Some excellent points to consider in the realm of music worship, not just at concerts, but, also in our worship at church, at home, and at other venues.
Thank you for your questions concerning music and worship concerts. They touch the heart of the Contemporary Christian Music controversy rightly identifying “Who is the music for?” This issue is emotionally charged as people from a variety of backgrounds and differing age groups weigh in with their preferences and opinions. God has given us the gift of music and song to move our hearts in worship toward Him, which clears away the distractions and preoccupations of our minds to focus on His Holiness and Truth. Music is a powerful tool for good if implemented well, but can also be a detriment if one loses sight of its purpose. How this powerful medium is used needs to be our focus.
The banter in recent decades about Christian music hasn’t really affected the trends. Contemporary services flourish by attracting the youth while traditional church services wane. It appears that contemporary music is here to stay so the debate needs to center around the content, structure and presentation of the music, as well as the attitudes of all involved.
In large concert settings, the sensory overload from striking light displays, multi-media screens, and deafening sounds can easily crowd out the musings of the mind in reflecting on God’s character and thanksgiving. The sheer magnitude of these events captivates the listener’s full attention carrying them away in the mood of the moment, moving their hearts and bodies in unison with the music. The listener finds themselves in agreement with the beat, perhaps not even realizing what words are sung. Truth needs to be communicated through lyrics in order for any meaningful worship to occur. While these events might be called “worship concerts,” in reality they might not be worshiping God at all if they’re singing about social and personal issues.
Song has the persuasive ability to bypass the mind, implanting messages and themes that are retained and retrievable for years. These events easily captivate people through the mood of the moment, stimulating very real emotional feelings that may become actions afterward. Our minds are to be saturated with truth, rather than emotions that easily mislead. Therefore content is very important. Consider whether the music is moving the listener or patron toward the fruits of the Spirit, “22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: “(Gal 5:22-23a). Or is the music moving the listener toward the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). Paul also tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” These seem to be good boundaries to measure the value of the music and messages presented.
While God inhabits the praise of His people (Ps 22:3), this doesn’t mean any content suffices for praise. Much Christian music is good as the church continues to sing “a new song” to the Lord. However, music was also used in Daniel 3 to coerce the citizens of Babylon into worshiping an idol and false god; the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar. The cacophony of sounds that Daniel’s friends refused to participate in is seen in some types of Christian music today as the very structure of the music is heavy, droning and the lyrics barely intelligible. How can worship be conducted through this? The answer is, it can’t. Is it really worshiping the true God? Can the body join together in praise? Is the listener being edified in faith and truth? The church needs to be on guard for what type of worship they’re allowing under the “label” of Christian music.
The Bible defines true worship in different ways; honoring Jesus through whole hearted belief, holding to truth, submitting to God in obedience, worshiping God in Spirit and Truth. Interestingly, Romans 1:25 says that the truth of God is turned into a lie when created things are worshiped instead of God. This would encompass anything turned into an idol, even the enthrallment of concert experiences, music, performers and the like.
The nature of concert events, events hosted by churches, or even worship services patterned after these sensory displays can appear to lift up individuals rather than the Lord. Many in music ministry truly seek to honor God through music. Standing on stage or behind the congregation shouldn’t matter if one’s heart is in step with the Lord. Thankfulness for the Lord and the privilege of leading or participating in worship should be the heart attitude of all. Only the Lord can judge others’ hearts, but we must examine our own hearts to see if critical attitudes are creeping in unnecessarily.
We must also be on guard for passive worship becoming a substitute for purposeful actions. Just because we’ve sung songs saying we love God, doesn’t mean we love Him throughout our day. We might sing about the whole world hearing about Jesus, but do we actually witness to the lost so they can hear and believe? Singing songs doesn’t suffice for worship unless our words are backed up by actions. Therefore if concert events are truly lifting up Jesus and Truth, it should be reflected through fruit in the lives of attendees afterward.
The Bible allows for various types of music, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Eph 5:19). It does not allow for vain repetitions which mimic mantra like phrases. (Matt 6:7). As we wrestle with these issues, separating them from our preferences, we need to “…above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8), an admonition we would do well to take to heart.