Ed Stetzer – Church Music Conflicts: Have We Really Always Done It “That Way”?

Article taken from http://www.edstetzer.com


As I mentioned in The Exchange episode with Lecrae, here’s the historic details I ran through near the opening of the show.


Music can be one of the most controversial issues in the body of Christ. Each person has his or her own unique taste in music. Christians listen to, enjoy, and are edified by all of these kinds of music. But should they?

In seeking to determine what is the right music for a church, it is important that we apply biblical principles to evaluate our music. That is not always easy, as the Bible contains no music notes and God indicates no musical preferences. Though, as I’ve written before, I do believe there are seven tests based on biblical principles that can help determine the suitability of music.

This evaluation is not a new thing. Music has always been a struggle within the church. It seems odd to hear Christians today insist that a certain style of music is best or act as if the recent “Worship Wars” were an anomaly in church history. Any Christian who knows our past would know that neither of those is the case.

Take a look at the patterns throughout the centuries, which Elmer Towns and I detailed in the book, Perimeters of Light:

“Get rid of that flute at church. Trash that trumpet, too. What do you think we are, pagans?”
200s: Instrumental music was almost universally shunned because of its association with debauchery and immorality. Lyre playing, for example, was associated with prostitution.

“Hymns to God with rhythm and marching? How worldly can we get?”

300s: Ambrose of Milan (339-397), an influential bishop often called the father of hymnody in the Western church, was the first to introduce community hymn-singing in the church. These hymns were composed in metrical stanzas, quite unlike biblical poetry. They did not rhyme but they were sometimes sung while marching. Many of these hymns took songs written by heretics, using the same meter but rewriting the words.

“The congregation sings too much. Soon the cantor will be out of a job!”

500s: Congregations often sang psalms in a way that “everyone responds.” This probably involved the traditional Jewish practice of cantor and congregation singing alternate verses.

“Musical solos by ordinary people? I come to worship God, not man!”

600s: The monasteries, referencing “Seven times a day I praise you” (Ps. 119:164), developed a seven-times-daily order of prayer. The services varied in content, but included a certain amount of singing, mainly by a solo singer, with the congregation repeating a refrain at intervals. The services were linked together by their common basis in the biblical psalms in such a way that the whole cycle of 150 psalms was sung every week.

“Boring, you say? Someday the whole world will be listening to monks sing these chants.”

800s: Almost all singing was done in chant, based on scales that used only the white keys on today’s piano. The monastery was the setting above all others where Christian music was sustained and developed through the Dark Ages.

“How arrogant for musicians to think their new songs are better than what we’ve sung for generations.”

900s: Music began to be widely notated for the first time, enabling choirs to sing from music. Thus new types of music could be created which would have been quite out of the reach of traditions where music was passed on by ear.

“Hymns that use rhyme and accent? Surely worship should sound different than a schoolyard ditty!”

1100s: The perfection of new forms of Latin verse using rhyme and accent led to new mystical meditations on the joys of heaven, the vanity of life, and the suffering of Christ.

“This complicated, chaotic confusion is ruining the church!”

1200s: Starting in France, musicians began to discover the idea of harmony. The startling effect of the choir suddenly changing from the lone and sinuous melody of the chant to two-, three-, or even four-part music did not please everyone. One critic commented how harmony sullied worship by introducing “lewdness” into church.

“Don’t try to sing that hymn at home; leave it to the professionals at church.”

1300s: Worship in the great Gothic-era cathedrals and abbeys used choirs of paid professionals, “a church within a church,” sealed off by screens from the greater building. Ordinary people generally had no place in the spiritual life of these great buildings, except perhaps in the giving of their finances.

“It’s too loud, and the music drowns out the words.”

1400s: Music became increasingly complex (Gothic sounds for Gothic buildings), prompting criticisms that only the choir was allowed to sing. As reformer John Wycliffe had complained, “No one can hear the words, and all the others are dumb and watch them like fools.”

“They want us to sing in today’s language. Shouldn’t God-talk be more special than that?”

1500s: The new prayerbook, pushed by King Henry VIII of England decreed that all services would be in English, with only one syllable to each note.

“Now they’re putting spiritual words to theater songs that everyone knows.”

1500s: Martin Luther set about reforming public worship by freeing the mass from what he believed to be rigid forms. One way he did this was by putting stress on congregational singing. He used hymns and music already familiar to the majority of people in Germany.

“Okay, men on verse 2, ladies on verse 3, and the organ on verse 4.”

1600s: The organ played an important part in Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Roman Catholicism, while in the Reformed churches there was much opposition to it. Initially the organ was not used to accompany congregational singing, but had its own voice. As a result, the organist would often play a verse on the congregation’s behalf.

“Our children will grow up confused, not respecting the Bible as an inspired book.”

1700s: Isaac Watts gave a great boost to the controversial idea of a congregation singing “man-made” hymns, which he created by freely paraphrasing Scripture. Charles Wesley paraphrased the Prayer Book, and versified Christian doctrine and experience. Wesley’s songs were said to have had at least a great as influence as his sermons.

“Their leader is just asking for trouble when he says, ‘Why should the devil have all the best music?'”

1800s: William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, used rousing melodies with a martial flavor to set the tone for his Army. He is credited with popularizing the “why should the devil” question referenced above.

“These Christian radio quartets are on a slippery slope. Don’t they realize that the airwaves are the domain of Satan, ‘prince of the power of the air’?” (Eph. 2:2).

1900s: When radio was in its infancy, a handful of Christian pioneers such as Donald Grey Barnhouse and Charles E. Fuller began featuring gospel music and evangelistic teaching over the airwaves. Many Christians initially showed skepticism.

“Christian Rock is an oxymoron. The music of the world must not invade the church.”

1970s: Larry Norman sang, “I want the people to know, That He saved my soul, But I still like to listen to the radio…They say that rock and roll is wrong…I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong and I don’t confuse it: Why should the devil have all the good music…’Cause Jesus is the Rock and He rolled my blues away.” He founded what became known as Contemporary Christian Music… and it is still controversial today.



As you can see, music has played a central, but contentious role through out church history. There is no reason to believe the disagreements will stop any time soon. Being aware of the changes and movements of the past, however, should encourage us to be more humble about our own preferences and more open to other styles of music used to worship God and point people to Christ.

photo credit: Photon Phisher


Cycle of Beauty in Praise

During every choir rehearsal I am filled with awe at the beauty of song. Every single melody is like an infinite praise rolling off our tongues, a gift of word to tune that we sing back to God. The song, the instrument, the breath that gives voice to our hopes and dreams and sorrows, these are all God’s. The beauty, the pain, the pain made beautiful against the backdrop of God’s grace, these are all timeless tributes to something eternal, those places from within that God let’s us display as an outward appearance of his love. My heart swells and my eyes tear. I’m brought back to my senses at the toil and note by note, out in the fields labor that turn solos–our individual stories, into anthems, stock full of harmony, for a choir to sing.

And I’m reminded of the Biblical account of Leah and Rachel. Leah with her tear stained eyes, always the one working harder, hand to the spindle trying to earn love. Rachel, right in the center of being the chosen one, beautiful and singled out from the beginning, a product of someone else’s hands calloused by desire unfulfilled. And it’s a cycle, a failure turned inside out for God’s glory. Both part of an equation, of a longing that is deeper than today, this moment that ties us all to the frenzy of finding that perfect parking spot, close enough to where we want to be, but far enough away from others who might dent or scratch our exterior–the shell of how we want to be seen. Buffed to the shine for our own glory. When will we sing to God and not to man? How will we learn our part, take our place, fill our roles–stop preoccupying ourselves with the distraction of our performance, the carefully labeled parts that we put together with or without directions, stray bolts, screws, pieces missing, somehow managing to stand, to resemble the whole of what we were purchased with a price to become? These are all the same words, similar stories, rearranged to our tune, the tune that we know best, the one that we hum when we’re alone, the notes that have no place, wander around in our kitchen until they find their home in our hearts, in our minds these melodies to Jesus.


Moving outside the Inner Circle of Praise & Worship

First, let me say that this is not a #HipHop or #MusicReview website.  Just want to spread the good news and I’ve come across some very talented artists who are using their talents for GodOverMoney (godovermoney.com) .  I know a lot of people will be cynical about whether it’s REALLY all about “God Over Money” but you HAVE to start somewhere.  You have to take that first step to walk on water.  If we get excited about God doing miracles in our career and start sinking…..instead of judging us, just help us get back in the boat so we can continue to minister to a world hungry for something that fills.  ~praiseandworshipsongs.net

Anna Esther ‏@gOOgleOrGod 19h
#praiseandworshipmusic is for those already in the “inner circle.”
What about those on the outside?
So, truly–what about those on the outside?
Those who don’t know what it means to worship Christ.
Those who only know how to worship money, sex and fame.
Those of us who are lukewarm, with one foot in Christianity and one foot out.
Let’s remember to be music missionaries, not just music ministers!

“Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.”

This album (The Good Fight by Bizzle) preaches! Praise God from whom ALL BLESSINGS flow.

Purchase tracks and spread the good news!
Buy on ITunes
Buy on Amazon

“This site has no affiliation with Bizzle.” Just want to help “multiply the loaves & fishes” as heard in sermon by @BrynWaddell


SPEAK don’t STRIKE, Moses

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder.

Who am I that you are mindful of me?

I love you Lord, and I lift my voice.

My Jesus, My Savior, Lord there is none like you.

Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness.

Isn’t it amazing that the lines of these songs go through our days with us? They stand by us through thick and thin and we start singing the melodies without giving our brains permission to do so. I am so fully convinced of the power of God’s Word spoken through song. I believe that if our airwaves were hijacked and taken over by the powerful force of God centered lyrics, we would see a revival that jolts us out of the dark places, where we just sludge our way through life trying to come out clean even though our minds are dripping dirty with Satan’s lies.

This is to encourage those of you out there who feel like the praise and worship, contemporary Christian, God “genre” of music is too saturated with talent for you to make a difference. You feel like there’s no room for your talent. THAT is a lie from Satan. Look at the diversity that exists on the “secular” airwaves….the P Diddy, the Rihanna, the Beyoncé, the Jay Z, the Katy Perry, the….And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Remember the song, “I Can Only Imagine” and how it got airplay across all airwaves? There are new lyrics waiting to be written. There are universal themes that are found in most popular songs, but your heart is unique to YOU. No one can paint a picture like you, because God designed your artistry to flow through YOU. God has a lyric for YOU to pen. For every God centered lyric you keep inside your heart and head, there will be a Satan centered lyric sailing its way to the top of the charts.

Why do others say that praise and worship, Christian contemporary music is just not up to par with “secular” music?

Perhaps their desire to become famous and turn a profit outweighs our desire to please God with awesome lyrics/beats/tunes.

Does our compulsion to “make it to the top” TOMORROW cloud our God given ability to write the words that God has given us TODAY?

Remember when God told Moses to SPEAK to the rock and instead Moses struck the rock, because that had worked for him before? Water still flowed from the rock, even though Moses disobeyed God. God blessed it for the sake of the “people.”

But Moses was barred from entering the promised land.

What is it in your creative life that you’re doing the same way you’ve done before….because it worked THEN? Maybe Moses wanted to strike the rock, because it made him feel like he was actually “getting something done.” He felt more in control when he “acted” on God’s promise. But God had actually made it much easier for him by simply telling him to speak to or command the rock in front of His people. Numbers 20:8-12

Is it time for you to SPEAK instead of STRIKE?  Let the creativity flow.


Music Director or Worship Leader?

Bethlehem Praise Team

Dear Music Director:

Do you feel like you’re on the fringe of what God is doing in church?  Do you feel stuck in-between two identities, “music director” and “worship leader” as your church wanes with the times?  Directing music and leading worship are two distinct job descriptions that leave some of us feeling awkward with one foot in one role and another foot in the other.  Some churches have done away with choirs altogether, in exchange for a smaller, more “professional” group of Nominingue Church Choirmusicians who “lead the congregation in worship.”

This setup may lead congregational members to feel isolated, intimidated and uninvited to participate in the music program.  Some pastors are afraid to do away with the choir altogether for that very reason, in fear of cracking the church’s foundation.  Directing a traditional church choir is a completely different ballgame than leading worship as a part of a praise team.  For those of us who do not have the luxury of starting from scratch, the solution that I’ve found to work is turning the traditional church choir into a hybrid church choir with a praise team feel.

A modern Western worship team leading a contem...

A modern Western worship team leading a contemporary worship session. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a church, that is building on existing habits formed many tree rings back, it may require some time and hard work to form your new identity, taking care to replace the old habits with new ones that are centered on new objectives.  Take note, that OLD habits aren’t necessarily BAD habits and NEW habits aren’t necessarily GOOD ones.

Unfortunately, most of the resources available to churches today are in an EITHER/OR format.  Either they cater strictly to contemporary churches who already have the “praise and worship” bit down, OR they cater to churches who are still happy learning the traditionally arranged anthems, having not yet made the transition to a more “contemporary” service.

Most church music producers/publishers take a song that is traditional and force it into being contemporary by adding a drum track to the song demo, happily cranking out a few chord charts for band members.  But this still does not fully support the “hybrid praise & worship choir” approach.

Publishers like Word Music and LifeWay (Worship) might beg to differ, saying that they have created exclusive branches of their business for churches just like ours, for music directors just like you, who feel stuck between two conflicting identities in leading worship and directing music.  But I beg to differ.  On this site (praiseandworshipsongs.net), I will outline several needs that I’d like to petition Church Music Publishers to address.  I’ll also share ways that our church music department is taking a hybrid approach to our music program as a whole.

Blessings, ~Your Fellow Church Music Director


Open the Sea (Stop human trafficking!)

Trying to get a site up to promote musicians who have not yet been signed in the Praise & Worship genre:  http://www.praiseandworshipsongs.net . The focus is to highlight praise and worship songs that have a strong story behind the lyrics. Here is the first song, written & sung by my sister, Amy Henning. Thanks for listening. Please pass the message along about Human Trafficking.

Human Trafficking

The first song to be featured on this site tackles an issue near to my heart–human trafficking. While to most of us, human trafficking is unfathomable, to others, it is even more unfathomable that no one ever sees past their tear stained face to realize the true bondage dictating their everyday lives. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard others comment about how they just don’t “get it.” “How in the world can someone be “lured” into an existence of underground slavery?” While I’ve never met anyone who has lived through human trafficking to tell the story, I know there are survivors out there as well as victims who are still longing to be heard. I know what it’s like to get caught in a net of confusion and manipulation, unable to break free, for fear that you won’t be able to make it on your own. I’ve never been “sold” into slavery, but can understand what it’s like to have no way out. Think of your most desperate moment in time and then imagine if you had never seized the opportunity to escape, if you were never able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While the subjects of coercion and manipulation are easier for me to comprehend, I also feel God’s leading to do what I can to evoke an emotion with which others will feel compelled to ACT on ending this awful trend of profit at all costs.

“Open the Sea,” a worship song written and sung by Amy Henning is a powerful reminder of how God can bring multitudes out of slavery at one time, just like He did over 3,000 years ago with bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.

What will be YOUR role in parting the Red Sea to end modern day slavery?