I Hate the Worship at That Church

What an incredible thing to say, but I’m sure that many of you have heard someone say it or something like it.  Maybe they don’t say hate, maybe they just say “didn’t like.”  Regardless, it is still a strange thing to say.  Several things strike me about such a statement. 

First, how did music style preference become such a huge controversy in church?  Sure there are some styles of worship music in churches that I might find cheesy or old fashioned.  But for everyone of me that thinks that there are dozens who are connecting their hearts with God and worshipping him.  Some may find the worship at our church a little, shall we say loud? Someone once described it as “loud and sounds like a rock concert.”  It took me just a second to realize that this person was not giving us a compliment.  I understand musical preference, but what I do not understand and cannot tolerate is castigating other styles of worship as “bad.”

Which gets to the larger point, worship is not the same as music.  You can have worship without worship music and you can have worship music without worship.  Right now I sit in the lobby of FBCLR and worship music is playing, but I am not worshipping to that music, I am typing.  Worship is not simply singing.  It is your heart connecting with God’s heart.  It is you demonstrating with your words and with your life that you love God and are completely devoted to God.  Worship is an expression of your heart.  If I walk into the most traditional of worship services and hear a hymn, I should be able to worship.  If the words and music of that hymn do not captivate my heart, then I assure you problem is not with the minister of music or the organist, it is with me.

I should be able to worship God in any style of music.  More than that, I should be able to praise and worship God when I see Lauren (my 9 yr old daughter) winning her soccer tournament.  I praise God for the beautiful, sweet, strong young lady she is becoming.  I should praise God just by waking up to another day, a day that is a gift from God.

Worship is so much more than being in a worship service where music is played that you prefer.  Worship is you from your heart appreciating and praising God for the amazing God that he is.


16 Responses to “I Hate the Worship at That Church”
  1. Alana Boles says:

    I totally agree with this! I have an aunt who thinks any worship song other than hymns is wrong and that anything with drums is not “of God.” Ugh.

  2. Libby Westcott says:

    Very well said, Charlie! Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Toby Simmons says:

    Hmm. Okay, let me don my devil’s advocate hat. (There, that’s better.) What if the style of music being played is distracting to a worshipper? For example, should everyone be able to worship equally on Easter morning to, say, a death-metal (as a style) worship band or maybe a screamo-style band?

    I don’t think so. I think that there are some who will have no trouble worshipping in spirit and truth with harder styles or music (I like it loud!), while there are others who would be hard-pressed to EVER worship with that kind of music playing. It is just too distracting to them.

    My point is that I don’t think you can say with a blanket statement that style of music doesn’t matter … it would be like saying everyone must love the flavor of pickles and ice cream or horseradish.

    God is a God of diverse styles in nature (hot vs. cold; bright vs. darkness; vivid colors vs. monochromatic; thundering storms vs. quiet breezes.) There are times for clapping; there are times for dancing; there are times for mourning.

    My tolerance for volume may be wayyyyy different from someone who, for example, is deaf in one ear and is sensitive to loud music (like my wife is.)

    Just my 2 pence.

    Thanks brother,


  4. cloften says:

    Hey Toby,

    I’m not sure which part of what you said that I am supposed to disagree with. I agree with everything you are saying. The issue with different styles is one of preference. To say that I prefer one style over another is very different than the way that most people talk about “other” worship styles.

    I also would not attend a death-metal worship style church, but if I asked to speak there, I would worship with them. I wouldn’t castigate them. I would encourage them in the people they are reaching and wish them the best.

    God is diverse and God appreciates the diversity of worship that is out there. My hope is that we would appreciate them all as well. If I had anything else to add, I would hope that the driving choice behind the style we choose to worship would be what is reaching people not what I enjoy.

    Good word, Toby.

    Mi dos centavos,

  5. Ann P. says:

    I think I know what Toby means.

    My husband grew up with older, quieter styles of worship music, and he is a very literal-minded person. He often CANNOT worship when the music is rockabilly, blaring-guitar style. Perhaps that is just the way his brain is wired. It does disturb him when he comes to worship, and gets an environment that distracts him from doing so.

    I happen to like the modern worship music, as well as the older styles I grew up with. My only problem is, they turn the music up SO LOUD, it makes me physically ill, and sets my ears ringing. Not impossible, but again, very hard to worship when your head is pounding like a jackhammer and you cannot sing for fear of barfing everywhere.

    I do not criticize the style..perhaps only the delivery of said music. I appreciate honest worshipers, whatever their worship style within what biblical guidelines there are.

  6. Aaron Reddin says:

    Sometimes I worship more (deeper level) to Pearl Jam than I do to Hillsong. So what! I don’t need “good music” to find God. If I want him bad enough, I’ll find him anywhere i’m at….

    (i still don’t want to hear a hymn though, no matter what you say charlie!)

  7. Steven Smith says:

    I once heard a wise pastor say “We must be careful not to let our worship become more about the template than about the praise of our creator.” As someone who thinks it is easier to get outside myself and focus on Christ (instead of the off-key person standing next to me) I think it is vitally important for churchs to make their decision regarding noise level based on scientific observation. I’ve worked at a church that kept the volume in the “as close to 75 decibels as possible” envelope and even used a meter during rehearsal to verify the peaks. Even in that situation I’ve had someone tell me the music was just killing their ears. Have you ever felt the thunder of a large pipe organ? It is a glorious experience!! Do you know why? They produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 decibels at full tilt. The OSHA daily permissible noise level exposure accepts 2 hours per day at 100 db’s. Just something to think about on the subject of volume.

  8. Jules Rusinowski says:

    As usual you are right on target again. It is a matter of heart and soul. I can understand preferences and that is what is so great about all the differnt churches that are available to us. If you like hymns, go to a traditional denomination. If you like contemporary, go to Fellowship. If you don’t like instruments, go to Church of Christ. If you like hard rock, I can’t tell you where to go. I think people need to go to a church where they are most comfortable with the worship style they like, but if you are truly wanting to worship God, I believe you can do it anywhere, if you choose to.

  9. Dee W. says:

    I think Charlie is just saying that “Worship is so much more than being in a worship service where music is played that you prefer.” God designed us to worship him with our whole life. Everything we do… can… and should be an act of worship. Prayer, reading the Bible, obeying God, tithing, community with other christians, serving others, thankfulness, sharing faith… These are just some of the ways we should worship on a daily basis. Music is a small facet of worship! I think Charlie is just saying we should respect different styles of worship music… not share your negative feedback with others. After all, it is your opinion. Sing the worship songs that you connect best with God, but please try not to belittle other styles because you don’t understand or connect with them. If the volume is too loud, ask the tech team (with love) where the best seats are for you… There is usually always a section of seats to sit in that isn’t where sound is blaring. Sound can be tricky.

  10. Larry says:

    While some people do get hung up on the whole issue of musical styles, in many cases, the whole stye discussion is actually masking the real issue – a lack of true worship. Sometimes when people say that they hate the worship at a given church, or that the worship feels dead to them, it isn’t really the music that is the problem. It is because there is very little real worship going on. People will tend to mask the true issue by trying to blame it on that person’s preference for certain musical styles, but, in truth, the style is pretty much irrelevant.

    I heard a great definition of sacred music a while back. It was: “Sacred music is sung for the glorification of Almighty God and the sanctification of the saints.” That really is the purpose of music in church – to glorify God and sanctify the saints. Anything else is just noise, regardless of musical style. The dictionary definition of “hymn” is: a song specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer. By this definition, every song we sing or play in church, should be a hymn. Sadly, many of the songs in adopted by the modern church in the past 20 years have their focus on us, and tend to be shallow, without real content or meaning. Although there are some nuggets of pure gold out there, there is also a lot of fools gold. The abundance of 7-11 songs (7 words sung 11 times) bears witness to that. The church has fallen victim to the commercial marketing machine that cranks out new “praise” songs at an alarming rate. Most music ministers will get a dozen or so CDs a month full of new songs to check out. If the “christian” music companies throw enough stuff at the wall, they know that something will stick.

    The musical shift in the last 10 years has been frightening to watch. Churches now focus on having the cool, young, hip guitar player as the “music minister”, and if you play any instrument that would fall outside of a standard rock band, you are no longer welcome. Only the beautiful people need apply now – young, physically attractive, professional-level talent is all that is desired. The average person no longer has a place other than in the crowd. Most choirs are gone, and your average singers can’t pass audition in most churches. Read the music forums sometime for full-time worship leaders and see the types of things they discuss – it will give you chills. A lot of it is focused on how to keep everyone but hand-selected professionals off the stage, and how to keep the few people they do allow on the stage under absolute control. There is a reason why they want it that way……music in most churches has become all about performance.

    Most modern churches have given themselves over to worldly marketing philosophies of how to get people in the door and how to fill the seats. In discussions I’ve had with worship leaders, they have told me to my face that worship isn’t their primary focus anymore..they are focused on using music as a marketing tool. One church I used to attend openly says that they want the music to be the best that the people have ever heard so that people will keep coming back and bring their friends. So, Almighty God needs a band now to pack the pews? Guess the Holy Spirit wasn’t doing His job. I’ve had many people in recent years tell me that they love to go to church for the music, and that they don’t care if the pastor preaches or not. One person told me it is like a free rock concert every week, and who can turn that down? (her words) In our misguided search to be culturally relevant, we have completely become like the world we somehow hope to influence.

    This topic was recently discussed on a worship leader forum, and one of the commenters said it very well

    “…..What I find lacking is a genuine concern for the people we worship leaders have been leading in worship all of these years.I find that most worship leaders are more concerned about defending their right to express themselves artistically than they are in the condition of their congregations………To me, the real issue isn’t whether or not our Modern Worship has become corrupt or not – the issue must become: has our Modern Worship produced any fruit or not in the congregations we’ve been leading……As a missionary for the past 17 years, I have traveled a lot and have been to many different churches throughout North America as well as Europe and I have consistently seen a similar pattern in most of the churches I’ve attended who incorporate our so called, “Modern Worship” – what I consistently see are congregations that are filled with “Spectators”. What’s even more troubling is most of the worship leaders who are leading these congregations are so busy producing great sounding worship services that they don’t even notice that the majority of the people they are supposedly leading in worship are just standing around spectating. …….The real tragedy of Modern Worship is that it hasn’t produced the lovers of God we once saw in the “Old Days” when contemporary worship first started showing up. The bottom line is I don’t see any fruit from it…………..Love should always be the driving force behind our worship and the way we worship our God. I think Modern Worship became – as you say “Corrupt” only because worship was no longer being driven by love. Instead, it was being driving by musical style and artistic expression and yes, even money was driving it as it was becoming so commercialized. Granted, the music in our Modern Worship these days sounds so much better than it did in it’s infancy stages back in the 70’s and 80’s, but without the love, really, it has become nothing more than a clanging symbol.

    Now, I could be wrong on this, but if so many people in the church are complaining about “Modern Worship” becoming “Corrupt”, don’t you think it might be because so many people recognize how truly empty the sound of clanging symbols really sounds.

    For me, when worship is driven by the heart, then the fruit will always be Love. When it’s driven by the music, then the fruit will always be a clanging symbol. When Love drives worship then I believe what you will eventually find on the other end is a congregation filled with lovers of God. When the music is what drives worship, then what you will find is exactly what we have today – Song Singers or worse – Spectators.”

    Elsewhere the person sums it up succinctly by saying, “We have come to love the music and musical worship more than the God we are supposed to be worshiping.”


  11. JRo says:

    At FSK LR we teach that worship is “loving God, remembering God and giving our lives back to God – everyday!”

  12. JD Sykes says:

    It’s all in what you bring to the table, not in what the table brings to you. I am convinced that there is no power in Heaven or Earth that can keep someone whose heart yearns to be closer to God from worshiping Him. True worship can happen regardless of the surroundings. If you need proof read a little from Paul! The where, when, and what’s going on around you should never inhibit your connection with God.

  13. rh says:

    Well, I believe myself to be quite balanced when it comes to audio levels, and sunday production. My musical preference is louder, harder, more distorted guitars – less brass section. But I work at a church that lends itself to an older style of music. BUT, thats all that it is, a musical preference. Worship is not a musical style.

    I find it funny (ok, when i say “funny” i mean “stupid”) that churches call their music ministry the Worship Ministry (my church included) when we are supposed to look at all of life as an opportunity to “worship”. So the whole church should be called the “Worship Ministry”, since churches are focused on bettering lives, loving people to the cross, and helping where we can. THAT’S WORSHIP, not the music that is played on Sunday!

    And for seconds, I hear everyone talking about how loud music is distracting, and that they cant worship at all, and it makes them physically ill… well, I pose this question to you. When was the last time that you had your ears checked out? Seriously? Have you ever gone to an audiologist and had them tested? You could have an issue that you need some correction for. That may be special ear plugs to limit the decibel level hitting your ear drum. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    Look at it this way, you have your vision checked yearly, bi-yearly, and if there are issues you get glasses. But, you dont go to the theater to see a movie without your glasses, then complain to the manager, demanding your money back, because the focus was off the whole time, and you did “get anything out of” the movie! No, your bring your glasses, and prepare your eyes to have the best experience you can have for your money…

    Why the lack of preparation, when you are going to corporately worship the one you say is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU!??

    And worship is not about what you can get out of it, or how well you can connect to the songs or the worship leader. When you stand before God, and He asks why you didn’t enter in and worship Him, are you really gonna be able to play the blame game? I bet you He wont be apologetic about the musical style of “that church”.

    and now I jump off my soapbox… Love you all.

  14. Dave, Le Grand says:

    Charlie, I just think you are way off base. Worship only happens on Sunday right after Sunday school, hence the name “worship service.” And if the Baptist Hymnal was good enough for Peter and Paul, it’s good enough for me. And what’s with all these computery things being used at church (and by “church,” I refer to its true meaning of the building where people have real worship services involving Puritan songs and not pesky modern music). Jesus didn’t have to use computers, so why should we. God bless anyone except Democrat Presidents!

  15. Scott Fitzgerald says:

    If one equate worship solely based off a of style or genre of music, it is time for that individual to develop a Biblcal, God-Centered reality of what exactly worship is. Worship is merely a response to what God has done for us in Christ and as he leads us by Holy Spirit. There are many people singing songs of the faith whose lives do not accurately reflect worship throughout their marriage, their jobs, their relationships, their everyday life. How we connect with and respond to God through everyday life is worship. Simply put, worship happens from a heart that is captivated by Christ and responds in a desire to only please Him. You can change someone’s tire and worship. The most intense conversation I have ever encountered on this subject occured between my boss and I when I worked at a donut shop in college. Rob was rather upset that his cake donuts had folded and not set properly and he was going to have to begin the process all over again. He was earnestly dejected by this. I looked at Rob and said, “Hey man. It’s just a donut. Nothing more. Nothing less.” Rob looked at me and said, “Scott, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you do it to the glory of God.” I was floored. It was on that day that i realized that God isn’t so much concerned with the donut; however, He is greatly concerned with the heart that the donut maker brings to the dough.

  16. Scott Fitzgerald says:

    And modern worship is not becoming corrupt. The same Holy Spirit that moved men and women to write hymns to the tune of bar songs is the same Holy Spirit moving men and women to pen songs for the church today.

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