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Music for the Dance of Life

Why is it that music can create such controversy yet mean so very much to you and me? Someone once told me that while “words speak to the mind, music speaks to our emotions.” That certainly seems true considering the variety of reactions to the changing styles of music, especially worship music, in the church today.


Why is it that music can create such controversy yet mean so very much to you and me? Someone once told me that while “words speak to the mind, music speaks to our emotions.” That certainly seems true considering the variety of reactions to the changing styles of music, especially worship music, in the church today.

Some have even dubbed the current dialog about music styles,“the worship wars.”  When emotions are moved, good or bad, we are vulnerable to responding more emotionally than rationally.  And, the music that moves me may leave you flat and bored. So how do we bridge this new generation gap?

I found the remark of a college student in a church town-hall meeting instructive.  Called to consider the changing music styles in their congregation the discussion was wide-ranging and respectful among the several generations present.

Then a young man from a nearby college rose and commented,“God has consistently used the new praise and worship music to draw me closer to Him.  But I can tell from your comments that in your experience God used the older hymns to draw you closer to Him.  I think that if you can help me understand how God used those hymns in your life I could grow to love them as much as you do.”

I think that is one of the best comments summarizing the challenges we face in today’s wide variety of music styles.  Bring our focus back to God and  testify to His work in our individual lives. God loves variety (just visit a zoo if you doubt this!)  He gifts different members of the body to speak to the hearts of His people in many different ways.  

In appreciating different music tastes we  have opportunity to implement the truth of Philippians 2:2-3 “each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

Yielding our personal preferences to the spiritual development of others, rather than focusing ourselves,  sharing without judgment or defensiveness how the music we enjoy draws us closer to Christ could lead to a greater unity and growing love within our congregations.  Think that would work in your world?

Gwynne Johnson

Gwynne Johnson currently serves on the Board of Entrust, Inc., an international education and training mission where she authored the Entrust curriculum, Developing a Discerning Heart. She recently served as Co-Chair of the training project, Christian Women in Partnership, Russia and as Senior Director of Women's Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Gwynne has a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Huntsville, Texas with her husband of 58 years, Don. She works part-time in her daughter and granddaughter's bakery "The Best Box Ever," where she gets paid in cookies.

6 Comments

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    Heather A. Goodman

    I love this idea. Rather
    I love this idea. Rather than giving reasons and making certain points, the idea is to share and listen to stories of how music changed people.

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      Gwynne Johnson

      Changing lives and enjoying music
      Since the Spirit is about the business of transforming us, love the idea that He will use all our experiences to move us toward His likeness.

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    Sharifa Stevens

    Music…and the Heart

    Gwynne, I almost feel too close to this to comment. Music is so integral to the way I worship, or draw inspiration from other worshippers around me when I don’t have the strength to sing. It is such a potent way to wed theology and emotion. I love music as a part of worship.

    Music’s also a tool misused to legitimize segregation based on comsumerism and comfort.

    I appreciated the college kid’s heart in explaining the value of hymns, because this does two things: creates a healthy dialogue amongst different generations, and gives congregants an opportunity to learn about Christian tradition and idealogy through songs. It’s a win-win!

    Music should be both about what it does for us (allowing us to express corporate and/or individual praise, dependence, love, adoration, unifying Christians in purpose) and what it does for God (glorifying, making famous, a sweet savor of worship for Him).

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      Gwynne Johnson

      Love your perspective

      Isn’t it so true that "worship is in Spirit." When we are focused on Him and filled with the Spirit we can submit to one another by His empowering!

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    Anonymous

    what about the hard stuff?
    I agree with bringing in the new, since I am a songwriter also. But what concerns me with some of the “new” music” is that some can not be seperated from the hard rock. I listen to a station that plays some southern, some hymn, some preaching. But sometimes our stations are set on the contemporary stations. I find my self running to the radio to turn it off because it is so hard and so “no words, but head banging” type sounds that it tends to vibrate through my bones.
    The worst part is trying to find that point of how far do we go in our acceptance of the contemporary movement in music vs “do not be conformed to the world”. When you can’t tell a christian song from a heavy metal there is a problem. Our society has stretched so far just since I was born in the 60s, with the morals so relaxed that our children and theirs doesn’t have the strong biblical views and values.
    I am just afraid that if we just let down our standards to what is acceptable then we too will become lax in our strong convictions for Christ.
    Just look at what we accept on our tv screens today. When I was a child Lucy slept in a seperate bed. You never saw anything sexual, or had to hear every other word a curse word. The media has slowly brought it in and we, as a church, has just stood back and accepted it. Where are our morals? When the people at church rave about the newest movie, how great it is, you have to go see it. And you go and have to leave before halfway through because of the sex and violence! I know this comment went a little off course, but I guess I just seem hesitant about some of the new music because there is not any difference in it from worldly music. When a song never mentions the name of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, who is it worshipping? Or is it about feelings? Being in the music ministry and leading worship, I sense that we will have a responsibility to answer to God how we have led others in worship. Does that statement ever impact me from now on!!!. How God opens our eyes in the most unusual ways.
    All I am saying is yes there is some great new music that has and is being written and we do use a good bit of it, but lets all remember that it must bring glory to Christ and if there is anything that takes even a smidgen of the focus off Him that we should speak up and refuse to conform.
    Romans 12:2
    And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

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      Gwynne Johnson

      Appreciate a songwriters perspective
      Appreciate a perspective from one "in the trenches."