Style vs. Substance — Does Praise and Worship Music Convey the Gospel?

Rev Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting has a great v-log addressing the difference between style and substance in the so-called worship wars. The use of contemporary Christian music has been justified on the basis of relevancy and stylistic differences. And if it was really JUST a matter of style, it would not be so controversial — especially in the Evangelical/Charismatic/non-denominational world.

We really are not asking the right questions, are we? One of the basic assumptions of the contemporary music movement is that Worship is all about praising God in His presence and hearing an inspiring talk for about 20 minutes. Since we gather to Praise and Worship, we need a leader trained in song to lead us into the presence of God, to get us in the right mood for God. But is that really what Worship is about? Is it about ME and what I do for God? Is it about ME doing, or better yet, ME following a worship leader into the presence of God? Or is Worship really a passive activity where we receive the forgiveness of sins and new life based on the action of the Word acting through the preacher and the sacraments delivered to me? Isn’t Worship really about Jesus, and His saving work for you and for me? Isn’t worship about the Gospel — the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? And shouldn’t everything that comprises worship serve the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel message?

To determine whether music in your church is a style or substance issue, you merely need to look at the words — do the lyrics proclaim the Gospel? Do they lyrics talk about me and what I am doing or have to do or want to do, or do they really tell what God has done FOR US in Christ? Remember, the Bible is not about YOU…. Worship is not about YOU… It is NOT about ME and what I do…. Worship is all about JESUS. The Bible is all about JESUS. Christ is and must remain at the center of all we do. If not, well just look at the apostasy taking place in the church in America today.

3 thoughts on “Style vs. Substance — Does Praise and Worship Music Convey the Gospel?”

  1. Great post! I love this topic and debate. Because I believe the extremists on both sides of the issue are wrong. There are some great hymns and great praise songs, but I am going to focus on the negatives of each.

    Some Hymns don’t necessarily speak to people like they used too. Sometimes they words people don’t understand, written in a key that they can’t sing the melody because the melody was written for a soprano, the song may lack a meter, and the melodies may not always be very good.

    Now on the other hand, you have praise songs. Many times they were recorded by a solo Christian artist. Therefore, what they can do in the studio cannot always be duplicated well by a praise team or congregation trying to follow. Sound systems in many churches are not designed well and it puts the praise teams at a tremendous disadvantage. We sing too many of the same songs too many times each year. People don’t always sing out loud like they would a good hymn in the good ol days.

    My point is this. Each church needs to do what ever it chooses to do to the best of their ability. There are great Hymns. There are great new contemporary songs. Christian Songwriting did not end when Martin Luther died. One reason church denominations continue to use hymns in the hymnals is because a very high percentage of them (I’m guessing 90% or higher) are public domain and they don’t have to pay royalties. New hymnals are big business and big money for any church publishing house. Millions.

    Many great and growing congregations have found a way to use both and use them effectively. Music is an important tool to open hearts and plant the truths of Jesus Christ. If we don’t open hearts in Worship, these truths will only be in the left side of our brain, instead of a balance of left and right, logical and emotional.

    It’s not about style, it’s about substance. Many great churches of all denominations are using ALL kinds of music and doing it extremely well!

    Thank you for your post!

  2. “Each church needs to do what ever it chooses to do to the best of their ability. There are great Hymns. There are great new contemporary songs…. Many great and growing congregations have found a way to use both and use them effectively.” AMEN.

    One of the best uses of the music of our day that I saw recently was at a funeral celebration. There were classic hymns in contemporary arrangements, and contemporary hymns used as well. We even sang in parts, i.e. men then women, and it was beautiful. When we step into the sanctuary for Worship, we are called out of the world by God to participate in the Divine Service of Heaven — we literally step into the Kingdom of God when we gather together in that setting. The Kingdom is there and open for us all. What we do during that time and in that space should be the best of what we have to offer done to the best of our ability. The challenge now is to identify the best, and make use of it.

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