News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Readers reflect diverse harmonies in debate over music/worship styles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The electronic mailbag arrived in Nashville filled with dispatches from folks chiming in on last week’s essay concerning America’s “worship wars” (Baptist Press, Feb. 7).

Whether you subscribe to the old school of traditional hymns or have graduated to the praise & worship genre, the responses were fairly opinionated.

My personal favorites were from two local fellows. One gentleman shared that in his church they sing the popular chorus, “I could sing of your love forever.”

“And we usually do,” he replied. “Over and over and over and over again. One time, we sang it for five minutes.”

Another reader, this one a bit younger, wanted to know why a song about angel body parts was in the Baptist Hymnal.

For the record, it’s “All hail the pow’r of Jesus name, let angels prostrate fall.”

Here’s a sampling from our mailbag:


Your article about music in the church, Feb 7, 2001, struck a chord in me. I have been a backsliding Christian for a number of years and am just now returning to worship my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’ve done a quick scan across the radio dial listening for that familiar music from my childhood. I found nothing. Finally, I asked a few people who have been active in my church for a long time. They gave me several stations to tune to. I tried them and couldn’t believe my ears. The lyrics were talking about Jesus, but the music and beat were from Satan himself. It reminded me of a group I heard of in California called “Hookers for Christ.” I’m sorry, but I can’t be persuaded that that music could ever honor Jesus. Show me a church with that old gospel music I heard as a child, and I’ll show you a church that loves Jesus deep down in their soul. They don’t have to feel it or blow their eardrums out to do it…. –R.N.


… My heart lies clearly with more traditional hymns, although I serve a church that splits time between traditional hymns and Southern Gospel music. It’s funny how, as many Georgia and Florida Baptist churches as there are with paperback Stamps-Baxter books in the pew racks or music rooms, that genre never gets mentioned in the “hymns vs. contemporary” debate.

If you weren’t being facetious, I’d like to invite you to reread a paragraph you wrote. … The very next sentence was: “I’m not quite sure where I stand on the issue of worship style.” Hey, Todd, I am. As soon as you set the dichotomy of “great songs of the faith” vs. “Backstreet Boy theatrics,” I think you tipped your hand. I enjoyed the article, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the attempt to be neutral with such strong feelings showing through. — R.C.


I think this is a very relevant article, however, I don’t think that to sing traditional music means you have to have a traditional, dead worship service. The old hymns can be sung with as much joy and enthusiasm as choruses. I fail to see why it has to be an either-or situation. Why not some of both? — B.U.


Great article on worship wars. I hope it wakes up some folks to the need for a bit of flexibility. Young people need to learn the hymns of old or they will miss the theology they teach. At the same time, older members gain a great blessing when they learn the joy of singing “to” God instead of just “about” God. — S.N.


I just read your article on music in the church. It was great. What a dilemma we have from all this — in all denominations. It will be interesting to see if this is still such a controversial issue in the next 25 years. — D.B.


The key words in Brother Starnes’ article were “Sunday morning worship experience.” To many younger Christians, worship is something that happens to them rather than something that they do. The degree to which our modern-day service is dependent upon emotion rather than intellectual commitment will become as deadly to the church as it has been to marriage. The act of worship in the Bible is a picture of a person falling down before a white-hot holy God and crawling like a dog to lick his hand. No person can truly say that they’ve met with God unless they, like Isaiah, are “undone.” — E.C.


… It’s good to hear a reasoned view of the issue. To me, the problem comes when worship leaders think people want choruses, so they use Gaither stuff from 20 years ago. Or they’ll take a chorus and then only sing the “chorus” part of it, leaving the content rich verse part. Then, they sing it about four times in a row. I just don’t get it. Good worship leaders use both powerful hymns and choruses (actually a better term would be modern worship songs) in a way that makes it difficult to ignore the words being sung. And the bulk of the songs are sung to God, not to each other. — J.D.

So, there you have it folks. For the most part, we Christians are a passionate bunch of folks. Perhaps in the coming days, we can become just as passionate about our desire to worship a God who is truly worthy to be praised.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes