The Idol Of Stylistic Preferences In Worship Music

by Bobby Gilles

in Worship Leading

“Addiction to a style inevitably leads to a fear of variety. Are we afraid to assume that God is the Lord of continuous variety and first-day newness? ‘Not in my style, therefore I cannot worship’ represents this particular idol … The foolishness of style-centered worship is exposed by the nature of God’s creatorhood, namely that he does not confine himself to one vocabulary or one language.”

— Harold Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, p. 169

We are all so quick to champion our style and codify it as “the way worship music has to be.” And this behavior is just apparent in those outside the majority (in other words, “the indie crowd”) as those inside (“contemporary worship”). We say, “Enough of the Chris Tomlin style! Our sound will be like … Sigur Ros!” Or “Mumford and Sons!” And so we end up with a congregation that, up until now, was belting out anthems like this at the top of their lungs:

The Godhead Three in One
Father, Spirit, Son
Lion and the Lamb
Lion and the Lamb
How great is our God! Sing with me,
How great is our God!

And now they don’t know how in the world they’re supposed to sing along with this new style. But we don’t care, because we know better than they do. We, after all, are artistes.

And so, we’ve just done the same thing we criticize others for doing.

Leaders must sometimes lay aside their preferences. Followers must sometimes lay aside their preferences. The young, the old, the expert, the novice and everyone must sometimes lay aside their stylistic preferences when the church gathers — no matter what those stylistic preferences are, as long as we’re left with something that stirs affections for Christ in the true revelation of Himself, and something our congregation finds singable.


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