The question of contemporary Christian music (CCM) and whether it is God-honoring and appropriate for worship services is one that has been debated for decades. Oddly enough, what should be a source of loveliness and peace—the sweet strains of music—very often produces among Christians hostile disagreements over selections in worship music. In fact, it has become a leading cause of congregational infighting and even church splits! To our shame, there are believers who sulk and fume from their pews if their particular brand of musical taste is not satisfied. Studies and surveys in churches are showing that music ministers are among the most stressed people in Christian ministry.
Musical tastes are as varied as church members themselves. There are those who love the old hymns while others much prefer a more contemporary flavor. Some music ministers have attempted to appease everyone by blending the old with the new. Other churches offer two separate worship services each Sunday—one being traditional and the other a contemporary service. Still, there are churches that tenaciously cling to old-fashion tradition. I know of a local pastor who is fond of bragging, “You won’t hear any contemporary music in our church! We remain true to the old hymns!” What he fails to realize is that even the old hymns were “contemporary” when they were first written. In contrast, there are churches in which the music is played at an ear-splitting volume resembling that of an armored vehicle crossing a minefield.
There are those who argue the old hymns are a tangible link to our past. This is certainly true, for these hymns have surely withstood the test of time. Many of the old hymns, too, are rich in Christian doctrine. The lyrics of Charles Wesley or Martin Luther, as examples, give magnificent instruction in sound Christian theology. But there are also some wonderful Christian artists glorifying the name of Christ Jesus with their talents. Far too often we allow our own personal taste in music to become the standard for what music is glorifying to God. Instead, we should allow, even promote, Christian freedom and grace in musical preferences. Our primary concern should be for well-being and harmony in the body of Christ, and sometimes that means suborning personal preferences to the greater good.
People are always asking if drums or keyboards or, yes, if electric guitars belong in the church. All musical instruments are, in themselves, neither good nor bad. So the question is this: Does a style of music edify believers while bringing honor and glory to Christ Jesus? If so, then what difference does it make if the accompaniment is provided by a piano or a guitar? Perhaps Ephesians 5:19 is the answer to this issue in that it promotes worshipping the Lord and encouraging other believers in three different “styles” of music, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”