The role of music in the church

There is a non-denominational church near me that is really into their music. I recently politely refused an invitation from their pastor, whom I met while running errands. I have heard about them from many people and their music ministry is their centerpiece. It seems to almost displace the importance of communion, which I understand they do offer at times. They use Christian rock type music and are very proud of it. Can anyone explain how this came to be and if the music is, in fact, the most important part of their worship?

I went to a church like that for a while. And yes, it probably is the most important part of there worship because during those times the loud music and emotional feel of everything seems as if you are having an extreme encounter with the Lord. But I found it distracting and more of a show than a service where you encounter the divine. The sermons are still pretty big at these churches as well but it seems everyone wants them to go quickly so they can get back to the worshiping.

I don’t know the particular church, so I can’t speak to that. However, my church uses contemporary worship music and it’s a big part of our service. However, most of the service is actually preaching (our services run rather long).

We’re proud of our worship team because they do a good job. All are volunteers and its not easy getting up in front of a bunch of people to both sing “pretty” and keep their focus on God, who is the focus of worship.

The musical portions of our services are important because they do several things:

  1. Song lyrics serve an edifying and educational purpose (we sing what we believe)
  2. Godly lyrics paired with music can soften hearts and prepare congregants to hear the Word preached
  3. It allows time for us to celebrate God and to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit to perhaps seek prayer at the altar
  4. It gives the congregation opportunities to participate in the service through singing, dancing, lifting hands, and just praise God (God inhabits the praises of His people)
  5. It attracts people who normally wouldn’t come to hear preaching but may come if there is good music and possibly stick around.

In regards to communion, non-denominational churches (whether they sing traditional hymns or modern worship choruses) don’t typically have communion every Sunday. The frequency varies from church to church. So, the type of music they play really doesn’t have anything to do with that aspect of their worship services.

Separation of worship and preaching is an idea that I just don’t understand. Perhaps it’s just an Evangelical ‘thing’.

To me everything done in a service is worship. That would include the singing, but also the prayers, scripture readings, the homily and yes even the collection.

Evangelicals know that preaching is worship. However, it’s sort of terms for convenience. Most generic evangelical church services have two main parts: 1) the singing and 2) the preaching. The singing is the only time when the congregation can actively take part. During the sermon, the preacher is the only person actively doing something, and the congregation listens (unless you’re in a church that allows the congregants a lot of liberty in praise and response during the sermon). The congregation doesn’t actively take part in the service again until the response.

I don’t know about non-Catholic communities. But there are great works concerning the role of music in the Sacred Liturgy, such as

Musicam Sacram

De Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia

Also, rock may be entertaining, but I advise reading this article concerning Gregorian Chant as a Paradigm of Sacred Music

Within a liturgical context - where the liturgy, in the eyes of the Church, is something sacred that is entrusted to the Church, and over which even the celebrant has no authority - the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the 2002 version, superseded now by the 2011 version) stated:

20 The celebration of the Eucharist, like the entire liturgy, involves the use of outward signs that foster, strengthen, and express faith. There must be the utmost care therefore to choose and to make wise use of those forms and elements provided by the Church which, in view of the circumstances of the people and the place, will best foster active and full participation and properly serve the spiritual well-being of the faithful.
24 For the most part, these adaptations consist in the choice of certain rites or texts, that is, of liturgical songs, readings, prayers, introductory comments and gestures which may respond better to the needs, degree of preparation and mentality of the participants. Such choices are entrusted to the priest celebrant. Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the sacred Liturgy, and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, remove or to change anything in the celebration of Mass. [SC 22]
39 The faithful who gather together to await the Lord's coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and inspired liturgical songs (see Colossians 3:16). Liturgical song is the sign of the heart's joy (see Acts 2:46). Thus Saint Augustine says rightly: "To sing belongs to lovers." There is also the ancient proverb: "One who sings well prays twice."
41 All things being equal, Gregorian chant should hold a privileged place, as being more proper to the Roman liturgy. Other kinds of sacred music, polyphony in particular, are not in any way to be excluded, provided that they correspond with the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.
Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the profession of faith and the Lord's Prayer, set to simple melodies.
42 The gestures and posture of the priest, deacon and the ministers, as well as of the people should allow the whole celebration to shine with dignity and noble simplicity, demonstrating the full and true meaning of each of their diverse parts, while fostering the participation of all. Therefore, greater attention needs to be paid to what is laid down by liturgical law and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite, for the sake of the common spiritual good of the people of God rather than to personal inclination or arbitrary choice.

The music and the message at my Church is incredible. There are thousands of young adults who are members, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

If you find stained glass and statues to be the thing that helps you focus more on Christ, all the best to you. For me it’s contemporary music and our hands raised high in worship together. We use technology to help us focus on Christ. To each their own.

As you know as a Lutheran, it is word and sacrament that defines worship. To the extent that music is used in worship it must reflect doctrine, and it must add to, not subtract from or take the place of word and sacrament.

As for types of music, ISTM as a Lutheran that a lot of contemporary Christian music doesn’t reflect doctrine. It often seems to emphasize what we do, not what God has done for us. But that’s my perspective.


It seems to me that the problem here is pietism, and the distaste that some Evangelicals have for liturgy.

If you could loosen your distaste for liturgy all in the congregation could pray together orally. Then worship would not be a one man show except for the singing.

Insisting on extempore prayer only insures that just one person can pray at a time and the congregation just listens.

To me liturgical prayer is just as ‘sincere’ as extempore prayer. You just have to think about the words and mean them.

I was raised in a fundamentalist church that only allowed extempore prayers, and the prayers were just as mechanical and insincere as any other. One just said the same things as the others, just varying the exact words and inserting “just” at least once in nearly every sentence.

You can start with just saying the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father together as a congregation. The church I was raised in would not even do that, thinking the Lord’s Prayer “too Catholic” and “vain repetition”.

=lutheran farmer;11644455]There is a non-denominational church near me that is really into their music. I recently politely refused an invitation from their pastor, whom I met while running errands. I have heard about them from many people and their music ministry is their centerpiece. It seems to almost displace the importance of communion, which I understand they do offer at times. They use Christian rock type music and are very proud of it. Can anyone explain how this came to be and if the music is, in fact, the most important part of their worship?

NO! It absolutely is NOTMusic, no matter how good or how “moving” can be the most important element. Indeed it is not in an absolute sense required at all. YET it can be meaningful and beneficial in bring one in closer relationship with God. And that is its proper roll.

The Most Holy Eucharist in Catholic Churches is Jesus Christ; God Himself in Person

Then The Gospels are also of equal importance and they ARE the Divinely Inspired words of God.

The problem is not pietism. Pietism actually encourages more laity activity. One can move their entire body in worship in dance before the Lord, one can pray for one another at the altar, and one can even give testimonies and spontaneous exhortation as led by the Spirit.

The problem is that “liturgical participation” in evangelical churches often becomes a spectator sport. This is usually more of a problem among white middle class churches who for whatever reason find it difficult to express their devotion in a congregational setting.

There is nothing more depressing than a “contemporary service” with a praise band worshipping their hearts out and the congregation just watching them.

Something like this?

Music is integral to worship for many Christians. A spoken service without organ/ instruments, hymns or even chanting can leave much to be desired. Remember some of the early Reformers [Calvin, Zwingli] did not want music in the church except psalms.

Music well produced and appropriate to worship can be any kind of genre. Praise bands may not reach everyone but the young people seem to be especially attracted to more modern music.

This is the second time in this thread that you mentioned “altar”. How do Pentecostals understand this term? I didn’t think you had altars?

Altar, in the context of the church sanctuary, refers to the area between the platform and the first row of pews. It is here that people go up to pray during the singing or after the sermon if they feel led.

It’s not just a Pentecostal practice, but many other evangelical churches including non-denominational churches designate this area the “altar.”

These CAF threads may give you more information:

Altar Calls-Non-Catholic/Orthodox

How many protestant denominations use alter rails?

I mostly agree with you, Andrewstx, in that I find written, congregational prayer very beneficial. I think there can be a place for both spontaneous and written prayer in a service, not just one kind. In my experience, the various Evangelical hymnals I’ve seen do have a section of responsive readings, either chapter-long Biblical readings which go back and forth between the leader and the people, or composed prayers. I grew up with responsive readings, then it seemed to die out for a while, and now I’ve seen it be re-introduced. And myself and others have actually asked for more of it, and gotten our request.

Of course, though, I’m going to disagree that pietism itself, rightly understood in an Evangelical context, is a problem. :stuck_out_tongue:

I really like that.

It seemed like when I was a teenager in the early 1980’s, contemporary praise music was just starting to become common. To me, then, it was a special sort of treat to get to sing one of those newer pieces (like Maranatha’s “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”) often in a meditative tone, amidst the more word-dense older hymns; or sometimes a older, very simple but profound, haunting folk hymn like “What Wondrous Love is This” was added among the theologically complex hymns.

Later I came to really appreciate all the hymns, too. And I was thankful I grew having to sing them even though I didn’t particularly like them as a young girl. I was sort of “trained” on them, and singing them now reminds of God’s faithfulness throughout my life at different times.

They DO pray together orally, all together. That’s what the music is. It’s prayer by the entire congregation, together. Do you understand that?

My husband and I were Evangelical Protestant for 47 years. Our prayers, and the prayers of many of our relatives and friends, were not (and are not) “mechanical and insincere.” You can speak for yourself, but you can’t speak for everyone else.

We should all stop judging each other. OP, the answer to your question is “Yes, the music is important in an Evangelical/Pentecostal/non-denominational worship service.”

We as Catholics should have no problem with this, because it is not a Mass, it’s a worship service.

OP, if you read the history of Protestantism, you will see that music in the worship service is very important. The very first Protestant movement, Lutheranism, got started in Germany, and Germans LOVE to sing! (That’s me!) So Martin Luther wrote hymns for them to sing, and sing they did, with all their hearts! To this day, some of the very best congregational singing and organ playing will be found in Lutheran churches, and many Lutheran churches offer a “season” of concerts in addition to their church services.

The same is true of many other Protestant denominations. Singing and music is extremely important in these communities. I converted to Catholicism 10 years ago, and what I miss about Protestantism is the glorious music. Yes, contemporary music, and traditional hymns, and traditional praise, and Gospel, and occasionally classical, and magnificent choir anthems, and whole orchestras in some churches and rock bands! Beautiful!

You can call it “entertainment” if you like but you’re wrong, because it isn’t “entertainment.” We weren’t in church to be entertained, and the musicians weren’t making music to entertain people. We were there to worship God together, as a family, and to hear His Word, to give thanks for all He has done for us, especially on the Cross of Calvary, and to give witness to others of His greatness and power. It wasn’t “happy clappy” time–never! Far from it–it was worship time and it was serious and solemn–yes, clapping for the Lord is solemn.

I do wish that those of you who haven’t been there and haven’t lived it would be careful about using pejorative phrases.

Everyone, think about this–I came to Catholicism through the Evangelical Protestant churches (and so did my husband). For 47 years, we breathed and walked and talked and lived and loved in the Evangelical Protestant churches, and those churches led us to Jesus, Who led us to His Church, the Catholic Church.

Who here will criticize that?

A while back I came across an article
The School Of Rock

snip…With the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s, mainstream churches eventually realized that they were losing young people by the millions. Ironically, one of the earliest groups to realize this was the North American Roman Catholic Church, which adopted “guitar masses” after Vatican Two. Songs like “We Are One in the Spirit” (1966) quickly caught on along young people of other denominations. On church campgrounds, the new choruses easily took their place alongside Folk Revival songs like “Kum Bayah,” “Do, Lord,” and “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” “We Are One in the Spirit,” especially, became a popular way to close campfire gatherings.

The later “Catholic Charismatic” movement also emphasized guitar-based worship, producing other choruses and worship styles that were eventually adopted in Protestant Charismatic fellowships, as well as in youth outreach programs of virtually all denominations. And the church camps continued to attract (what were at the time) contemporary worship songs. By the late 1960s, many Protestant-supported church campgrounds had become collection points for guitar-based Christian “choruses” that teenagers could enjoy singing, even though (back in the church buildings), some of their own church leaders were complaining that any music played on guitar was inherently evil…

I believe the base case is even older. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was touring and recording in the 1930s after all. It probably predates the acceptance of African American church leaders during the Azusa Street revivals but the acceptance of African and/or Black American cultural norms may be a big influence in my opinion

From my experience I see it that the main part is the music in worship. Mainly because it brings an emotional feel which they think is an encounter with the Lord. They also read their Bible, but like many misinterpret or put it out of context. The non denominational church in my area seems to have a lot of youth. (probably because of the rock music and the I’ve got Jesus feels)

Oh, my, my, you’re walking on thin ice.

Be careful about saying things like “…it brings an emotional experience they think is an encounter with the Lord.”

The Bible and the Catholic Church both make it clear that God is there for those who call upon His Name. One does not have to be a Catholic to pray to the Lord and worship Him and encounter Him.

We should be very very careful about denying that God is present or that others know Him, too. Yes, in Protestant and non-Catholic church gatherings, He is not present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and non-Catholics will not experience Jesus Christ as Catholics do, in the Blessed Sacrament during a Holy Communion. But God He is still present even in the absence of the Blessed Sacrament, and people still encounter Him, talk to Him, worship Him, and love Him.

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