The church seems to be at the back end of a generational war over the issue of music used in church services. For over a decade, churches battled over drum usage, modern music, congregational or performance singing, lighting usage and much more. Churches have split over the issue. Often the splits are generational in nature. The Baby Boomer and some of Gen-X are focused on more traditional hymns and congregational singing. Those in Gen-X and Millennials are more inclined to contemporary, performance singing.
I was raised in churches that were more traditional in the area of music. As a result, I have many hymns still memorized from singing them time and time again. My home churches weren’t anti-modern, but they were very careful in the praise choruses they used. They knew leaning too far in one direction would upset a generation of the church. Sometimes, they saved ‘praise and worship songs” for Sunday night church when we could “let our hair down.”
I am currently serving in a modern, performance worship church. I love both traditions for different reasons. This issue still has caused generational division. While serving in a contemporary church, I have seen the older generation with fingers in their ears, reminiscing about the good old days of hymns and struggling with songs that are too simple in their lyrical depth.
One of the measures of a successful church is how well a church is passing on their faith to the next generation. Often, we put that pressure on the youth pastor. However, it’s bigger than that. It involved the whole church, especially the parents. However, the churches that are holding on to traditional music and loosing the younger and the modern worship church is losing the older. In both cases, someone has to compromise.
But what if there was another option. It may be way off the deep end, but what if a church removed music as a primary part of their services? It is a foreign idea because it has become ingrained in our services for hundreds of years. Yet, looking back at the early church, there is no mention of music as a part of the church service. Yes, it seems to have been a part of a service in the temple, and yes, we are commanded to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but there is no specific mention of it as a part of the church worship service. Acts 2 tells us what the church did when they got together:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
What did they do? They got together, shared, learned, celebrated communion, prayed, took care of each other’s needs, and praised God. That’s it. Now I understand that this is a primitive church under an oppressive government. Yet it seemed that the main reason for church was getting together, learning, praying and taking care of each other. This would not necessarily be an attractive idea to people today.
If we are being honest, music sometimes has become the draw of church. It is easy, fun, uplifting and requires very little from us. We can “consume” it and use it for marketing our church to the unchurched. And of course, we lose a generation of people.
What if the church were to drop music to something that only happens every once in a while, and not necessarily a full 20-30 minutes of it? If you remove something that is not mandatory for the church and something that has proven to cause division, might we see a church that all generations have no problem bring a part? It’s just an idea. It would involve compromise from all generations to focus on what is most important. And maybe, there would be less division.