Church Music

I recently read C.S. Lewis’s “Christian Reflections” where he has a short chapter with his thoughts on church music. I decided to write on the topic as well, seeing as I agreed with much of what Lewis said. I realize that after I write this, some of my readers might think I’m somewhat of a Philistine. Oh well. 

Lewis says that he is like many laymen. He wants the hymns to be fewer, better, and shorter, and particularly fewer. Many of you might be surprised to hear that. I don’t think it’s because Lewis was an intellectual. I consider my roommate an intellectual as well, and he’s quite the music lover and in the praise band at our church.

Honestly, church music is rather an awkward time for me during the service. I’m standing there listening and I consider the magic words to be “You may all be seated.” I would often much rather sit and listen and meditate, which is often what I do during prayer. I will normally sit, because I see it as a position of humility and it reminds me that he is God and I am not.

Now I’m not against all music of a Christian nature. For instance, if someone plays “Holy, Holy, Holy” I am deeply moved. It is not though because of the cadence of the music as it were. It is because of the great propositional truth that I find contained in that song. I particularly love to hear, “God in three persons. Blessed Trinity.”

I have another friend from where I used to live until he moved away who is a huge music fan and the worship leader at his church. (Do pray for him also. He’s in hard times now.) We’d listen to music in my car and if I thought a song was good he’d say “But it’s all on the same chord.” If he thought one was good I’d say “But the lyrics are hideous.” Now there were some songs we liked together like “This Fragile Breath” and a number of Casting Crowns songs, but there weren’t many.

Ironically, if you want to talk about music that does present an emotional response, I think of something like Smallville’s “Save Me” or as strange as it may sound, give me music from a classic video game and I’m set. I enjoy Evanescence and yes, I’m one of those crazy people that listens to Weird Al. To end the list, the tunes of House and Monk are also popular to me.

For me, church music doesn’t really do it. I think much of what I like is either associated with something else or it’s instrumental. When I hear church music, I’m too busy analyzing the lyrics in order to really get into the music of it all.

A little note if you are a musician and playing before the untrained like myself. If you make a mistake, unless it is a huge and obvious blunder, don’t sweat it. Most of us don’t recognize it. 

Now what does excite me is a good message. You give me something new on the nature of God and I’m set. That’s the way it is. You may not be like that. That’s fine. That’s something we have to realize. I’d prefer shorter songs. You might prefer shorter sermons. 

So some of you all might be wondering then what my stance would be on music in church. I like what Lewis said. He said that while he doesn’t get particularly edified, he realizes that there are others that are and the best thing to do is let them enjoy it. If it enhances their worship, great. If I can stand for a time and ponder lyrics and try to get theological truth, then that’s fine as well.

Now it could be that this is something wrong in my temperament and I’ll get past it later. I don’t know. I just know more often than not, I’d prefer to sit down with a good book instead of listening to some music. It’s the way that I relax. 

That’s my thoughts on the matter. Why speak? Because I wonder if maybe some people are like me also and we need to realize that the body of Christ is diverse in this and there are different ways of worship. I certainly have no desire to see music expunged from the church at all as it has always been a part of the church and neither would Lewis. I would like to see though more depth to the songs that we do have. If all were like “Holy, Holy, Holy,” I think my response might be quite different.

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3 Responses to “Church Music”

  1. ConfesSword Says:

    Maybe you’ll like the lyrics of this hymn:

    http://www.saintjonah.org/services/thanksgiving.htm

  2. tshirtninja Says:

    I feel the same way a lot of times during church or in a worship service at my college. I tend to get especially irked when I hear a Philips, Craig, and Dean song played since they believe in modalism. However, I really tend to favor older hymns because of their simplicity, God-centered focus, and theological profundity. I especially like it when old hymns are set to modern music because I think the sound flows really well.

  3. Derek Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There needs to be less music in church, better music in church, or — preferably — both. And one thing I’ve come to realize is that that lyrically-garbage music that’s so popular right now isn’t all that musically good either. CCM is by and large bad no matter what angle you look at it from.

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