8 Indicators Worship Music is Not Good 

I’m not a singer or a musician, so I hesitate to write this post. On the other hand, the topic of worship and worship music is a critical one for believers. So, I write simply as a person who has worshiped in multiple settings on several continents, and who is concerned when worship music simply isn’t well done. Here are some of my indicators of when the worship music is not good: 

  1. It drags, and it hurts the atmosphere of worship. I’ve been in churches where the music moved so slowly that it seemed we were in a funeral home more than a church.  

  1. It’s not biblically sound. It may have a good melody—and may, in fact, be popular and well known—but its lyrics contradict biblical teaching.  

  1. It’s difficult to sing. When only the worship singer sings the song because few other people can follow the melody, it’s possible the song was written more for solos than congregational worship. Worship is really uncomfortable when the best you can do is try to mouth the words of a song.  

  1. It’s boring. I don’t believe that good worship music must be contemporary and upbeat (in fact, see why I miss hymns), but I do believe all worship music must grab the hearts of worshipers and direct them to God. Music that makes us want to take a nap between stanzas obviously isn’t the best.  

  1. It distracts from genuine worship. Perhaps you’ve been in this situation: the worship music is either so poorly done or seemingly so completely irrelevant that focusing on God is even harder. All you can think about is the music.   

  1. It’s seldom attractive to guests and non-believers. Gospel-centered lyrics may, in fact, be rightly offensive to non-believers; on the other hand, poorly done worship music may distract them before they ever get to hear the Word.   

  1. It produces church members who don’t want to invite their friends to church. This point, of course, relates to #6 above. When church members themselves struggle with the worship music, they’re less likely to invite their friends.  

  1. It misses an opportunity to prepare the preacher to preach. Some Sundays I’m so excited to preach after strong, God-centered worship that the preaching fire in my bones is inextinguishable. On the other hand, I’ve also had Sundays in other churches where I felt I almost had to apologize for the music as I started my sermon.  

Here’s my tension, though—and where I invite your help: many folks who lead their churches with poor worship music are also godly men and women who faithfully love God and His church. Nobody would want to hurt them. What would you do in this scenario? Help us hear you via the comments sections below.   

20 Comments

  • trisha n says:

    Hi Chuck!!!
    I am a worshiper and believe true worship is all about our Triune God
    NOT…how low i am feelin’ and You brought me higher…i feel like i can’t make it through etc. etc etc

    true worship brings me to tears…
    and i praise Holy Spirit for leading me to worship when i became born again…
    it keeps me JOYful and is definitely a weapon against the evil one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Awaiting the Trumpet Call,
    trisha n

  • Joey says:

    Hey Chuck. Thank you for writing this. I agree completely!

    As far as the question, I think it relates to Colossians 3:17. So often we have a “good enough” mentality about many things in church. I know men who are Godly and lead worship faithfully every Sunday and have been for years; however, many of these men do not have a constant drive for excellence and improving their craft. I think senior pastors must constantly challenge and inspire worship pastors/leaders to strive for excellence and improvement in what they do the same way a preacher strives to get better in preaching and communicating. If the worship pastor/leader does not show this desire and refuses to change, then he needs to be replaced because he has now made it an issue about himself and comfort rather than giving God the glory. Just my thoughts.

  • Gary from Southern NH, USA says:

    Hi Dr Lawless and all,

    Great post!

    You asked for feedback on a difficult question.

    I have been participating on worship music teams for many years.

    I have received lots of positive feedback over the years, but I have also received negative feedback from church leadership about tweaks to the worship music.

    I will try to think of some examples of how negative feedback led to a positive change.

    If I come up with something, I will comment later.

    Best,
    Gary

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Spot on. I would add to this list that the music is not a result of a collaboration between the pastor and the worship leader and it reflects the musical interests of the worship leader and the worship band rather than serves the needs of the Sunday gathering. It is not selected with the place in the service where it will be used in mind. Rather it is chosen to highlight the virtuosity of the worship band.

  • To simply answer your question, have an honest discussion with the worship leader. However, what I found to be more interesting after more than 10+ years of leading worship, is the fact that many believers do not understand most of what you have stated about worship (viable and constructive points of criticism-most of which would be for discussion with the local worship minister)–however, most complaints (not criticism) come from congregants and are rooted in places of selfishness (with a hint of “why does the music not fit my tastes”) to the point that many think the worship music should fit their needs rather than be a reflection back to the God, who is so worthy of our praises. How would you suggest dealing with that type of “criticism” on a regular basis?

  • Gary from Southern NH, USA says:

    As a follow up: I think the positive discussions that I have had about changes to worship music usually involved a discussion about the church leader’s vision for the worship music.

    After the leader explained the preferred changes that aligned the worship style and direction with the leader’s vision, modifications were usually pretty easy to make.

    Best
    Gary

  • Joe says:

    Should there be another point that the worship leader should be operating in some form of spiritual gift and if not, it would affect worship?

  • Mark Murack says:

    An excellent summary of points. As a lead Pastor I have always embraced my music team as part of my up front ministry team – almost like we are tag team preaching. For that reason I set things up so that all new song selections get approved by me. My explanation is this. We have a limited amount of time to deposit songs into them – let’s use the expression 4-5 shots on goal each Sunday so let’s make that song selection the very best we can. When I have issues with song theology or singability I explain my reasons because they are working with me trying to help facilitate a God encounter with the people. We have a private Facebook group where we discuss things and we gather a few tomes a year to do fun things because we take the view that every Sunday is the “Jesus Super Bowl” and we want people to experience the best of God that we can give them( yes we know it needs to be Holy Spirit power flowing through us) I recognize not every church structure gives a pastor that authority but I established relationships and cast a vision of how we are an integrated team and they are like associate pastors but their preaching is done through music. I regularly send my song leaders articles on how they can be more effective and I let them take risks which sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. Our goal is that together through both singing, scripture reading, prayer time and the sermon people leave having encountered God with a song in their head that those lyrics will play over and over in the hard moments and maybe they will remember a few key phrases from my message. Sorry for a comment that’s almost as long as your article.

  • Randy Tucker says:

    Regarding point # 3 — It’s maybe too obvious, but you neglected to specify that it’s CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) that is the culprit here. Without exception, congregational participation in singing is under 50% — in most cases closer to perhaps 10% — in all the churches I’ve visited that have contemporary or “blended” music here in Florida. I doubt things are different elsewhere.
    Even when the words are on overhead screens — usually with poor or no punctuation — the congregation stands in frustration (and BOREDOM), not having a clue where the music will go next. What in the world is so wrong with using hymnbooks and the “good old-fashioned” hymns of the faith that were heartily sung to God’s glory in the 1940s through the 1960s or 1970s?
    P.S. One other major factor you could add is that much (most?) of contemporary music has an undue amount of repetition. No wonder it’s often correctly called 7 / 11 music — 7 words (mindlessly?) sung 11 times! True, this could also be said of some older hymns, but the percentage in contemporary music is much, much higher.
    To God be the glory,
    Randy

    • Thank you, Randy, for what I’ve been wanting to say for so long. You are spot on. When we lost the classic hymns, we lost a tremendous storehouse of doctrine, and an excellent way of teaching it. You are so right in everything you said.

      To God be the glory!

      Howell

  • Dennis Heppner says:

    Nothing seems to be more sensitive than church music. Yet it often is key to the over all perception of a gathering. Many years ago I led worship and since then have worked with many worship leaders, some very good and some not so good. A few comments; We expect the preacher to be prayerful, God centered personally and well prepared. So too must the worship ministry. When rehearsal is 1 hour before service time or none at all, there cannot be good worship. Some all night prayer meetings have dynamically strengthened our worship teams! Limit new music and sing music people know. As church attendance is less frequent, to much new music almost guarantees no one will be singing. We don’t need all the latest songs to have good worship. Then too, not all music works in all congregations. 80% of the success of the worship music is in the line-up. The other 20% is in the leader. The exception being, an extremely strong leader can make a poor line-up work. Worship leading is a ministry pursued spiritually, a skill that must be taught and developed. Lastly, as preachers and pastors must always be growing we should provide growth and training opportunities to further develop and encourage our worship ministry leaders and teams.

  • Sherman Barnette says:

    Another area that I think needs addressing is the flow of a worship service. If there is such a thing as spiritual, emotional and mental whiplash I have it almost every Sunday. 15 minutes of announcements, start, stop, start, stop, 5 minute offertory prayer that has nothing to do with giving drives me crazzzzy. Kills the worship!

  • Jared von Kamp says:

    How should a church respond if your preaching is boring, biblically unsound, or unattractive to visitors? How would you want them to approach you, as people who know less about preaching than you do but still recognize that something is missing? What steps should they take to help better equip you in your ministry–make resources and funds available for conferences, coaching, continuing education perhaps?

    Where this breaks down is that most churches are small and lack the resources to equip worship leaders to improve–and most worship leaders are volunteers who may not have time to take advantage of such things anyway. In the end you may simply have to accept that they are doing the best they can with the time and talent they’ve been given. Insist on sound, biblical content. Insist that everyone does their best, given ability and prep time. Accept that style and “boring” are very subjective, and ultimately if you’re bored by singing the truth it says more about your heart than your worship team.

  • Ken Cruz says:

    We must really believe that God has equipped the church (universal and local) with everything it needs to accomplish its mission. This includes music ministry in the church.

    If all God has given you is a single person who can play an instrument than use that and trust that God will do as he pleases. Take the lack of musicianship as an opportunity to train church members who have an interest in music ministry and disciple them as they grow in skill.

    Resist the urge to go outside the church and especially to media resources. It discourages developing church members in areas of need.

    If you are limited in the number of people who have the skill set to lead in music ministry, invest deeply into those who do have the skill set. Let them into your sermon prep process so they can better support the ministry of the Word with music.

    And finally, change the paradigm that says worship = music. Worship is the body of believers coming together to praise God through the ordinances, reading of scriptures, corporate prayer, the preaching of the Word. Music supports these things but they can all take place without music, much less with a professional stage show.

    Ken
    @oldruggedcruz

  • kenneth neira says:

    hey worship doesn’t distract me ive been a Christian going on 20 years and it helps me all you people are crazy you do not know anything that’s why mr lawless use to be a pastor hes not a pastor anymore how can he say that worship music is boring and that it distracts people well it doesn’t it helps me have a good day so I disagree 100%

  • Deborah McLAin says:

    I go to a conservative church where the music comes from the hymn book and the piano and organ. I play the piano.

  • Ralph Hough says:

    “Worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth” is the kind of worshipers God seeks. Music, no music… good music, badly done music… all an be distracting, distasteful, soul filling, life redeeming. As a pastor and a musician I want the best, and to be the best of all that is spoken above. Yet, it’s not there yet! As we minister to the strong we need be mindful of the weak and be encouragers of all and seek to not put stumbling blocks in people’s path. Church people are who they are, worship wise, because of the training they have had. Some have been told, “Organ only.” and people believe that! Some people say, “Spirit led, and clanging cymbals” and people believe that, both to the exclusion of the other. And Paul says to the excellent ways in which we preach, play and sing that if we have not love then we are making more noise than we ought. It’s all good in the right place at the right time for the right reasons. When the Word is central God will make what He wills for the good of His Kingdom, His purpose and all of it through Christ our Lord. Good thoughts and questions- Let’s pray we are on the right track!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.