Linking: Music Can Be Deceiving

Great quotatation from Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters that resonated with me. I especially liked his point on the importance of words over music – how good music can make shallow words seem profound – as well as his application of Philippians 2:4. Found this on the Take Your Vitamin C blog.

Too often we can be tempted to choose songs because of the music rather than the theological content. We need to realize that when words are combined with music we can be deceived. Music can make shallow lyrics sound deep. A great rhythm section can make drivel sound profound and make you want to sing it again.

That’s why I typically read the lyrics before listening to a CD or playing a song from a songbook. If the words on the page are theologically shallow or vague, music won’t add anything. It will only give the illusion that the words are actually substantive.

It’s not that music is irrelevant. If great words are being sung to terrible music, no one will remember them or want to sing them. But according to the Lord’s command, what should be dwelling in us richly is the Word of Christ, not musical experiences…

…Churches can potentially undermine this unity by offering different Sunday meetings based on musical preferences and styles. While it may mean numerical growth for the church in the short run, it also can separate families and tends to cultivate a consumer mind-set in the long run.

There are other options. Diverse music teams can take turns leading on a Sunday morning. Different styles of music can be brought together in one meeting. More importantly, the church can be taught that setting aside their musical preferences for the sake of others is obeying Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Taking this path will probably require patient instruction, but over time the congregation will begin to see that the determining factor in our unity is not musical styles – it’s the gospel.


2 thoughts on “Linking: Music Can Be Deceiving

  1. I have enjoyed the two worship services at your VA church. Not typically being one to prefer a ‘contemporary’/’worship band’-style service, I have been glad to see at least one hymn sung to piano/organ accompaniment. You can’t please all the people all the time, but if lyrical/musical excellence and the glory of God is pursued through each style, I don’t see why a hybrid service like the one at your church can’t succeed.

  2. Joel, thank you so much for this Sunday Citation! This quote really hits the mark in discussing the unity that should exist between lyrics and music. It also highlights the often-missed importance of viewing musical preferences as such, rather than as a (or the only) determining factor in choosing a church or structuring worship. So many churches experience tension around music because some prefer traditional music while others prefer contemporary styles. How often do church-goers think of the Scripture you mentioned, as well as others which exhort us to unity and to focus on the Lord rather than on our own likes? Not nearly often enough. Having been in the music director’s seat, I can testify to the widely judgmental attitude of many in the congregation who love nothing more than to bash certain songs or styles of music. How is this edifying to the church or glorifying to the Lord? Scripture tells us to sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs – this sounds like a variety to me, and if the content is grounded firmly in Scripture then why shouldn’t we use the full spectrum of musical styles from all time periods available to the church? (Ok, perhaps some might be overly distracting – i.e. not sure honky tonk will ever really take off as a form of worship.)I’m moving more in the purist direction myself and believe there is much beauty in the older, more traditional music. I also think we should be careful of fostering a purely emotional experience via fluffy lyrics set to a catchy beat. But there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t use any music that weds Scriptural truths with enjoyable melodies.


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