Music for worship: Jazz and Pop and Rock, oh my

Here’s a link to a discussion on jazz and popular music in worship, with lots of responses and some disagreements expressed. Hat tip to CHAD from

Here are a couple of sites that express some strong opinions about music in worship, with very conservative opinions. Not coincidentally, both sites appear to subscribe to the King James Version as the “real” Bible.

On the other hand, check these out:


Both of the above are “commercial sites”, but the fact that they’re in business seems to imply that someone THINKS they’re worshipping God with jazz.

A little history here:

A couple more interesting links:

Well, enough of this. And now, for all you naysayers about modern pop music, and how we should go back to the proper worship music: read some music history, especially medieval and renaissance, and then we’ll talk. In the meantime, consider that we have not a fuzzy clue how ANY music sounded that is mentioned in the Bible. Apparently, it was more important to God that we MAKE music, not that we make the RIGHT music (as if there is such a thing).

In the meantime, try not to muddy up your thinking about music in worship, and particularly which styles of music are appropriate, by thinking about lyrical content common in certain styles for secular audiences. Denying those styles in the church is like denying the use of English poetry because some of it is too sensual for your tastes.

Anybody wanna guess which classic hymns and chorales are direct lifts from which German bar songs of bygone centuries? Which hymns originated with lyrics of a considerably, uh, baser nature?

Here’s someone who disagrees regarding Luther’s hymns:

and about the Wesleys

I still suspect a considerable interpenetration of sacred and secular music over the centuries. I do believe that “sacred” and “secular” are deeply artificial categories, and in connection with music, these categories are normally used to defend personal taste more than divine dispensation.

Here’s a pretty good article on all of this:

Bottom line for me, before I go back to posting more on the “background” of these discussions (I’m still promising a post on art and music): make a joyful noise unto the Lord. If you’re gonna make it where people can hear it, consider making it in a musical style they understand, at least a bit. Try not to confuse your stylistic prejudice with God’s perspective. And if you really want to go back to the “good old days” of the church, you’d better climb into your time machine and find out what was going on before Gregorian chant. Let me know when you find out. I’m pretty sure, though, that it didn’t sound like Luther, or Wesley, or Bach, or (fill in the blank here).

3 thoughts on “Music for worship: Jazz and Pop and Rock, oh my

  1. I’d say there were different musics for different occasions.

    There was music for Temple worship, and then there was music to accompany Salome’s dance before Herod.

    Same music? Cross-compatible?

    I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

  2. Hmm… yep, there’s no way to know. However, whatever associations the styles had with extramusical contexts, it will be pretty difficult to make a case that the context in which the music typical appeared automatically makes the music itself deserving of the moral judgment applied to the context. I.e., rap is used to say all kinds of evil things. So is some heavy metal music. That music appears, typically, in certain contexts in our culture. Does that mean the music itself, with different lyrics (or none), can’t be “redeemed” for use in worship?

    The tradition of banning certain styles in certain contexts is not a proud one, and pretty much ALWAYS looks silly in retrospect… so we should consider very carefully when we undertake to do it again.

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