Music style has been a hot-button issue throughout the history of the church. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet it will continue to be. When I was in college, I was privileged to serve in a small, traditional, country church on Sundays. We sang out of the 1991 Baptist Hymnal and occasionally sang a Gaither chorus. On Monday nights, I sang in the (BSU) Baptist Student Union praise team. We sang all of the newest Passion music (Tomlin, Redman) when it was first coming out in the late 90s. The rest of the time, I sang in a southern gospel quartet. We sang convention songs with parts flying all over the place. These experiences quickly shaped my understanding that style really doesn’t matter at all. I was able to worship singing the most modern worship song as well as the oldest hymn. Distortion guitar or church organ – didn’t matter. Obviously, I had and still have my preferences but God helped me see beyond them. I realized that God was after my heart and affections, not my styles and performance.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before transitioning your church’s music style…
- Is your pastor on board? If you are not on the same page with the pastor, you will not be successful. Your pastor can make or break this transition. I’ve been fortunate to have strong pastoral leadership that has prepared the way for me to lead. If your pastor wants to keep the current style then you need to be okay with that. Remember content is what is most important.
- Does the church want to go where you want to take them? You and your pastor can be totally in sync but the church may not be willing to follow. Make sure you evaluate your church’s heart language, the resources available (musicians, etc), and where they currently are. Obviously, we want to stretch our congregations stylistically but they may never be the hip modern worship church you dream about. Are you okay with taking baby steps?
- Does your personal taste have too great an influence on you? Are you trying to make the church what you want it to be, sound like, etc? It isn’t about us (the leaders), it is about God and the specific people we are called to minister to.
- Do you have the musicians to go where you want to go? Many churches see something going on at the church down the street and think that they have to have the exact same thing (We covet. There I said it). If you don’t have a bass player and a drummer you are probably not going to be overly successful doing a lot of modern worship music. If you have teenagers playing in your band, you are probably not going to be overly successful at doing southern gospel conventions songs. Know your people and put them in position to be successful with how God has gifted them. I’m not saying we shouldn’t grow in our musicianship, just that we all have strengths and weaknesses.
- Have you thought about the spiritual side? Don’t just follow the current and float down the stream of the latest worship industry fads. There may be times you need to swim against the current. If it is all about pushing an agenda then it is probably the wrong thing to do. The Bible doesn’t give us a specific style but it does give us wisdom. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are ALL good – use the totality of them. What does God say about instruments in worship? What does God say about the heart, lips, going through motions?
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of questions. I’d love to hear from you and your experiences good and bad in this area. Feel free to comment below. Thanks!