Music Sytle: It's All a Matter of the Heart


Last week’s devotional was designed to assist us in identifying the object of our worship.  At the end of the devotional I mentioned that this week I’d spend some time addressing the issue of musical style, so let’s look at how musical style relates to worship in a worship service.

To start with, too often we (particularly in more “Evangelical” denominations) limit the term “worship” to the musical portion of a service, but we need to remember that the entire service – not just the music – is a time for worship.  Today we’ll focus only on the portion of the service which contains the music.  This always raises questions like, “What style is appropriate for worship?” or “Are certain musical styles allowed while others are not?”

Let’s start by establishing something.  Contrary to what some authors would have us believe, music in and of itself is not – I repeat, not – good or evil.  There is one primary thing that makes a song “Christian” more than anything else: the heart of the person singing it.  Notice I didn’t say it’s the text.  The primary determining factor of whether a song is Christian or not is the heart of the person singing/playing the song.

You may be wondering why lyrics are not the determining factor.  It’s because even in some songs the lyrics themselves could be considered neutral.  Take for example this song, often sung as a praise song (and written as such):

In the secret in the quiet place
In the stillness You are there
In the secret in the quiet hour I wait
only for You
‘cuz I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward
Pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
‘cuz I want to know you more

Even though there are strong scriptural references and overtones in the song, it could very easily be heard on any pop radio station as a love song between a man and a woman instead of a song of pleading to know Jesus.

What about this song:

Wait – There’s no mountain too great
Oh, oh, iyo
Hear the words and have faith
Oh, oh, iyo
Have faith

He lives in you
He lives in me
He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

Looks like a Christian song to me – references to overcoming mountains (doesn’t Jesus say that with enough faith we could move mountains?  Doesn’t scripture promise that every mountain will be made low?)  “He lives in you, He lives in me” sound an awful lot like Paul’s letter which reads, “No longer I but Christ.”  But the song is from Lion King the Musical and is far from Christian in its context – it reinforces the New Age philosophy in the show (and movie) of the “Circle of Life” and refers to Simba’s father (Mufasa) living on through his son – that he’s really not dead at all.

But it looks an awful lot like songs we might see in churches now day – it could even be perfectly at place in an Easter service!  So what separates the “sacred” from the “secular”?  It’s the heart of the singer.

Music is a part of culture – a significant part of culture – which is why it is so personal and even controversial.

Next week we’ll continue looking at this, but for today we need to understand that music in and of itself is neither good nor bad, and even lyrics can be misleading.  It is the heart that matters most.

Cross Posted on Grace Notes

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2 thoughts on “Music Sytle: It's All a Matter of the Heart

  1. Pingback: Music Style: Its Culturally Bound « I Respond to Jesus

  2. Pingback: Music Style: A Vision of Unity « I Respond to Jesus

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