this. No one is more in control of your emotions, attitude and your thinking than you are.

When I go to church, worship service or anything else related to the church and Christ -- I start preparing my heart and mind long before I step through the doors.

As with music groups sounding like rock bands...did you know that most if not all music is based upon 4 cords. All music using the same beat, rhythm, and notes.

There are individuals who argue that we need to only have the "traditional" hymns played in church and nothing else. Wow this one is going to open a can of worms! I ask why?

My whole point here is to simply state that no matter where the music is placed in the building, or who is playing it, or what type of music they are playing -- that this simple test does not work. The Character of the service is already predetermined by you before you step foot in the door, and is based upon your likes and dislikes of certain styles of worship. Yes, there are other "things" that influence your relationship with God, but your relationship with God not only determined by other influences, but is mostly determined by you.

Here is a little bit about my background to help you understand a little more what I just said. I grew up in Oklahoma "the Bible Belt" - in church we only sung "the old hymns of the faith", CD music was not allowed for background or backup to the singer, only the musicians could play music, nothing electronic at all. I moved east with my family and was introduced to more modern music styles for church. I held to the beliefs that I was taught in OK for many years. Then (I am going to date myself here) Sandy Patty and others started coming out with worship music that was not "traditional" Boy did they cause an uproar in the church. Since then I have gone to every type of church and every type of worship service that you can imagine. Why? Because I wanted to find out what was out there and also to find a place where I am most comfortable while worshiping my God. The one thing I noticed the most was that no matter the type worship service, it was me that influenced my "experience" not the music or the musician. It was 100% me.

Lee said...

> Even Bach was considered by most in his day to be very contemporary. Just something to consider."

I'm not sure this is true. There are two basic types of "great" composers. One type is the innovator, someone who has a new approach and bursts onto the scene, changing everything. Wagner was such a composer. He took chromaticism to its logical extreme within what was still effectively a tonal framework. To carry it any further meant going into the realm of atonality, which is where some of his successors (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern) took it.

The other type is the conservative, who simply takes the common practice as he finds it and does it better than anyone else. Bach was this type of composer (Brahms was arguably another). Quite self-consciously, his work was a culmination of the style that was developed by his predecessors and contemporaries. There's no radical difference between Bach's music and the music of Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau or Telemann. He just did it, arguably, better.

In any event, the Baroque style died pretty quickly after Bach and Handel. The rococo and classical styles ruled the day between 1750 and 1800. Even Bach's children -- the ones who became composers themselves -- regarded their father's work as old-fashioned.

Anyhow, instinctively, I have to agree with Martin. I might go even further. Music in a church setting is for praising the Lord. Much of what passes for church music today is designed for praising the performer. It's more show business than worship.

Not to mention the amateurishness of modern "praise" music. Gone are the magnificent hymns of old, in many churches. Gone are the great classical works as well. What has replaced them is "Jee-zac." We have suffered two generations of musicians who were trained, if trained at all, as guitar players. Consequently, the quality of melodic writing is generally poor, but, inexplicably, even the chordal accompaniment is horribly bland. When modern arrangers go the orchestral route, it's formulaic -- that is, predictable -- and somehow still incompetent. Before the last verse, you can count on the half-step modulation to the higher key, with lots of brassy bravado that shows the composer-arranger has a passing familiarity with Chicago albums from the Seventies. As a trombonist, I have suffered on both ends of the experience, as a listener and as a player.

> The music in Church should not be indistinguishable from a badly done KISS concert.

I wish I'd said that. I could add: or a badly done New Seekers concert (but I repeat myself), or a badly done Mantovani concert. But at least Mantovani's orchestral arrangements were competently done.

> Each individual has made a decision on how they will allow the "musician" affect them individually.

American worship often takes the form of American culture, which is individualistic -- "Me and Jesus." Individualism was inherited from Greek culture, not from the Jews. Worship as specified in the Bible is a communal thing. American culture (which in general I like) inhibits rather than reinforces proper worship.

Wonderer said...

I have been doing even more research and reading on this topic about music and worship. In the book "A Purpose Driven Life" in Chapter 8, the author makes a very good point. I think ya'll should read it before commenting anymore on this topic.