Why We Must Be Open to Different Styles of Worship Music

This past weekend, I had the privilege of worshipping at a gathering of many churches from one area (in my denomination, an “associational” meeting). During that meeting, several worship teams—all using different styles, and some in a different language—led us in worship. Since then, I’ve thought about why we must be open to different styles, regardless of our worship style preferences.

  1. God is glorified by the variety of music styles. God is the Creator who created our world with incredible variety, from flowers to people. Apparently, He is glorified by such variety, so we need to appreciate it.
  2. Various styles allow others to use their gifts. Let’s be honest—some folks are better at leading hymns, and some are better at leading contemporary choruses. When we employ multiple styles, we open the door for more folks to use their gifts.
  3. Learning to appreciate multiple styles is a sign of Christian humility. A willingness to be stretched about music styles for the sake of the gospel is evidence of godliness and humility. Regardless of our preferences, it’s arrogance that says, “I’m never going to change my mind. I like what I like.” 
  4. Multiple styles help us to reach and keep multiple generations. It’s no secret that older generations generally prefer hymns and younger generations prefer contemporary music. If we want to reach everybody, we must be open to worshiping with all generations.
  5. We can all learn from other music styles. Many classical hymns teach great theology, but so do many contemporary choruses. Both include selections that come straight out of Scripture—sometimes built around direct quotes of biblical texts. Both of them can be God-honoring, so we should be open to learning from each.
  6. Appreciating various styles allows us to worship together. I understand the choice to establish different worship services according to style, but sometimes we completely separate the generations in doing that. Perhaps we’d worship well together if we learned to appreciate all styles of worship.  
  7. God has not ordained one music style. If He had, it be would right to stand up for the only one He has ordained. Because He hasn’t—and because of #1 above—we must be open to various styles.

What are your thoughts? 

31 Comments

  • Josh says:

    Just one thought… Amen. Thanks!

  • Chuck. Good job. I would only suggest that you not use the term “chorus” as a synonym for “contemporary worship song.” A chorus is a song with no verses. As I’m sure you know, they were very popular a few decades ago, but not today. Folks who write contemporary worship music – some of which is wonderful – are getting slapped in the face to hear their songs called “choruses.” Thanks!

  • Doug Miller says:

    Being open to all “styles” allows us to worship through the many “flavors” that come with a variety of styles. If all I got to eat was chicken with every meal, lets go one step further and say that its always fried, as much as I like fried chicken I would be pretty tired of it after a very few meals. The chicken could be varied as to how it is prepared and that would help and allow me to enjoy is more for a longer period of time. But still I would grow board with that same chicken meal after meal. It would be the same with beef, pork, fish, venison, etc. God created us to enjoy variety in our lives. Whether we admit it or not, it seems that the more variety the better we seem to like it. Why wouldn’t it be the same with the music we use in worship? Thank you Chuck.

  • Chris Workman says:

    Thank you! Trying to navigate this in my new church.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    I am responding to Doug’s comment about eating chicken everyday and growing tired of it after a few meals. While some folks may prefer variety in their lives, others do not. They can eat the same thing day after day and not only enjoy it but also relish it. In my own music ministry I have used an eclectic blend of praise and worship songs and contemporary Christian music, and songs from the World Church alongside hymns and other forms of church music. I am acquainted with congregations that are eager to learn something new and sing it. I am also acquainted with congregations that are happiest when they are singing the old familiar hymns they have sung since their youth. These hymns along with a particular translation of the Bible represent to them a measure of stability and continuity in what they perceive as an ever-changing world. I have always made a point of balancing the new with the familiar and not overwhelming the congregation with too much of the new to the neglect of the old. .

  • Jason Fishel says:

    Amen Robin Jordan!!

  • Andrew Brafford says:

    Different worship styles also glories in, and reminds us of, the eschatological hope of the nations around the throne.

  • Too many confuse style with content. It is the substance and soundness of the lyrics that should be the key issue.

  • jeeprunner says:

    Very good piece in my opinion. To me, the multi-generational point is key. Every single person, regardless of gender, culture, age or other influence should be taught to and encouraged to take full part in sung praise. One point not mentioned in the article is that there should be distinction between “community” and “performance” praise, so that people are not excluded or discouraged by complicated music. Not much “happy clappy” these days … Final point occurring as I write; some modern songs are woefully inaccurate on the theology of their lyrics.

  • Ronica Smith says:

    Exactly! Appreciate your boldness!

  • Mike Elliott says:

    The first recorded mention (that I can find) about music actually being used is: “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”… Exodus 15:1-19. Obviously, music was a part of life because of vs 20: “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” They already had tambourines in their possession. This burst of spontaneous praise should be a model for authentic worship today. Bottom line: True musical worship is offered at the time of and in response to great miraculous works of God on our behalf. Maybe if we paid more attention these days to how God works in our lives and less to the style or technique, we would experience a more real sense of worship and praise. In my opinion, older hymns did a better job of explaining the “why” of worship and newer songs tend to concentrate on the “how” of worship. True blended styles can’t be that difficult to offer to the masses, can they? Good word in the article!

  • Tim says:

    These are all VERY good points. Why are they so find in practice among God’s people? The answer comes from God’s word. Very few if any have heard any one practice it, much less even speak to it, to the answer is not applied to our gatherings and the music struggle continues. The answer flows from being filled with the Spirit.
    And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery,
    but be filled with the Spirit,
    19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
    singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
    20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Any and every worship gathering driven from a platform to believers who have prepared nothing in advance to contribute in speaking and singing will be the opposite drive and results of this text. Platform driven worship always results in no “addressing one another” of any kind, no giving thanks driven by the people, and no submitting to one another.

    There is a way for believers to gather, everyone of them fully prepared to participate and to respond to each other in their leading of worship, and submitting to one another. It is a paradigm shift from platform driven singing in a crowd to every believer driven singing in a small group with one another orientation. The journey towards obedience to this instruction requires “throwing off the things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles…” Before we can do this we must interact about this transformation. We might not think God even cares about this revealed instruction for our singing, speaking, thanksgiving and submitting.

  • Ken says:

    I am almost 70 years old, and not in the music field but I grew up on beans and taters I go along with sushi because it is popular with the young people but I still enjoy beans and tater every now and then and it wouldn't hurt anybody now and then.

  • Derrick says:

    I appreciate so much of what you write and am often challenged and convicted by your articles. I am in my mid-thirties, and have been a part of both contemporary and traditional churches. My heart has been grieved by some of the carnality that passes as Christian at concerts. Music is a powerful tool. I believe that there is much more “grey area” than most traditional churches would want to admit, but that there is also much more “black and white” than contemporary churches would like to admit. I was concerned with one particular point and that was that we must be open to different musical styles if we are to “reach and keep” multi generations. Music was never intended to do this. It is an aid to help teach the Scripture (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), but it is the Word of God coupled with the love of God that helps us to reach people, and the continuation of those two elements that will help us keep people. I dont have all the answers and am not trying to stir up any unprofitable questions or doubtful disputations, but I do want to be careful, and proceed with caution. Thanks again for your insights and encouragement

Leave a Reply