Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2008

Faith Forum: Is rock music OK for church?

August 16, 2008


Reaching out to different generations

Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.:

Most Christians would agree that music is a vital part of worship - music can evoke emotional responses and aid us in the expression of our devotion to God, our dependence on him, our hurts and joys, our remorse and our gratitude. It can also be a tool for communicating our theology or expressing biblical truth. Twenty or 30 years ago, the question of whether a certain musical style was appropriate in worship was hotly debated, because many Christians associated certain musical styles with lifestyles that they believed to be inconsistent with their faith.

Although it seems to have taken a long time, most churches today recognize that while the truths that unite us are timeless, we are more effective in reaching new generations when we communicate in the "language" of those generations. This is reflected not only in the music we use in worship, but also in new translations of the Bible, and even in the mediums and methods we use to present the truths of our faith.

"Anchored to the Rock, geared to the times" was a slogan for the Youth for Christ movement in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and it seems particularly relevant for the church today. I fully expect that the contemporary worship music I play in my church will one day have to give way to new styles, if our church is to continue to reach out to a new generation.

Rock, hip-hop, jazz, country and western, acoustic folk, urban contemporary and traditional hymns all have a place in churches today as vehicles for the timeless truth of the gospel of Christ.

- Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at

Speaking to your specific audience

The Rev. Tom Brady, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt. and 867 Highway 40:

Yes, rock music has a place in the church. There are a wide variety of musical preferences. We don't all listen to the same radio stations, nor do we purchase the same CDs. When I walk into any Best Buy, Wal-Mart or music store, I'm amazed at all the different options. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another.

It's not reasonable for the church to assume that everyone will be touched by one kind of music. It's important for the church to offer a variety of music styles in order to appeal to a broader audience. Certainly, rock music has its place in the church and can touch the hearts of those who prefer that style of music over more traditional styles.

Similarly, preaching and teaching styles can be varied in order to reach a specific audience. Although the content might be the same, I would take a different approach in preaching to and teaching students than I would with senior adults. In music the lyrics can remain the same, but a different music style can be used. In other words, a traditional hymn like "Amazing Grace" can be played and sung in rock without changing the words.

Music is a huge part of our culture and shapes the feelings, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs of everyone. Jesus accepted the culture in which he lived, tried to change certain aspects of it, and used it to help shape the beliefs of the people he was trying to reach. The church needs to do the same.

- Send e-mail to Tom Brady at


FloridaSunshine 8 years ago

If the church I'm attending is going to have rock music, please be "thoughtful" enough to give advanced warning to those of us who prefer the wonderful, never-will-grow-old hymns so we can plan to attend services accordingly...ok? Perhaps post in the bulletin as to when the rock music will take place.Thanks!

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

C'mon, Marion, just look at how long you've been haunting this space.,;-)

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

"Is rock music OK for church?"What isn't OK for "church," these days?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

canyon_wren: "It is just disappointing that so many preachers, as I said earlier, believe they have to "market" what they offer...."Fashioning a den, to lure the thieves.

canyon_wren 8 years ago

I can't figure out if Marion and Merrill are one and the same--they both "get carried away," though Merrill at least gives extensive sources to back up his points (for whatever they're worth) while Marion stands on his own opinion. Both get pretty tiresome, though I suspect Merrill's information is actually useful if you have the time and inclination to follow up on it!

denak 8 years ago

I went to a Catholic elementary school and had to go to Mass on Wednesday. For a time, we have a "Children's band" that essentially played rock music for our services. I think it made things a lot more interesting for the students and kept their attention. My brother actually played in the band and I think, for him, at least, it gave him something to do that was positive and gave him a sense of spiritual connection.As long as the emphasis stays on the spiritual and is respectful, I don't have a problem with it especially if it gets kids in the pews.Dena

ASBESTOS 8 years ago

"Take out the words, and what is the difference between the rock music played during 'contemporary worship celebrations' and rock music you'd hear in most bars?"Christian Rock is an abomination on all things Led Zepplin! Christian Rock is crappy music at best, and you can look at the South Park for the best encapsulation of all things that suck about "Christian Rock".As a former rocker and always a christian, I think there are things that "don't belong", you don't mix Jack Daniels with egg nog (that is rum's party), and you don't use the insturments of Rock and Roll that were designed to "Shout at the Devil", and sing praises of Jesus. I am sure Jesus would like to turn up the volume on AC/DC's "Back in Black" every now and again, but I am pretty sure that to "worhip him" would require a little different music.One cannot "serve two masters" and those that I see in the Christian Rock world are more interested in stroking their own egos rather than "submitting to His will" and really getting down and worshiping Jesus.It may be "inclusive" but I think there needs to be some "principal" and "Decorum", both of which proudly Rock and Roll gives the finger to.As for the "Bible thumpers" you will always pee yourselves on something. on those that don't respect the lord, you can always find a way to blasphem anyway.

canyon_wren 8 years ago

Really good points, Andrew! Thanks for taking the trouble to write them.

jonas 8 years ago

":.this coming from a former DJ who spent most of my life playing rock:going to rock concerts:etc. If I could reclaim all that time and effort, I would."I know a number of people who would probably say the same about all the time that they spent in church. Maybe the key is simple moderation.

jonas 8 years ago

"never-will-grow-old hymns"That's probably a matter of perspective, ne?

Kathy Gates 8 years ago

And in his time, wasn't Mozart reviled as a work of the devil for his loud, non-traditional music??

canyon_wren 8 years ago

FloridaSunshine--my sentiments exactly. I, too, long to hear some of the old hymns. Even the non-rock Praise Songs do not really satisfy me. Churches are making such an effort to "market" themselves that they totally disregard the older members of the congregation (who usually are the ones who contribute most consistently to the churches' funding and also are the ones to bear the burden of preparing meals for funerals, visiting the sick, etc.) in order to attract the young people. I am not in the former age group, though I do help out with meals, etc.--but am headed in that direction, of course!In our church (American Baptist, but serving other denominations like Presbyterian, Methodist, Nazarene, etc., in our smaller community in which those are not represented), they even stopped reciting The Lord's Prayer "because the new (young) people didn't know it." My response (as a deaconess) was, "When will they learn it if we don't say it?" but that fell on deaf ears. My personal feeling is that most young couples, especially, are drawn to churches because they have a hunger for more traditional things. Offering them rock music is not going to satisfy that hunger, and, I believe, trivializes the search for a faith. I come away from church without the feeling that I have attended a worship service, but rather of being present at a "Center for Performing Arts," and if it weren't for the fact that our pastor has WONDERFUL sermons, I would cease going altogether.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

pssst... canyon_wren... I am one of the faithful... just never could reconcile my faith with organized religion.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

Andrew: "Seriously though:ask others:you generally want to steer clear... any... sites where ANYONE can contriblute 'facts'."I would like to consider your advice, but I read it on a site where ANYONEcan contriblute 'facts'.

canyon_wren 8 years ago

tangent--if you truly think that "believers" are "thieves," I pity you. Either your experience with the former has been limited or with the latter has been extensive!!

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

parkay: "What's wrong with the Rock of Ages and the Roll Called Up Yonder?"Apparently, it's the Age of Rock, and the only one "going over yonder" is Jimi Hendrix.

geniusmannumber1 8 years ago

"Take out the words, and what is the difference between the rock music played during 'contemporary worship celebrations' and rock music you'd hear in most bars?"The rock music you'd hear in most bars is actually good music.

ASBESTOS 8 years ago

How 'bout the "Hottest band in the Land...KIS*S" gotta lose your mind in Detroit, Rock City,Get Up !

canyon_wren 8 years ago

Uhlrick--you are right. I know that there is a wide range of tastes in worship service. It is just disappointing that so many preachers, as I said earlier, believe they have to "market" what they offer, and don't realize that not everyone wants a "Wal-Mart-style" worship service, and it is getting difficult to find a service that gives one a feeling of reverence. I suspect that, as in many things, the pendulum will ultimately swing in a more traditional direction, since everything new seems to lose its appeal eventually.

jonas 8 years ago

floridasunshine: Well, positive enough, thanks for the thoughts. I find some old songs to be quite good, such as Silent Night and that one that has the big refrain "Fall to your knees" but I can't remember that one's name. As for the wall, I've had my share, young as I am (assuming you can define me as young, some would think I'm ancient now), that I would be willing to match against most folks'. I can't say I found hymns to be useful in getting by, though I did find singing and playing on my own to be highly cathartic.

JayCat_67 8 years ago

Just don't play it backwards......efil ym pu thgil...pick the satan's nose goblins...uoYaaaagggghhh

JayCat_67 8 years ago

I guess it really depends on the church. If the congregation is comfortable with it, I don't see why not. Seems a lot of churches offer a variety of services to attract different congregations. A lot of the posts above say it best; the problem they have with rock music is that they associate it with rebellion against tradition. But when you get down to it, rock uses the same chord patterns as most other music, including those old reliable hymns. Throw in some spiritually uplifting lyrics and "Viola!" And, as far as I know there is no commandment stating, "Thou shalt not worship with a Stratocaster!" Just avoid that pesky tritone...

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 8 years ago

Many of the "old traditional hymns" were originally drinking songs where Martin Luther re-wrote the lyrics so he could attract the men into church.Worship is an attitude that is reflected by a congregation through a genre of music that brings out it's spirituality. If your church isn't worshipping in a genre that brings you closer to God, find one that does.

canyon_wren 8 years ago

Hey, tangent--I get your reference now, and I do see some similarity between present day churches and the "den of thieves" that Jesus referred to. Takes me a while but I get it, and I agree!

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years ago

FLSunshine: " And no matter who you are, or where you are in life's journey, you WILL run into a brick wall at some point:and my hope for you is that you will have had someone in your young life who taught you at least one hymn. Blessings to you."Been there, collided with that. I'll add your blessing ( hymn ) to my repertoire. Thanks for the thoughtful... um... thoughts.

jonas 8 years ago

"I suspect that, as in many things, the pendulum will ultimately swing in a more traditional direction, since everything new seems to lose its appeal eventually."Except for the new stuff that stays on and thus becomes tradition. All traditions were new at some point.

FloridaSunshine 8 years ago

Jonas...a matter of perspective? Perhaps so. When you've been through hell and back on earth (and it WILL happen sooner or later to everyone in some way), the words of those old hymns ring true every time and one's perspective certainly does change. One grasps the meaning of the words even more than ever before. Maybe one does have to be a bit older to appreciate the words as a soothing balm to the battered and sore spirit as we travel through this life. As Gloria Gaither says (and I'm paraphrasing), hymns are tiny bits of theology that get us through very rough times. She also says teach the hymns to your children even if they seem not to understand them...and when they do need them, the beautiful old words will be there to get them through. Perspective? I think it does matter how much one has been through and has found the only Solid Rock to be Jesus. We who have tried the consolation of this world and its hollow answers, know all too well the meaning of every word in the beloved hymns. And no matter who you are, or where you are in life's journey, you WILL run into a brick wall at some point...and my hope for you is that you will have had someone in your young life who taught you at least one hymn. Blessings to you.

acg 8 years ago

If I was ever going to go to a church again, which it would be a seriously cold day in hell if I did, I would hope they would play something other than those awful hymns. Those songs make me want to shove my finger thru my eye into my brain and swirl it around just to have something else to concentrate on. My hubby's extended fam are bible beaters and they're always trying to give my kids Jesus toys for gifts. My daughter has (or had, hehee) a book of hymns sang by the Veggie Tales. Nothing is worse than hearing Micheal Row Your Boat Ashore, as brought to you by a piece of celery. Ugh, church music is evil.

Satirical 8 years ago

If the purpose of going to church is to commune with God and feel his spirit, then I believe any music should facilitate that goal. Unfortunately most "rock" music does not. However, I believe all people should be able to worship how, where or what they may.

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