7 Principles for Music in the Church

Biblical Guidelines for Church Music

There seems to be a great deal of confusion regarding church music. On the one hand, there are those who believe that if music is not of the formal, anthem-ish type, it cannot glorify God. On the other hand, there are those who select music only on the basis of what they like, forgetting that their flesh may like any number of things that are unscriptural and displease the Lord. While recognizing that this article will of necessity leave many things unsaid, I trust the following comments will be of some help and encouragement.

1. Music Should Teach Truth

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.—Ephesians 5:19

Christian music should never be used simply to entertain or to fill in space. It should teach truths and express sentiments that are consistent with the Word of God.

2. Music Should Avoid Worldliness

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.—1 John 2:15

Far too often, Christian musicians mimic sensual styling techniques from the world. The semi-swallowed microphone, the bodily gyrations, and the lounge-style sliding and slipping are, “Not of the Father, but of the world.”

3. Music Should Advance the Cause of Christ

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31

  • The message should advance the cause of Christ.
  • The motivation of the performer should be to advance the cause of Christ. It is easy for a performer to sing for the applause of men rather than the praise of God. (This is one reason I do not favor a congregation clapping to express appreciation for a musician’s ministry. An “Amen” which says, “So be it”, indicates agreement with the message of the music as well as appreciation for the method in which it is presented. Applause, it seems to me, can too easily be interpreted as praise for the performer.)

4. Music Should Avoid Extremes

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.—Philippians 4:5

It has been well said that Christian music should be neither, “Bach nor Rock.” Formal or boring music presented with a lack of life and enthusiasm fails to help. Worldly music not only fails to help, it actually hurts the cause of Christ. It confuses the congregation, blurring the line between “holy and profane” (Ezekiel 22:26). It will hinder the work of the Spirit of God, and while it may appeal to the fleshly congregation, it will not make them more receptive to the working of God in their hearts.

5. Music Should Be Appropriate to the Audience

All would agree that different songs should be used in ministering to children than in ministering to adults. Fewer understand the principle that not all groups of adults appreciate the same kind of music. A song which may bless the trained musician from a school with the cultural emphasis of a Bob Jones University might bore the typical audience of ordinary Christians.

It is not my purpose or desire in the music program of our church to raise the cultural level of the congregation. It is my desire to use music that exalts Christ, that edifies believers, and that encourages those with heavy loads and burdened hearts. It seems to me that some musicians make the mistake of using music that appeals to them instead of choosing that which will best minister to the audience.

Most musicians will agree that there is nothing unscriptural with such songs as “Mansion Over the Hilltop”, “I’ll Fly Away”, or “This World Is Not My Home.” Many however, refuse to use them, feeling that they are musically unsophisticated; yet these may be the very songs that the congregation will readily identify with and appreciate.

6. Music Must Agree with Scripture

Many songs that we commonly use have a message that is clearly unscriptural (for example, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” teaches post-millenialism, the concept that we by our efforts will usher in the kingdom of Christ, “For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright, and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.”)

Others are confusing at best. I have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation as to the meaning of the following line from the song. “Footsteps of Jesus,” “Footprints of Jesus, that make the pathway glow…”  Lacking any biblical evidence that our Lord wore radioactive sandals, I am totally unclear as to the significance of this statement. The song “I’ll Fly Away” is more scriptural in my opinion that the song, “He Lives,” “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” While it is true that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit, the reason I know the Lord Jesus  Christ lives is because the Bible tells me so. However, I will fly away (Psalm 90:10).

7. Music Should Meet with the Approval of the Pastor

There are many good and sincere men who believe that the music director should be permitted to make the musical selections without “interference from the pastor.” The concept that the music director should be responsible to select the kind of music that the pastor would want is foreign to them. While it is obvious that a pastor should not employ a music director who would have to violate his convictions to do the kind of music the pastor prefers, it is equally obvious that Hebrews 13:17 applies to music directors as certainly as it applies to other members of the staff.

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