Friday, April 19, 2024

Why Contemporary Music Has No Place In Today’s Church

by Dr. Bob Gray Sr.

Power Over Our Lives.

That is why discretion is so important when it comes to music. If we are not careful we will find ourselves in a quagmire of ungodly music. It is entirely possible to allow the power of music to become the main attraction. Music is like a plate on which we serve a meal. The focus should be more on the food than on the plate.

The decline of a culture can be directly tied to the decline of music. It is not an insignificant thing.  According to Ephesians 2:1-2 there is a “spirit of disobedience” in every unsaved person.  The power Satan gives to a Madonna, Justin Bieber and other musicians is real.  God’s people must guard themselves from the power of music that is promoted by Satan.

Christian Music should rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to draw and convict the unsaved of their need for Christ.  If there is no conviction there can be no conversion. I saw the slow shift of the “Saturday Night Singings” in my church to professional Gospel Quartets performing in massive secular auditoriums.  After a while that led to carnality.  It went from being about the message to being about the performance.

It was the custom of Jewish families to sing together, so it is not a stretch to assume that as a child Jesus sang.  We also know that He sang with His disciples in the upper room as they partook of supper.  “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.”  (Matthew 26:30) This would be the last time He gathered with His disciples during His earthly ministry.  Jesus blessed the broken bread and the fruit of the vine.  Then He passed the bread and juice to them.  They parted by singing a song of praise to God.

There Is Clear Instruction On Music To The Local Church.

The Scripture gives us a clear exhortation to abstain from being drunk and a clear command to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then, the Bible commands the church at Ephesus to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:18-20

The church at Ephesus was instructed to sing these type of songs and make melody in their hearts to the Lord.  This is a clear command to the local church. If the local church is to be a reflection of her head Jesus Christ, then she must obey this clear command.  To do otherwise is to disobey our Lord and to open the door to let the world into church through the power of music.

David was the human pen for the majority of the Psalms.  The book of Psalms is often called the “hymnbook of the Bible.”  The Psalms were songs given to men in the midst of their struggles, their suffering, and even their victories.  The Bible speaks of singers, musicians, and musical instruments more than five hundred times. When choir members, special singing groups, soloists, and orchestra members are in tune with Christ and with each other, their music can bring about or enhance a spiritual event.

Music Will Bring Out The Best Or Worst.

Music’s influence will bring out the best or the worst in people.  That is the power and influence music possesses. Plato said, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws.” Aristotle believed that if you listened to music that reflected a certain mood, you would experience that same mood.  Dr. Jack Hyles said, “If one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will tend to become the wrong kind of person; but, conversely, if he listens to the right kind of music, he will tend to become the right kind of person.”

Depression seemed to be a regular occurrence with King Saul.  The further he strayed away from God, the deeper his depression.  I Samuel 16:15 states that he was troubled by an evil spirit. When his servants noticed Saul’s condition, they recommended a solution in I Samuel 16:16.  “Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.”  To soothe the evil spirit, they sent for David.

“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”   I Samuel 16:23

Notice that David did not sing a word.  He simply played it for King Saul.  The music refreshed Saul. If David could create a sound from the harp that calmed a depressed King Saul, then the power of music cannot be denied or ignored.  Music is an invisible reality.  God’s people must be careful in both their private and public choices of music.

Music affects us in three ways: physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Music also has three primary parts: melody, harmony, and rhythm.  Melody comes from the Greek word meloidia, which means “choral sing.” Meloidia is derived from melos, “tune,” plus aoiden, “to sing.”  Thus, the musical term melody. The Bible command us to be filled with the Spirit, teaching us that melody and the fullness of the Holy Spirit are related.

Our mind responds to harmony, the intellectual part of music.  The word harmony comes from the Greek word for joint, which implies the concept of fitting together. Thus, the harmony joins the melody and the rhythm together.  Our body responds to the rhythm.  Rhythm is the Greek word rheo, which means “to flow” or “to pulse.” Rhythm, then, is the physical part of music.  Remember, music can be evil or good, depending upon its use.

The melody must dominate the music of the Christian.  The harmony must follow the melody in the supportive role in the music.  Last of all, the rhythm must be under strict control in music.  In essence, this is a picture of the Christian with his body and its desires under strict control.

Romans 8:13 explains, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” I Corinthians 9:2 says, “If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.”

The Key To Good Music Is Balance.

Rhythm must not be forsaken.  It needs to be in a proper relationship with the harmony and melody.  In our day, the melody (spiritual) and harmony (intellectual) are not just being overpowered; they are being dissolved by the overpowering, pulsating rhythm (physical).  America’s music, both in the church and in the society, reflects an obsession with the physical.  It will take discipline in leadership to be able to see down the road the results of unbalanced music.

James 1:27 tells us, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” What makes worldly music?Because of its identification with the world, some music should be considered worldly. The writer and the associations identified with the music will help determine its flavor. If the places where the world congregates to feed their flesh use a certain style of music it would make sense that it is probably worldly music.

If those places started playing hymns such as “The Old Rugged Cross” or “Amazing Grace” the musicians would probably be booed, and many customers would leave.  Why? Because the music does not match the setting!  Then why do so many pastors and Christians think their music belongs in the church?  God’s music is meant to bring praise to God, not to entertain man.

In his book Music in the Life of Man, Julius Portnoy says, “The Christian musician is a member of two worlds, the spiritual and the material.  The choice is his: to create sacred music that is pleasing to God because it ennobles character or to defile the miracle of creation and produce secular music which arouses lust and desire.” God’s people are to remain unspotted by the world and music is a part of that which must remain unspotted.

There is a sound that the world’s music gives out.  When music is heard, the mind immediately forms an image because of the sound.  What image comes to mind when barroom or honky-tonk music is heard? Conversely what image do people get when they hear the music in our churches?  What image are Christians projecting from the music they play in  their cars or in their homes? There is a direct correlation between the power of God and the music of God.

In many cases I do not see balance in the music put in front of the people.  The Jesus movement was a big thing in the 60’s. The music  philosophy was that nothing matters but the uplifting of Jesus. There seems to be a revival of, nothing matters if we are uplifting Jesus in our music today.  However, there is a whole counsel from the Scriptures on music that does matter.   Music is a powerful tool use it wisely.

The Bible makes it very clear music does matter. The future of fundamentalism depends on a strong position on music that adheres to our fundamentals positions. This is a part of God’s plan for the spiritual maturing of God’s people. The local church is responsible to maintain Biblical boundaries and that certainly does not exclude maintaining the right kind of music. Music is a powerful tool use it wisely.

by Dr. Bob Gray Sr.

Original article can be found at

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  1. “The future of fundamentalism depends on a strong position on music that adheres to our fundamentals positions.”
    Sadly, I must disagree with that statement right there. To add the “fundamental positions” to this is to add to the Bible. What you should have said was that you should have “strong position on music that adheres to the Bible”, not our fundamental positions.
    That is no better than just adding to the Bible. Catholics add “tradition” along side with the Bible. A lot of “fundamentalists” (not all) add tradition along side as well and done even know it… Doing that makes them become anti-fundamental because they are betraying their foundational belief that the Bible is the only source of faith and practice. And when you point it out then the one who pointed it out is wrong. Sorry sir, I don’t care about “fundamental positions”, I care about Bible.

  2. Brothers and Sisters. Please allow me to lovingly share a thought.
    Much of what Dr. Gray says about music is valuable but he errs when he says “contemporary” music is the problem. The problem is a worship of music, a worship of preference and worshiping man/self as he/she sings, and not worshiping God in spirit and truth.
    Every generation’s music is contemporary in the eyes of the previous generation. I admit I have my preference but it is just that, a preference. We (and hymnal companies) have used the term Hymn as a means to legitimize only certain types of music in the church such as songs written by Crosby, Spafford, Wesley, Watts and others that we grew up singing that we feel meet our definition of the word hymn. In essence we have used the word “hymn” to idolize these revered hymn writers. Unfortunately by doing this we may be guilty of quenching the work of the Holy Spirit in worship and sometimes teaching error in essential doctrine.
    So what is a hymn? The word hymn, hymnus or hymnos refers to a poem or ode sung celebrating God or even secular things. The KJV writers used the word Hymn to mean spiritual songs. Such a choice of words was completely appropriate since that was an appropriate usage in Middle English language. But the word “hymn” is no more exclusive to a 4/4 time 5 verse songs written for Billy Sundays Winona Lake Tabernacle in 1911 than it is for a 6/8 time song with 3 verses and a bridge after the last chorus written in 2010 written for worship at an urban tabernacle.
    Here is the key. It’s not about us and our preferential music idols. A music ministry at our church needs bathed in prayer and must be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit just as a pastor should when preparing the sermon or a teacher a lesson. Just as Jesus looked for where the Father was working, we should look for where God is working, and follow that leading in all aspects of ministry including music. That means music may be as diverse as the body of Christ is throughout the world.
    Yes I have my preferences. I am blessed by the classic spiritual song writers of the past 300 years, but I am also blessed by the new ones of today.
    In 1692 Dr. Isaac Watts taught us an important lesson on this matter. When he was only eighteen he complained to his father who was a church Deacon that the old songs sounded like a “rusty saw were being sharpened close to his ear”. Deacon Watts wisely replied to his son. “Then give us something better, young man!” Young Watts did; and on that same evening the service was closed with a new hymn by young Isaac Watts. He wrote hundreds of songs, many based on folk tunes “contemporary” at the time.

  3. It baffels me how “Dr.” Bob Gray Sr. became a doctor. Independant Baptist scholarship leaves much to be desired.

  4. The music is not the problem, the heart for worship is! New music has always been a blessing to our churches. Unsound lyrics are unsound no matter a style of delivery. The child of God can worship even without music at all! Decern and worship in spirit and truth!

  5. A friend invited to the church he attended and had told me about the praise and worship band and a DJ the church frequently used. Upon my arrival, the DJ was playing music before the service began, and then a song started playing that I felt the DJ had no business playing, and all though it is a beautiful secular song, it is not a song any Christian church should be playing. I ask my friend if he knew what song it was that was playing and he was excited to tell me, although he couldn’t ansewer me what the song was about. The song: My Sweet Lord.

  6. I have been searching for a church for years, and the music is one of the main problems. So many churches have turned to music that is loud, electronic and with lyrics that frankly are weak. A good hymn will tell a story or explain an idea – “He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today; he walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.” There is a lot of meaning in that verse. Compare that to: “God, you are so beautiful. God you are so wonderful. We lift you up on high. We lift you up on high.” Do you see the difference? I just started attending a church, and while the pastor and his sermons are wonderful, every service begins with a half hour of people standing in front of the electronic band, the big screens, the bright neon lights and singing these praise songs that sound rather all alike and to my heart, have little in the way of a message. We have discussed arriving fifteen minutes late just so we can miss some of that music!

  7. As a world weary experienced musician, I wonder what the world would’ve been like if Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Ellington, Gershwin and others had been muffled..silenced because of their creativity that does not reflect one man’s spiritual ideals. This would include the many gains made across the sciences which have given life to many who would’ve died miserably and in squalor…Over the years I’ve seen and heard church music go thru radical cycles of which obviously are a reflection of changing fads and pop culture. At present, music has become a watered down version of many watered down off shoots of popular music that is both tired and simplistic and minimalist (U2 band guitar leads as an example)…One generation gives way to the next and with it goes the accepted norm and ideals of what is good and acceptable…Ray Charles was denounced in his era by the religious black community for applying a gospel kind of interpretation to his singing and playing. What the church never seems to understand is that a great musician is not corralled to one specific style but endeavors to constantly perfect his or her art, just as a sculptor or painter does. Here in lies the problem. That fine line that many do not seem to grasp. The creative gift and hard work that refines and magnifies it. And, what is done with that gift. Some would have it put under a glass display only to be taken out at a church service or function. Others would rather have it destroyed if it is not completely dedicated for the existence of the church body…Hard core radical Muslims contribute nothing. They condemn everything that does not fall inline with their belief system. Christianity was never meant to be a creative killing life of servitude but one of gratitude, love and personal sacrifice that really isn’t sacrifice because love is the motivator of it…..Frank

  8. After leading music for worship for nearly 20 years in an independent baptist church, I can assure you MOST fundamental, independent Baptist churches are NOT balanced in music. Rarely is a psalm used in a church service and no one can accurately discribe a spiritual song. I can agree that some music is inappropriate for corporate worship, but how do you define the heart of a writer producing music that is honoring to God in his own heart? If David never used words when playing for Saul, how do we know the style he used if there is no sound examples given? Why have we decided that if we disagree with the music style, it must not be pleasing to God. No one ever says “you can’t be a corporate president of a Fortune 500 business because it’s not pleasing to God”. There are plenty of hymns in use every Sunday that could be considered not glorifying to God because of doctrine but we’re more worried about the instruments performing than the content.

  9. We honor the authority because we see in person. But for God, we believe God is the almighty and Holy but we do not honor because we do not see. We say we believe in our heart only. We say no matter I am look, no matter how I dress up. Most of us all say God in the past and God now has changed. God has no changed from the past, today, and the future. We must honor God’s holiness at all time in the Sabath day (Sunday is the Worship’s day. Worship is not fun at all. But worship must be joy and be full of Glory and very musically understand and very technically talent. Symphony music has no fun at all but very intellectual and full of glory to God. Contemporary music intent to do for fun, this will cause we do not care or observe God’s Holiness. Most comtemporaries worship are crippling because of no observer God’s Holiness. Do not miss understand between daily life and activities to the Sabath Sunday Worship Day. King David had daily life and activities to praise God, but never play on the Sabath day at all.

  10. ive experienced worship amongst the indian and eskimo people of alaska. i have found most of them to be worshippers thru music- the pentecostal hymns, maranatha songs, vineyard songs, hillsong, and acoustic praise and worship up to the year 2000. inspite of incompetant musicians and song leaders, they really pour their hearts out to god thru singing. personally, as a professional gospel singer/guitarist, i find it extremely difficult to worship with them as musical excellence has always been my top priority. for which i have been mercilessly rebuked over the years.


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