The Band Played On: the Role of Music in Worship - Part 2

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  June 17, 2007
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Today we conclude our many months' study now of the issue of worship. It's been a great journey for me; I trust it has for you. I've been reminded of a number of things, discovered others, and it has been a transforming experience for me to be reminded of the priority of worship. We were created to worship. One aspect of our worship, as we began to see last week; one important aspect of our worship is our worship in music. We've looked, already, at the place of the Word in worship, which is the primary place of worship or the primary expression of worship. Today we continue our study on the issue of music.

It was a long time ago now I first heard an illustration that perhaps you've heard about this whole issue of music. The story is told that an old farmer went to the city one weekend and he attended, for the first time, a big city church. He came home and explained to his wife, and his wife was asking him what it was like, and the farmer said, "Well you know, it was really good, but one thing they did was different. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns." "Praise choruses?" said [should this be asked] his wife. "What exactly are praise choruses?" "Well," he said, "they're sort of like hymns but different." She said, "All right, well, what is the difference? " The farmer said, "Well, it's like this. Imagine that our cows got loose and were in the corn, and I said to you, 'Martha, Martha, Martha, oh, Martha, Martha, Martha, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the cows, cows, cows are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the corn, corn, corn. Then if I repeated that two or three times, that would be a praise chorus." He said, "But if I were to say to you, 'Oh, Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry. Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth, turn thou thy whole wondrous ear bye and bye to the righteous inimitable glorious truth, for the way of the animals, who can explain there in their heads is no shadow of sense. Harkenest they in God's sun or His rain unless from the mild tempting corn they are fenced? Yea, those cows in glad bovine rebellious delight have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed, then goaded by minions of darkness and night, they all my mild chili-wax (???) sweet corn have chewed. So look to that bright shining day bye and bye where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn, where no vicious animal makes my soul cry, and I no longer see those foul cows in the corn." He said, "Then if I were to do only verses one three and four, and change keys before the last verse, that would be a hymn."

Now, that's a pretty serious over-simplification of music, but the farmer in the story did understand that there are distinct styles of worship music, each with its own set of eccentricities. The question I want us to ask and answer today is this: "How do we navigate those different styles of worship music?" Or, more to the point, how do we determine what styles are right and wrong, both for each of us as individuals, for our families and for the corporate worship? Just to give you a little summary of where we were last time, let me encourage you, if you were not here last time, to listen to the CD or listen online, because we really laid a biblical foundation last week, and we're going to look at some of the implications of that today, but today doesn't really make sense without the context of last week.

Last week we began our study of what God's Word has to say about the role of music in worship, both individually and corporately. And we discovered this basic fact that everywhere, listen carefully, everywhere there is authentic biblical worship there will always be music. We discovered that biblical history begins with the angels singing as God creates the world and it ends more than 600 references to music later as the redeemed men and women as we read in Revelation 5 and the angels gather around the exalted throne of God in Heaven, where we will forever express our worship, our praise, and our thanksgiving in music with accompaniment. So music is a crucial part of worship. I'm not confident there will be teaching and preaching in Heaven, but I am confident that there will be music. So with that in mind, we looked at several features regarding music. We looked at the priority of music in worship. Next to the Word of God, there is no greater priority. We looked at the purpose of music in worship. Several biblical purposes, the primary purpose is, perhaps, to give expression to our hearts, to teach us God's truth, to aid us in memory of the truth, and to glorify God. Those are four of the primary purposes that music plays in worship.

We ended last time by looking at the resources for worship in music. Resources like instruments and orchestras and choirs and music directors, all of those resources are set forth explicitly in the Old Testament and implicitly, we learned, implicitly affirmed in the New Testament. This morning I want us to finish our study together by examining one additional feature of music in worship, and that is this: the criteria for music in worship. The criteria for music in worship. What music is acceptable in worship, and is there any music forbidden?

Now, it's important, as we begin our study, to define our terms. When we talk about music, we really are talking about, typically, two distinct issues. We're talking number one, the lyrics, or the words or the content. And secondly, we're usually talking about the style, or the genre, of the music itself without any reference to words. And, so, for our study this morning, I want us to separate them for our purpose as well, and look at those two elements individually. So as we determine what music is acceptable in worship, let's start by looking at the content, or the lyrics, of music that would be acceptable to God in worship. Turn with me as we begin to Ephesians Chapter 5. We looked at this text last time, but I purposely left out one phrase because I wanted to come back to it today. Ephesians 5:18. Paul, writing to the Ephesians tells them in verse 18, do not get drunk with wine. Don't be controlled by alcohol, for that's dissipation, but instead be controlled by or be filled with the Spirit. Now in the parallel passage in Colossians 3:16, instead of using the phrase "filled with the Spirit," he uses the phrase, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." So to be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. They mean the same thing. So he's saying, be controlled by the Holy Spirit, that's the same thing as saying be controlled by the Word, be permeated by the Word. Now look how that flows out. If we are, in fact, filled with the Spirit, if we're controlled by the Word of Christ, then (verse 19), we will speak "to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Isn't it interesting that the very first expression of a spirit-filled life is music? It's true in both Ephesians and Colossians, and notice how he says we're to express ourselves in music. The New Testament, here, identifies three types or kinds of lyrics that are acceptable in the worship of God: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. By the way, this same list occurs in Colossians Chapter 3. Now look at those three words for a moment; more than three words, three concepts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We cannot make any sharp distinctions between those terms. These are simply the most common terms, most common Greek words used in the Septuagint, that is, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that most people used in Christ's time and the early Church time. These are the most common words in Greek for religious songs in the Septuagint. In fact, they appear to be used interchangeably in the song titles. So we can't make hard and fast distinctions between them, but there are nuances of difference. Let me give you these nuances. Look first at the word "psalms." This word refers primarily to the Old Testament psalter. We have, in our Old Testaments, a book called Psalms, composed of 150 songs. That's what this word is primarily describing. It's also describing those later songs that arise out of the poetry of the psalter, or that find songs of pattern for how they express themselves. So the inspired Psalms of the Old Testament and all those songs that use the Psalms as a pattern that are the here described as psalms. The second word is the word "hymns." Now these are songs that set forth the truth about God, usually directly addressed to God. Alan Ross in his excellent, seminal work on worship in the Bible says this: "A hymn was more formal, loftier and more universal in scope, focusing on one or more of the divine attributes and not on personal experiences." So a hymn, by definition, focuses on something that is true about God, and it has a more lofty, universal scope and tone to it. The final expression that is used here in Ephesians 5 is "spiritual songs." The word "song" is just an ordinary word for music, referring to all kinds of music, secular and otherwise, but he adds the adjective "spiritual." Here we're talking about music that is neither psalms nor hymns, but has a biblically solid, spiritual message. Again, Alan Ross writes: "These are new songs that set forth the believer's spiritual enjoyment of life under God." So psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; that frames what we are to do when it comes to the lyrics of the music that we address to God. With that basic understanding of what Paul was teaching here, we can understand the guiding principles for selecting the right lyrics.

Out of those three terms, there are several implications. Let me give them to you. Here are the criteria, or the guiding principles, for selecting the right lyrics for worship in music. Number one: The lyrics must be biblical; the lyrics must be biblical. Our worship, you remember, we discovered in John 4, is to be in truth; according to the truth. That means our music, the lyrics of our songs, are to be consistent with the truth God has revealed, or to put it another way, as we were studying together, not only do we study the Word of God, but in worship, we sing the Word of God. That doesn't mean that we sing it word for word, it means we sing the concepts, the truth that is recorded in Scripture, and we express it. Ephesians 5, notice here, says we are to speak the truth and in Colossians Chapter 3, we are to teach and admonish one another. So you have three imperatives: speak to one another, teach, and admonish one another. All three of those imperatives are to be accomplished through the medium of music. Now the clear implication of that, folks, is that the lyrics of the songs we sing are to be full of rich biblical truth. Certainly that's true of all the music recorded in scripture, and our lyrics are to follow suit. Not only are they to be biblical, however, but they should be biblical with something to say, something that can't be communicated in three words or less. I mean, let's face it, there are songs today that are essentially biblical in the sense that they are according to the truth, but they are weak, they are inane, they have nothing to say. Here's an example: "Over the mountains and the sea, Your river runs with love for me, and I will open up my heart and let the Healer set me free. I could sing of your love forever, I could sing of your love forever, I could sing of your love forever, I could sing of your love forever." Now, there's nothing wrong with that; it's not unbiblical in the sense that it's contrary to the scripture, it just has very little to say. Al Mohler, writing about music, says: "We have gone from 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' to 'God the Swell Fellow.' So much of what passes for music, for praise in our congregations comes down to endless repetition of choruses, which as one critic has suggested, is one word, two notes, and three hours." Now, there are some of you sitting there who dislike any music written before 1940, and you are looking pretty smug right now. You're saying, "Yeah, Tom, go get'em!" Well, let me tell you, that older music isn't exempt from this disease either. There are old songs in our hymn book that are weak, inane, and ridiculous. Now, I'm about to upset somebody, but my favorite example is "I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known." What does that mean? What is that saying? Have you ever walked in the garden with Jesus? Has He ever spoken to you? I hope you don't believe He has, apart from His Scripture. "And none other has ever known," you enjoy something with Jesus that no other believer knows and understands? It's all wrong. The lyrics of God-honoring music must have something to say and what they have to say must be patently biblical. Second criteria for judging lyrics: Not only must they be biblical, but they must be balanced, balanced. Our music is to mirror the balance of inspired music that's in our Bibles. When we look at the psalms and hymns that are in scripture; those set a pattern for the balance that our music should have in several ways. For example, our music should be balanced between Old Testament revelation and New Testament revelation. The Psalms we all enjoy and thoroughly find ourselves drawn to, and that's as it should be. The Psalms speak of God in a variety of ways that our heart resonates with, as our refuge and our shield, as our creator, as our redeemer. But when we come to the New Testament, and the New Testament revelation, we find that music has, as its focus, one consistent theme, and that is Jesus, and Him crucified. It would be wrong for us to sing all songs rooted in the Old Testament, and none rooted in the New Testament reality of Jesus the Messiah. When you come to the early church, you find that their music began to have that emphasis of Jesus, and what He had accomplished. The same balance should be true of our music. Frankly, this is a concern I have about many common praise choruses; they're rooted in the Old Testament, and so they are not distinctly Christian. Jews could sing them, Mormons could sing them, Jehovah Witnesses could sing them. Our music must have that balance between Old and New Testament revelation. There should also be a balance in the lyrics of our songs between what I call subjective expression or experience and objective truth. Subjective experience and objective truth. Now, by subjective, I mean having to do with me, and my feelings about God and what He has done for me, and by objective, I mean the truth about God and His character and His acts. It's okay for some of our songs to be the subjective expression of our thoughts and our feelings to God. For example, we sang last Sunday I believe it was, a song that says, "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God." That's the expression of our hearts, hopefully. That's okay. We find that same kind of personal expression throughout biblical music. For example, just one example, turn to Psalm 18. This is true throughout the Psalms, throughout all the songs and scripture, but notice Psalm 18. Here's David. Listen to the Psalm he wrote, the inspired Psalm:

I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

That's very personal. It's intensely an expression of David's own heart to God. That is acceptable in our music, but not only is there that subjective element in inspired music, but there's also an objective element. Much of the music of Scripture rehearses God's objective revelation of Himself to us. Turn back a few pages to Psalm 8. This Psalm has very little to do with me and my feelings:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens. From the mouth of infants and nursing babes, You have established strength. Because of Your adversaries to make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I think about Your heavens, I see all You've ordained, what is man that You take thought of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than God, You crowned him with glory and majesty…

Look at verse 9: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth." This Psalm is very little about me, and what I think, and a lot more about God and who He is. Same thing is true over in Psalm 29. Just as two examples of what I'm talking about. This Psalm has nothing to do in a direct and personal way with David and his feelings. It's all about God and His voice in the storm, and His power and His greatness. When you look at Scripture, what becomes clear is that we must balance our worship in music between the subjective expression of our thoughts to God and the objective revelation of God to us. In other words, let me put it very practically. For every song about me and my feelings, there should be the balance of songs like "O Worship the King" or "Holy, Holy, Holy." What's wonderful is that many of the inspired songs as well as the songs that we sing, do both at the same time. They contain that subjective element, while at the same time expressing the truth about God. For example, if we had time, I would take you to Psalm 103, one of my favorites, where David says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, Bless His Holy name." And then he rehearses the truth about God. "You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness." The same thing in Psalm 145. And the same thing is true of some of the songs that we sing. They have that balance between the subjective and the objective. For example, one of my favorites that we've learned in the last few months, "In Christ Alone," has that balance. The same thing with "Before the Throne of God Above," has that balance of objective truth and subjective expression.

Well, let me give you this as a little test. If there's a Christian or a church that's always singing about their thoughts and their feelings and rarely singing about God Himself and His Son, and what He's done, then they are seriously out of balance. We must maintain these things in balance. The songs recorded in Scripture also teach us to have a balance in terms of old versus new. Old songs, old music, versus new music. Take, for example, the Psalms. The Psalms were composed over a period of 900 years, from the time of Moses, all the way down through about 500 years before Christ. Nine hundred years. And then, in the days of the early church, the hymns that focused on Christ were added. When you turn to the New Testament, you'll sometimes see hymns about Christ. You'll recognize them because they're poetry, there's more white space around the words, for those of you who aren't poetically astute. There's more white space around the words, they're focused on Christ, and they're giving us the truth about them. Many scholars believe those are fragments of early church hymns. And so the church in the New Testament added these hymns about Christ. What does all that mean? Listen carefully. It means that as the years passed, the Old Testament and New Testament people of God not only sang the old songs that were part of their heritage, but they also, at each stage, added new songs in their day. And they sang them all. We, too, need a mix of the old and the new. I believe that's contained in the command in Ephesians Chapter 5 to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

So the lyrics must be biblical, they must be balanced, and thirdly, if we're going to offer the right kind of lyrics and worship to God, they must be appropriate, or if you like, be fitting, if you want another "be," but it didn't fit very well with me, so I didn't use it. Many of the Psalms were written for specific occasions. They were written to be appropriate to certain things. For example, some of the Psalms were written for praise and thanksgiving and for celebrations; they're loud and exuberant. Others are laments or confessions and those tend to be more quiet and mournful and meditative. The lyrics were designed to fit the occasion. The tone of praise and thanksgiving is joyful and glad and the tone of laments is sorrowful and quiet and meditative. So, our lyrics, as well, should be appropriate to the occasion for the expression of whatever it is we're expressing to our God. Those are just a few of the more important guidelines for the lyrics of the music that we sing in worship.

But let me move on from the lyrics to the more controversial side of the issue of music. I'm going to tread, for the next few minutes, where angels fear to tread. We're going to spend a few minutes looking at the style or genre of worship music. Are there certain styles of music? Now we're not talking about lyrics. Dismiss lyrics altogether from your mind now. We're talking about styles of music, genres of music. Are there styles or genres of music that are especially acceptable in the worship of God and others that are not? As you know, currently there are serious cultural wars over this issue. There are people who say you should sing metrical songs only without instrumentation. There are people who say you should sing only traditional hymns out of the hymn book. There are other churches who say, "No, we should dismiss all that stuff from the past. It's not relevant. We should sing only contemporary music." Where should we land on the style of music for worship? Well, let me give you the big picture first. Make sure you get this in clear tones in your head. The Bible does not address this issue specifically. Let me say it again – the Bible does not address this issue specifically. But there are some clear principles, I believe, that grow out of our meditation on Ephesians 5:19, that is, we are to be involved in singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. What are these principles in terms of music styles? Principle number 1: Styles of music in worship should be varied on purpose. Varied on purpose. They should be different by design. If you look at the Psalms, again, we are trying to use the Scripture itself as a guideline for our thinking. If you look back at the Psalms, the song book, if you will, in some senses of the Old Testament people of God, and you look at the Psalm titles, you discover that there were a variety of instruments that were dictated for different Psalms. There were also a variety of styles. If I had time, and I don't this morning, I would take you through the various Hebrew words that are transliterated in the Psalm titles for us. The scholars believe that, while we can't be certain about them, that many of them refer to using quiet instruments or the more loud, celebratory instruments. Others of the titles refer to using specific tunes.

Now remember, they were written over 900 years. Think how much the styles of music have changed in your lifetime. It would have been true in that time as well. There was a change of styles of music through that 900 year period in which the Psalms were written. And so, different Psalms were designed to be performed and sung in different styles with different tunes, even with different instruments. All genres or styles of music are theoretically allowed for worship, because music itself, apart from the lyrics, has no morality. Let me say that again. Music itself, apart from the lyrics, has no morality. Now, I know that may rock some of you – pardon the pun. There are a couple of men who have spent their entire lives arguing the opposite. Bill Gothard, for example, says quote: "There is no such thing as amoral music, that is, music that has no morality attached to it." He says, "Listening to Christian Rock is 'fellowship with demons.'" Frank Garlock, another one who has given his life to this, says that, "When it comes to music, your spirit responds to melody, your mind responds to harmony, and your body responds to rhythm." Well, first of all, I reject his anthropology – I don't believe the Bible teaches man is a three-part being, but a two-part being, but that's another sermon. But, he says, in light of that, that music should be there for melody predominant, because that's what your spirit responds to, then should come harmony, second, and rhythm should come in a distant third, because that's low, that's your body. What's the Biblical evidence for such a view? Listen, I have sat through so many of these discussions I could give them back to you from memory. I have read many books, and I will tell you that there is no Biblical support – I'll give you one example of Biblical support – 1 Samuel 16:23. It says, "When the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand, and Saul would be refreshed and be well and the evil spirit would depart from him." Now, I don't know about you, but I don't see melody in that verse, I don't see harmony, I don't see rhythm. I don't see the three parts of man. This verse has nothing to do with what it's used to prove. Gregg Strawbridge, in an article delivered to the Evangelical Theological Society, points out the obvious flaw in this kind of approach. He says, "Is it metaphysically possible, then, to praise God with timbrels, loud cymbals, and resounding cymbals, as we're told to do in Psalm 150? Since those percussion instruments make no melody and God is a spirit?" So he kind of throws in this jab, "I guess that means percussionists are doomed to the basement of the sub-spiritual." They often are by many. In fact, I read a little quote this last week that said, "What's the difference between a drummer and government bonds? The answer is government bonds eventually mature and earn money." Seriously, seriously, I love drummers. I love our drummers. I don't agree with that joke.

Seriously, here's the point I want you to get. Without the lyrics, there is no style of music that is inherently immoral. You say, how can I say that? Listen, I know the arguments. I've read the books. Look in the Word of God. Show me a single passage that proves the point that they're trying to make. It doesn't exist. The absence of any reference in scripture and the testimony of church history demonstrate that there is no Biblical restriction on any particular sound or progression of notes. So, where did the idea of morality in music come from? I'm talking now just about the notes. We're not talking about lyrics. Where did this idea come from? It came from Greek philosophy. Aristotle was apparently the first to attach morality to music. I have a quote I could share with you – I'm not going to take time to do that. Read Aristotle's writings. You will see that he connects morality to music. But we're not into Greek philosophy. We're into the Scripture. We must rely on what we call the sufficiency of Scripture. You know what the sufficiency of Scripture means? It means whatever the Scripture demands is required of us. Whatever the Scripture forbids is forbidden of us. And if the Scripture doesn't speak, then it falls into a category the Bible calls "issues of conscience," where every believer, before the Lord, determines what they will do. The principles of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 apply. Lord willing, we'll look at those in the Fall. I want to take a Sunday or two and just flow quickly through this issue of the conscience and how we're to make decisions there.

So, how do we determine what music to use? Based on the Old Testament pattern, based on the Psalms themselves, there should be a variety of styles on purpose. Secondly, a second principle about the style of our worship music is that it should be suited to the lyrics. It should be suited to the lyrics. When you look at the Scripture, biblical music was often loud and exuberant. We read Psalm 150 last week, and it speaks of praising God with loud and resounding cymbals. And it throws in the trumpets for good measure. It was often loud, but it could also be quiet and contemplative, like 2 Chronicles 35 or the Book of Lamentations, where there was this lament, this almost mourning for what was going on. Laments, in fact, in Old Testament Israel were often quietly chanted. As a general rule, when you look at Scripture, the music of praise and thanksgiving was often loud and boisterous and the music of confession and supplication tended to be quieter and more contemplative. The lesson for us from that is very simple: the style of music should match the content of the lyrics. You shouldn't be loud and excited about your sin. Nor should you be morose and quiet and contemplative about the great victory our God has accomplished in His Son at the cross.

By the way, I want to say that all these things I'm talking about today, I'm so grateful for Seth, that God has given Seth to our church, because I think he does a great job of holding these things in tension and balance. A third principle of style, not only should be varied on purpose, not only should be suited to the lyrics, but music style, whatever it is, should be performed with skill. It may shock you to know that the main emphasis in Scripture about music isn't the style, but how it's done. Is it done well? And sadly, much of Christian music often isn't done well. I don't often quote Chuck Berry, but Chuck Berry, speaking of the poor musical quality of pop music, once said, "Three great chords, eighteen great albums." That should never be true of the music of the church. It should be done well. There should be quality to it, whatever style. Listen to what the Old Testament says about this. You remember we talked last week about the Levites who were responsible for leading in the music in worship. Listen to how they're described. 1 Chronicles 15:22: "Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing, because he was skillful." He trained the singers, because he, himself, had the skill. 1 Chronicles 25:7: "Their number who were trained in singing to the Lord, with their relatives, all who were skillful was 288." Second Chronicles 34:12 speaks of those who were skillful with musical instruments. Psalm 33 tells us that we are to play the instruments skillfully unto the Lord. The style is not as important as how it's done, and the heart with which it's done. So those are principles for selecting styles of music.

You say, well wait a minute, that wasn't very helpful. What about some specifics? Aren't you going to deal with this kind of music, or that kind of music? How should we decide what styles we should listen to and what styles the church should use in worship? Well, let me give you two primary factors to make all those decisions. Two primary factors that should influence your specific decisions about specific styles of music in worship, whether your own personal worship, your family's worship, or the worship of the church.

The first factor is we should make those decisions in light of our authorities. In light of our authorities. First and foremost, what music is acceptable for us is the decision of the authorities God has placed in our lives. It starts in the home. Today is Father's Day. Fathers bear the responsibility of not only making sure that their home embraces the Scripture, but where the Scripture doesn't speak, they have to make certain decisions for what will happen in that home. They have to determine where those issues of conscience are going to lie for their home and their family. Fathers, that's your responsibility. Now let me tell you young people that are here, the day will come when it will become your responsibility to determine what styles of music are acceptable, but as long as you are in that home, and you're under the authority of your parents, that is their right, not yours. That's God's prerogative. And that's what He said. In the church, this responsibility falls to the elders. There's been an increasing clash, as you know, in the church at large between those who embrace contemporary music, and those who enjoy more traditional music. Ultimately, that decision is not yours. That decision is the elders of each church. It's their decision to make.

Now, how do churches respond, how do elders typically decide? Well, churches have usually chosen one of three basic responses to this conflict. Some have decided to only have one style of music. They're either going to go entirely traditional, or entirely contemporary. A second approach, others have attempted to resolve the conflict by providing separate services. There's the early traditional service understood for the older people, and then there's the later contemporary service that really gets moving. Now, I understand why churches would make those decisions, but personally, and our elders would agree with this, both of those solutions only further divide and segment the church, they don't provide for understanding and unity, which is the goal of the church. So at Countryside, our elders have chosen to take the third solution, which is to plan for a mix of the best of traditional and contemporary music. That's our role as elders in the church. Our authorities ultimately decide what music is acceptable in worship.

There is a second primary factor to decide what music to use in worship, not only our authorities, but secondly, preference and conscience. Preference and conscience. Occasionally someone will say, you know I just don't like some of the music we sing in church. Now, that's okay, but when I hear that, I know there are one of two explanations for that: it is either an issue of preference, or it is an issue of conscience. If it's preference, then my response is to tell people, you need to decide to defer to others. See, you don't hear what I hear. You need to know this, though. That we get complaints from both sides of the aisle, figuratively speaking of course. We hear from those who say something like this: "You know, the music here is just too contemporary, I mean, after all, you've got a drum, you've got a Power Point, and modern choruses. It's just too contemporary." Others say, "The music here is way too traditional, you know, I can't tolerate it – I need something, you know, I'm not ministered to by the organ." My response to that is on issues of preference, we need to learn to defer to others. If you don't like a selection, you may not have liked one of the selections this morning, realize that there are others sitting around you that did. Learn to think of them, and not always of yourself, and what meets your needs and ministers to you. I've told Seth many times, that he has to develop a thick skin, because it's the one ministry of the church where you will never, ever one Sunday please everybody. It doesn't happen. I also would encourage you to learn to appreciate the style you don't like. If you like contemporary music, that's fine. I do too. Realize that the church also has a rich history and legacy of music and learn to value it as part of your heritage. If you like traditional music, I do too. If you like traditional music, remember that all those songs you like were at some point in history contemporary and the people who liked traditional music then, didn't like them. It's true. So, cut them some slack.

Now, preference is one response to music – the other is, what if the style of our music is an issue of conscience to you? Say, I just think it's wrong. Well, first of all, you need to understand that the elders have determined what the music is going to be like in our church, and it's set. This is what it's going to be. So, you have a choice to make. You can either allow your conscience to be informed with the Scripture as I've tried to do over the last two weeks, and see that technically, biblically, it's not an issue, in which case, you can join with us in worship using all the songs we use to worship; or, if you remain convinced that there's an issue of conscience involved, then you can resolve to stay if you don't feel you're sinning, and do so with a cheerful heart. Or, if you feel it would be sinning to do that, to sing the songs we sing, then I would encourage you to find another place to worship, not because I want you to leave, but because you need to be where you can, with full voice and conscience, sing praise to God. But don't stay and complain. That's not an option.

Music, music, is such an important issue. Martin Luther the great reformer, who revolutionized the place of music in the church, said this of music: "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world." Do you believe that? If you really believe that, next to the Word of God, music is the greatest gift of God to us? Is that how you think about music? It's how our Lord thinks about music, and it's how I want our church to think about music as well.

Let's pray together. Our Father, we thank you for music. We thank for the great gift it is. Father, help us to think about it biblically. Help us to reject everything that is not clearly stated in your Word, and help us to remember that in those issues of conscience, we're to exercise love and charity toward those who disagree. Father, I ask that, as the church, you would keep this issue from dividing, but rather, it would unite us and that we could defer to one another, that we could enjoy music, even as we will in Your presence through eternity. We pray that this church would be a place not only where the Word of God is taught and defended, but where the place of music and its priority in worship is upheld and practiced. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.