What Defines Good Music or Bad Music?
A while back, we published a blog post called “An Honest Look at The Modern Christian Worship Music Phenomenon“.
It was written to give some solid information and background about the modern trends in worship music, how it evolved into what it is today, and to help people break free from the box that we have been drawn into when it comes to how we worship God.
That blog post was published in March of 2017. It is now December and we are still getting comments and emails about it. Much of what we hear from readers is in agreement with what was written. Some people want to know more. Still others are asking us questions about other related topics.
Lots of Comments and Questions
This past week we received an email with some questions related to that blog post. We won’t include the reader’s name, but we will include some of his questions and comments in this blog post for the sake of reference.
Here is their email to us, in its entirety:
“I’m so grateful for you to have elaborated more of worship in the house of God. Sincerely speaking, church today has been turned to be not what God ordained it to be.
There are all kinds of worldly music because the so called Christians have brought worldliness to the church instead of taking the church to the world for people to be changed.
There is even Hip Hop in church so that the church attracts the young people.
I feel the church should follow God’s word and know that God is only interested with those who worship Him in the spirit and truth.
Pastor I come from Kenya and people are even leading praise and worship in all manner of dressing. I don’t condemn or judge them but I feel we should be in the spirit for him to give us direction and convict us on how we should conduct ourselves and dress.
Is it me who is old schooled that I feel this? Please help me on this.”
Lots to Say on This Topic
In reply to these questions and concerns, we wrote a fairly detailed message and sent it back to them, addressing their concerns and shedding some light on many aspects of what they had said and asked.
The remainder of this blog post will include much of what we wrote, as well as additional information that will shed even more light on this topic as a whole. So, let’s move forward with it!
What We Said in Response
We’re happy to know that you enjoyed the blog post about modern Christian worship.
One of the most important things that we need to remember is that we cannot judge people based on the style of music they worship God with, just as we can’t judge people based on their race, their clothes or any other outward, visible factors.
God created music. And there are so many various styles of it, the list is endless. It’s important that we don’t place worship in a box and limit it to one particular style.
Traditional or Trendy?
Some people would prefer that we only worship God using traditional hymns. But we need to remember that when these traditional hymns came about, they may have been frowned upon by the leaders of the church in that era for being too modern or too progressive. Whereas, now, we look at them as being very conservative and reverent.
We’re not stating emphatically that this was the case, but there is definitely a possibility that it could have happened. Music is always changing, and new forms or styles of music are often met with resistance from “church people” who like the “old school” music and feel the newer style is evil.
It’s All About the Heart
We need to be careful to remember that it’s not the style of the music that dictates whether we are worshiping God or not, but the state of our heart.
While one might prefer to worship God to soft music, another may be able to worship Him with music that has a faster or more prominent beat. And different kinds of music can be suited to different types of worship and times of praise. All in all, though, it still comes back to what’s in our heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV) 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The main focus of the other blog post was to bring awareness to the fact that many people have been herded, like sheep, into a box. And they have been led to believe that there is only one way to worship God, via the modern trends, using lights, fog machines, large screens and a concert type feel.
But our intent wasn’t to condemn the style of music itself.
What Makes a Song Reverent?
What is it about some songs that makes us consider them to be reverent?
This is a question that we absolutely need to ask if we’re going to look at this subject objectively and step outside of our biased opinions.
There are many varying opinions on this subject. But when push comes to shove, we have to admit that that’s all they really are; opinions.
Reverence is a state of our heart. The volume or beat of a song doesn’t make anything reverent. Music, in and of itself, is benign. Instruments can only make sounds. They have no heart or mind. They think no thoughts. They have no intentions or motives.
They sit there and do nothing unless we pick them up and cause them to make sounds.
No matter how we look at it, they are simply devices that make sounds. Nothing more and nothing less.
Rhythm or Not?
Many, many centuries ago, in the very early days of the Jews, music had no real rhythm. It was very monotone and had no definitive beat or rhythm. Some might call it chanting or something similar.
Chanting is typically associated with various types of eastern mysticism and other philosophical religions, but it was also used by the early Jews and was known as Cantillation.
Because of this, some might condemn every type of music that uses rhythm. And they might say that God never intended for music to have a defined beat. But this is pure speculation on their part and isn’t theologically sound reasoning. There is no basis for it, other than a personal opinion.
David danced before God in the streets. In fact, he danced to the extent that his wife called him a fool. In order for David to dance, there had to have been some kind of rhythm.
2 Samuel 6:14 (NKJV) 14 Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.
What Makes Music Evil?
Psalm 150:3-5 (NKJV) 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Many people feel that all rock and roll music is evil. But I would ask, “what about it deems it evil?”. Is it the beat? The guitars? The rhythm? The loud volume?
Or is it more the fact that the devil often uses it for evil intent and accomplishes much evil using it? I would say that it is likely the latter.
Remember, musical instruments can do nothing unless they are placed in the hands of people who play them. So, we need to remember that it is the people who have intent, whether good intent or evil intent, not the instruments themselves.
The instruments, in and of themselves, can do nothing except make the sounds that they were designed to make. And those sounds can be used for good or for evil.
Country Music or Rock & Roll?
There are many believers who will readily listen to Country music and not give it a second thought.
Why? because it’s not as loud as rock and roll, it has no head-banging rhythms, the performers don’t typically dress or look the same as many of the prominent rock & roll artists, and some of the country music artists will even mention God occasionally in their songs.
But, does that really make the music reverent or pleasing to God? Does it make that particular style any better than or any less “evil” than rock and roll?
Again, look beyond the instrumentation. Look beyond the “sweet” sound of the steel guitar and the soft strumming on the acoustic guitars. Look beyond the beautiful sounds of the piano or the organs.
Instead, listen to the lyrics. Listen to what they’re saying. Listen to the virtues they are extolling and the lifestyles they are promoting.
How many country songs, that Christians readily listen to, sing of drinking the night away in a bar or honky tonk? How many of these songs sing of adulterous affairs or fornication in one-night stands? How many of these songs sing of lusting after someone and pursuing them with the intent of spending a night with them?
And, the list can go on and on. So, it’s safe to say that country music is no more “safe” or reverent than rock & roll, blues or any other genre.
If it’s Rock & Roll, Throw it Away.
We have personally known of parents who threw away music that their children owned simply because they deemed it bad or evil based on the style or the sound. They did this even though that music was performed by bands who were very outspoken as Christians, and their lyrics boldly proclaimed Biblical truths and openly praised God.
So why did they throw them away? Because they claimed that it was rock and roll, and all rock and roll is obviously evil. They never bothered to listen to the lyrics. They never took the time to examine it closely and judge it accurately or fairly. They just heard the sound of it and immediately decided it was evil and it needed to be disposed of.
But let’s take a look at that school of thought. Who determines what rock and roll music is? Who defines it?
At what point or at what tempo does music cross the line and become “evil”? What instrumentation is necessary to make it evil?
I would dare to say that nobody has a solid answer for these questions that is not based solely on their opinion. Nobody. And judgments such as these, that are based solely on subjective information and personal opinions are not sound judgments at all.
What Does the Bible Say?
If we go back to the Biblical basis for music, and we look at the scriptures, they clearly tell us that everything that has been made was made for the purpose of praising God and lifting Him up. This includes musical instruments.
Nowhere does it say that only harps, pianos, organs and a few other instruments were made for worshiping Him. Not at all.
In fact, we are told that everything that was made, was made to give Him glory and honor!
That would include those loud electric guitars, the banging drums and every other instrument that exists.
Let Me Ask Again
What makes rock & roll music (the sound itself) evil? What is it about the style itself that makes it bad?
How do we define evil music? Again, if we are brutally honest, we will be forced to admit that it would have to come down to what is being said, not what is being played.
Music Has Spiritual Connotations and Impartations
As I mentioned above, country music, which is listened to by millions upon millions of believers, has some pretty bad content. And very few people would classify country songs as evil. But it can be evil, just as rock & roll, or any other musical style, can be evil.
Opera can be evil. Pop music can be evil. Adult contemporary music can be evil. Soft rock can be evil. Jazz can be evil. Blues can be evil. Hip Hop can be evil. And so on.
But they can also be reverent and full of God’s spirit, if they are used as such.
The key to knowing which music is evil or not is taking the time to look beyond the beat and the instruments, and listen to the words that are being sung.
Do those lyrics promote Biblical values? Do they exalt God? Do they point people to God? Do they condemn evil? Do they help the listener draw closer to God or maybe get free from some form of bondage?
These are all of the things we need to listen for when we hear any music, regardless of who it is performed by.
It Goes Both Ways
There are many, many Christian artists who perform music across many genres that is pleasing to God. It points people to God. It exalts God. It promotes Biblical truths.
But, there are also Christians who will occasionally perform a song or two that might not be so pleasing to God. It’s not all that common, but it does happen.
And, on the flip side, there are some non-Christian artists who will occasionally perform a song or two that’s very reverent and brings honor and glory to God.
So, again, it’s not necessarily about who is performing. But it’s always about the lyrics and the performer’s intent.
What Does Their Life Say?
One other thing that we should look at is the life of the performer. This is not a judgmental statement. This is a matter of looking at the life of the performer and evaluating what they’re about overall, and where their values are at.
The reason for this is that a person’s songs will usually portray what their life is like or what’s in their heart. This is not always the case, but it will be most times.
If a person sings about partying, they probably party pretty regularly, or at least think it’s OK to do so.
If they sing about sleeping around, they are probably OK with that too.
If they sing about loving others and treating people they way they want to be treated, that’s probably what’s in their heart.
See where I’m going with this?
There’s a Lot to This
This whole thing can run pretty deep. There’s more to it than simply surface stuff. It can take time and some homework to find out what a particular performer is all about. The Internet can be your best friend for finding this kind of info.
Check an artist’s website. Read their bio. Look at some of their photos. Read some interviews. Usually within 15 – 20 minutes you can get a really good idea of who they are, what they promote and where their heart is at.
Sometimes all it takes is listening to one or two songs. Sometimes it only takes reading two paragraphs on their website.
But, whatever it takes, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure we’re not inviting something terrible into our hearts and our homes by way of their music. Or that we are bringing what is pleasing to God into our hearts and homes.
What Music I Listen To
As I wrap this up, I want to make very sure that nobody reading this gets the mistaken notion that I am promoting, or that I listen to secular rock & roll, or any genre of secular music.
I don’t. I stick to artists who call themselves Christians. I just feel more comfortable doing that because it saves me a lot of time and effort when it comes to having to scour through songs checking for bad content.
Yes, I may occasionally listen to a song that’s not done by a Christian artist, just to check it out. But it’s very rare that I do this.
As I said, I am very, very careful about who and what I allow into my home or my heart.
One Last Thing
If you are a person who likes to listen to whatever happens to catch your ear at the moment, especially music that’s not performed by Christian artists, here’s a piece of wisdom for you to ponder on for a bit.
What you listen to becomes a part of who you are.
You might think this isn’t so, but here’s a little example for you.
Think of a popular song that you listen to and sing along with. Now, listen to and think about the lyrics of that song.
What is it saying?
Do the words exalt God, point you to God or say something that might help you overcome evil in your life?
Or do they sing about topics that are the opposite? Do they sing of envy, jealousy, sex, hatred, death, drunkenness, drugs, spousal abuse, murder, lust, adultery, fornication, or something similar?
Is this some something you’d feel comfortable listening to if Jesus was sitting right beside you?
When you sing along with the song, are you singing things that you would consider pleasing to God?
This is What It’s About
These are the things we need to consider when we choose what we listen to.
Not the beat, the instrumentation, the genre, the style, etc.
This is the “meat and potatoes” of this topic.
What does the song really say if we look (or listen) past the instruments that are being played and the types of sounds they’re making?
What is the heart of the performer if we look past their physical appearance, their hair, their makeup, their tattoos, etc.? What does their life say? What were their intentions when they recorded or performed this song?
This is how we should choose what we listen to. And this is how we should judge music in general.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others and comment below. And if you’d like to see more articles like this one, comment and let us know! We’d love to hear your feedback ?
Pastor Curt & Pastor Ellie