Answers in Genesis
Are many churches out of tune with what their members really need and want? I believe they are. This article may seem a little controversial to some, but I ask you to think carefully about this topic.
A Bird's Eye View of Music In The Church
With my position in the Answers in Genesis ministry, I’ve traveled extensively for over 40 years across many parts of the world, including the US. I’ve spoken in hundreds of churches from many different denominations across all 50 states. This opportunity has given me a bird’s-eye view of the trends and patterns in the Western church.
I’ve certainly heard many Christian leaders bemoan the trend of losing the younger generations from the church. AiG conducted research and published the eye-opening results in the popular book Already Gone. This book has influenced many Christian leaders to totally change the way they teach and conduct evangelism.
But I would have to say that another consistent trend that stands out to me is music. I personally believe one of the reasons music has become such a dominant feature in the church is that church leaders recognize they are losing coming generations and that the church is not impacting the culture as it used to. So they think more music and performance will attract these younger generations back to church. But based on my experience and the research we’ve conducted, I believe the church needs in-depth, relevant teaching on topics such as creation and Bible apologetics to answer skeptical questions and equip people to defend the faith.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I love music. In our younger years, my wife, Mally, and I often played piano and organ together in church. And sometimes Steve Hess and Southern Salvation—our resident singing group at the Ark Encounter—talk me into playing piano with them.
Ken Ham on Music In The Church
So I’m not against music! But I am alarmed by the consistent trends I’ve observed in a majority of churches. I recognize that what we like or dislike regarding music can be very subjective. But here is my personal philosophy of church music, based on my years of teaching in churches across the world and talking to people and listening to their feedback.
- Mix the best of the old with a balance of the new. On rare occasions, when the worship leader sings a classic hymn, I notice that people really sing, though often the young musicians have a hard time playing along since they’re not used to such music. Many churches have a contemporary service and a traditional service. So that really divides the church with the older generations usually attending the traditional service and the younger generation attending the contemporary service. A blend of classic hymns with new worship songs could allow everyone to worship together.
- Use songs suitable for congregational singing. I’ve noticed that praise and worship teams, in most instances, have become performance oriented with flashing lights and a nightclub atmosphere. Many of the songs they sing aren’t really suitable for congregational singing. Often while the team performs on stage, hardly anyone around me is singing. Performance songs (either from a group, solo, or choir) can be great, but worship leaders should recognize when a song is meant for performance.
- Whether in classic hymns or more contemporary songs, check the lyrics against God’s Word to make sure they’re theologically correct—and make sure people will know what the words of the song mean. If you analyze many of the songs sung in churches today, you will find one or a combination of these problems: they’re shallow, theologically incorrect, or unclear in what message they’re supposedly conveying.
- Be sensitive to the fact that not all people can stand for long periods of time—let people know they don’t have to stand. I have a chronic back problem, so for me (and others like me) standing for long periods in one place is difficult. Many elderly people also cannot stand for long periods. It’s hard to focus on the teaching when your body is aching from standing so long during the song service.
- Have at least equal time between the music and the teaching of the Word. Actually, I believe the teaching of the Word should be seen as the priority. As I’ve talked to people, I find (and surveys have confirmed) that people mainly want good teaching to nurture and equip them. Music has become the dominant part of church services to the detriment of in-depth Bible teaching. What many churches call their praise and worship time becomes the main part of the service, often lasting for 45 minutes to an hour, with only 20–30 minutes of teaching.
The bottom line is this: in all we do, we must make sure we are glorifying God, not man.
The bottom line is this: in all we do, we must make sure we are glorifying God, not man. Our church services should edify believers so they will be equipped in the Word to defend the Christian faith and be powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t be out of tune!
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16