In my last entry, I tried to deal with the profile of a Music Minister who tends to take his church’s music too far (or at least in a way that is detached from the congregation) to the classical and academic side. If you have not yet read that entry you can do so here to have context for today’s entry.
Today, I want to deal with Music Ministers who may also go too far in the other direction—that of doing only what I will refer to as “pop” music. To better clarify, what I mean by “pop” music is music that is of a more basic nature, music that does not require classical education to produce, but music that also usually requires skilled musicianship in its own right. But compared to music of classical or neo-classical influence, pop music is generally chord-driven with syncopation used as a driving force in its styling. It also usually incorporates guitars (electric and acoustic) and drums.
Before you make any snap judgments, let me say that I enjoy much of what I just defined as pop music and often lead numerous songs Sunday-to-Sunday at
You will NOT answer to your own personal tastes. Why do so many Music Leaders run off and leave their congregations by pushing too quickly into popular music? Why do we see many church plants started rather than simply reforming an existing church? I believe it comes down to convenience and personal preference.
To what are most Music Leaders listening? The local CHR (Christian Hit Radio) station. Who has the most influence and who are most Music Leaders wishing to be? The Chris Tomlin’s and the Matt Redman’s and the Dave Crowder’s control the airwaves and it is an easy trap for many Music Leaders to fall into to begin dreaming about being the next hot artist. I’ve been there….I’ve done that. I’m not accusing anyone else of anything that I haven’t done or continue to wrestle against.
Because of that influence, it can seem antithetical to then kick off a service with your local church’s limitations singing the same old songs you’ve been singing for years. It’s tempting to want to bring in the latest “hot” Christian worship song so as to feel a bit closer to the guys to whom you are listening. It’s alright to admit it. We all struggle with it. I’m even aware of some Senior Pastors who make the same mistake. They just won’t tolerate where their church music is “at”.
But here’s the problem—the platform at your church is not yours. It is the Lord’s and He wants it to be used to edify and encourage His Bride. One guiding passage that bears on this challenge is from Philippians:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil 2:3-5
Are you providing music that connects with your congregation in their best interests? Now, if you are leading music in an urban environment and your congregation is filled with college-aged and twenty-somethings, you might not be doing music that is “pop” enough! But chances are, you may be running the risk of providing musical diets that are a bit too edgy for most conservative congregations. Just because doing pop music connects with you (as the Lead Musician) doesn’t mean that it’s connecting with your congregation.
You WILL answer to God. Just as I said in the previous entry, I say it again—everything you do must be from the perspective of the glory of God. Don’t miss the point of this discussion. I’m not saying that moving your church’s music toward pop styles is wrong. What I’m asking you is what is your motive in doing so?
If you have a Senior Pastor and Elders who are guiding you to make your church’s music styles more current, then you should feel much freedom in doing so. But keep in mind that it’s a marathon—not a spring. Just as I said before: think trajectory. If you can tell that working with only a piano and organ is putting your congregation to sleep, it may be time to freshen up your musical palette. (Please also keep in mind that I’m assuming that everything that you’re singing is truth-driven and cross-centered….If not, we’ve got an entirely different problem!)
You’ve got to remember that you are there to serve your church—not the other way around. Eli’s sons thought that the church was there to serve them (1 Samuel 2). Just as the Lord didn’t take lightly Hophni and Phineas—the scriptures actually call them “worthless men”—so He will not take lightly your making an idol out of using the church platform to pursue professional and musical ambitions.
Be careful that in introducing pop music to your congregation that you’re not doing so with a “three-pronged fork” and demanding your way. Only do so with much prayer, much counsel, and much soul-searching. Notice that I’ve not given concrete guidelines for how long, how much, and how drastic to make changes in your church’s music program. Each situation is different and subjective. But application of humility, of a servant’s heart, and submission to church leadership is constant and objective.
As you can see from the past two entries, it’s easy to sin on either side of the stylistic debate. I’ve had a history of taking church music programs to some classical expressions that had to have stretched some congregants. I’ve also had a history of making changes towards pop music expressions.
I’ve been guilty of violating my own counsel. But I’ve also experienced the joy of seeing congregants enjoy singing to music that better relates to them by adding in some pop music expressions. I hope that you can learn from my mistakes and successes. And I pray that whatever you do, you do it as to make much of Christ and the gospel!