Worship Music – should it cater to believers, unbelievers, both?

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I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 Amp.

We all know that worship is a crucial aspect of the Christian faith. A question that many believers often don’t stop and ask is, why do we have to worship God? If we know the why of something, the how is made much understandable. Not knowing why we do something puts us at a disadvantage and we can easily misunderstand how it should be done. Worship is one of those things. And the common reason that people often give saying that we must worship God because he is worthy of our worship since he made us doesn’t suffice for me. Does God have low self esteem issues and needs praise and worship from man? Did such need motivate him to create man? Certainly not! If not, why do the scriptures model worship and demand it?

In his book, Praying, J. I Packer wrestled with this same dilemma of praise and worship. In Seeking resolution for this conundrum, he learned from how C.S. Lewis handled the same issue.  Lewis began by reflecting on what we mean when we say that a work of art demands appreciation. He reckoned that admiration is the “correct, adequate or appropriate response to” such a work of art.[1] Not admiring such a work of art signals a problem not with the work of art but with the one looking at it. People admire their lovers and like to tell all other people how wonderful their lovers are. That’s a natural response and lacking such response when one is in love is in fact unnatural. With worship, God is really interested in the state of the heart from which the worship comes. If love, awe, and admiration for God fill the heart and overflows into the lifting up of hands in worship, God accepts that and calls that worship. The only worship that God accepts is one that is spoken out of the overflow of a man’s grateful and awestruck heart. You see, music cannot circumcise the heart to such a level that its worship will be acceptable to God. If music could do that, then Christ died in vain. Worship that God accepts is worship done in spirit and in truth. Music doesn’t give either spirit or truth. I love Romans 12:1 quoted above. It however represents the acts of worship, not worship itself. Worship is like faith. You see faith by what it does. Yet faith is not the works you see faith doing. This can be confusing. The Hebrew word (Avodah) is used for work as for worship. The two go together but are very different.  What God looks for is not the works since he can see both the works and the faith. People whose worship doesn’t come from a heart that is in awe of God but are moved by the sway of music are practicing a form of hypocrisy, one that they are hypnotized into by the lure of sweet music. The heart of an unbeliever cannot worship God. Such a heart is wicked and until regenerated cannot worship God.

Is music useless in worship? Not at all! We see music employed all through the scriptures. I think music for one helps to guide our minds that are so prone to wandering. There is something about music that brings joy to the soul and lifts the spirit. For that same reason, lovers love to play love songs and listen to them together as they adore one another. Lovers like love songs not because they give them love feelings but because they eloquently declare and elucidate the feelings they already have for one another. Try playing a love song for two enemies and see if it makes a difference. Play it for two people who love each other and the response is amazing! I believe that worship and worship music is for believers, not for unbelievers so they can be won through our music. I think there is a propensity for churches to allow culture to shape them. Dr. Towns touched on this in his book, Worship wars. The church environment should be sinner friendly as should our lives and our homes. But worship music should be picked based on its merits in aiding believers worship God the best than in tending to the desires of those who cannot worship. Worship music is a love song played for two lovers: God and the regenerate believer. Unbelievers are by definition, enemies of God. That is why God is seeking reconciliation with them.
I’ve seen many believers live lives that border on slavery to pleasing others because they think that somehow that is required by God.



[1] Parker, J.I. Praying: Finding our way through duty to delight. Downers Grove, IL, Intervarsity Press, 2006, 99-101

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