What Musical Instruments Should Be Used for Worship?


Back in 2011, Mark Galli announced the end of the worship wars (though he admits Christian churches are still maintaining a “tense truce” on music matters). Much of the last 20 years have seen churches grapple with the “elements” of worship.

Music in Christian WorshipShould churches use drums? Are pianos and organs more “worshipful” than guitars? How about fog machines, colored lights, and electric guitars? These are the kinds of questions Christians got tangled in throughout the 90’s and into the turn of the new millennium.

I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment to ask what musical instruments you think are best for worship. –So, which musical instruments do you think should be used in worship? Make your case in the comments below.

Would you like to know which instruments are actually spoken of in the Old and New Testaments? You might be surprised at the sounds associated with biblical worship:

  • Pipes (flute-like instruments): Matthew 9:23, Revelation 18:22
  • Lyres (like a hand-held harp): 1 Corinthians 14:7; Revelation 5:8
  • Cymbals and gongs: 1 Corinthians 13
  • Trumpets: 1 Cor 14:8, Revelation 1:10, Matthew 6:2
  • Harps: Revelation 18:22

Christian Rappers Neither Disobedient nor Cowards


Last week, the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) unleashed a maelstrom of confusion and discontent among Christians over the place of Rap in Christian worship. As is always the case in situations like this, there is inevitably more heat than light. Emotions are running high, and unfortunate (and unnecessary) divisions are now forming.

Form Worship RapAfter watching the video of the NCFIC conference, I was, frankly, embarrassed—embarrassed for the panelists and also embarrassed by the panelists. It was not their finest hour. Nevertheless, my aim here is neither to “pile on” criticism nor offer correction. Others have done that much better than I ever could (see Ligon Duncan’s comments here).

My aim is redemption and clarity, a word of edification for rappers and non-rappers alike. However clumsily and (perhaps even sinfully) the comments were made by the NCFIC panelists—one panelist (Geoff Botkin) called Christian Rappers disobedient cowards (and has since had to apologize)—still, there may be a helpful lesson embedded in the NCFIC critique. The lesson I have in mind is the distinction between form and content in worship.

Music itself is devoid of content. Music is, by definition, form. Content must be added to musical forms if we are to have songs which serve to praise God. Those who advocate for a kind of 4/4 Classical form of music—as though God’s metronome cannot accommodate syncopation—miss this basic point that music itself is all form. Why would it be that the music of Beethoven and Bach is allowed in the worship service while that of BB King and Flame is not?

Typically, one might argue that Beethoven is more refined than Flame, but are we sure that is God’s measure? Neither form existed in the wilderness wonderings of ancient Israel. Neither form existed in the early church of the New Testament. Neither form existed in the Protestant Reformation. Both forms have evolved post-Reformation. So, neither is prescribed for Christian worship.  Both are forms of music which developed culturally.  Lest we become like Islam—sanctifying a particular cultural norm as divine—we ought to re-think offering canonical status to any cultural norms.

Musical forms are always contextual, largely dependent upon the instruments available in a given region. Why sanctify white, American pianos, organs, and guitars? On what basis? Is Beethoven really more holy than BB King? Is Mozart more pristine than Flame? A music leader once shared with me a telling story on this matter. His church was quite traditional—a high culture, hymn singing church. They began the service one morning with a traditional hymn built on the platform of a classical piece of music by Beethoven. Part of the way into this classical hymn, a young man—a visitor that day—went screaming from the service, running down the aisle and out the front doors.

Church members followed up with the man to determine what had happened. He told them that he had been a member of a cult group and was recently saved, miraculously redeemed by the washing of water with the word. He then explained that he had been brainwashed by the cult group. The cult used Beethoven’s music to alter the minds of unsuspecting youth. When this man heard Beethoven’s music being played at church, he freaked—thinking the church was just another brain-washing cult!

The point is that Classical music is no more holy than hip-hop. Both are contextualized vehicles upon which the content of Christian lyrics is free to ride. The aim of Christian musicians should be to utilize any and every form of music to the glory of God. Some songs need to be driving and forceful, while others should be irenic and serene. Different instruments accomplish different things and ought to be employed in diverse ways to glorify God. The content of the Christian message ought to determine the form of music used. If the content of the message is from Hebrews 10:24-25, for example—a message to stir one another up to love and good works—then the form of the music ought to be “stirring,” such as the form used by the group Downhere in their song, “Stir.”

Pianos, keyboards, organs, banjos, and didgeridoos are all—equally—instruments which ought to be used instrumentally as vehicles to carry the content of Christian proclamation and praise. Let us not sanctify any instrument or form over another—such sanctifying leads only to unfounded self-righteousness. And it is ugly. If we were to consider any instruments holy in themselves, then, surely, it would be those instruments found in the Scriptures. Surprisingly, no one is arguing for the holiness of a trumpet or pipes or cymbals, yet these are the instruments actually found in Scripture, along with harps and lyres.

We will build up our people best if we keep them focused on the content of our message rather than on the form of our music. Use whatever gets the point across to the audience assembled. Forget attempting to sanctify the style of your musical preference.

What Are the Top Two Priorities for the Local Church?


English: Church of Jesus Christ (Zion's Branch...

Church Building in Independence, Missouri.

This Sunday, I will finish a 6 week series on the New Testament concept of the church. When Christ sought to establish the instrument through which He would sustain His redemptive work to its completion, He founded the church, called both His body and His bride. Christ’s church must accomplish Christ’s purposes and should honor her Lord. How does she do this properly? What ought to be her priorities?

I am interested to hear some responses. Obviously, because I am preaching on this Sunday, I have my own opinions. I think the two greatest priorities for the church are worship and fellowship, but I understand I have my work cut out for me. There are many other possible answers. Some would hope the Church would first be salt and light, shaping the culture (this would be the Reclaiming America crowd).

Others would argue for the urgency of evangelism. Who could deny the immediate necessity of reaching out to more than 3 billion souls who are presently destined to perish, apart from hearing a word of hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ? What about those who argue that social action is our top priority–feeding the hungry and serving the needy? And still others would say that missions work–sending the gospel to the unreached corners of the globe–is that which is most important. So, what are the top two priorities for the local church?

Exodus 19 and 20


Reading Exodus 19 and 20, I am struck by just how out of touch God is with modern evangelicals.  We have methods for growth.  He has strict limits which prevent folks from approaching Him.  We have sensitivity toward all seekers. He was set apart in thick darkness.  We have open access where everybody hears a word from God.  He left the people saying, “You speak to us [Moses], and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us lest we die” (Exodus 20:19).

Now, I know that everything has changed since Christ has come and dwells among us (Hebrews 1), but I also know that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31).  We might be too casual about God.