In Unceasing Worship, Harold Best makes the statement that it's important that we never confuse the "beauty of holiness" with the "holiness of beauty." These comments are made when he is cautioning against placing too much emphasis on art and its "mystical" qualities—in other words, linking the presence of God with art. What is dangerous about elevating art (specifically, music) to a place of prominence in worship? Or is it necessarily a bad thing?

Some critics believe that elevating music during worship services can lead to a misconstrued emotional experience, thereby taking the emphasis away from Biblical truths and swaying people to react to a staged experience. Biblically, music during worship is mentioned only briefly, and the focus is generally instructional. It's important that the musical segment of the worship experience not become a distraction from the actual worship of God.

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Music in and of itself isn't a bad thing. After all, the Psalms contain songs of both praise and lamentations, and music is mentioned in the Bible, such as in Ephesians 5:19: "Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord."

Yet a growing number of believers take issue with the way music is elevated in today's houses of worship. In many congregations, music is presented as a sacrament itself, helping to foster the belief that the music brings worshippers into a closer communion with God. The musical part of the service is often accompanied by concert lighting, stage smoke, numerous backup singers, and sometimes a deafening volume. In short, it looks and feels much like a concert experience. A central question thus develops: Are worshippers emotionally moved because of their environment or because they are particularly God-centered in those moments?

Contemporary worship has found its share of critics recently, even among believers. Some claim that these lyrics are often shallow and vapid, more insistent on working worshippers into an emotional frenzy rather than delivering Biblically sound truths. See the link below for one example of the criticism surrounding fairly recent changes in the worship experience in churches. The following passage from the linked argument is of particular note:

Out goes the anchoring presence of Christ’s altar, in comes the pulsating drum set. Out goes the logocentric pulpit, in comes the ephemeral plexi-glass podium. Out goes the preacher covering his own sinfulness with vestments, in comes the stylish pop-star wannabe. Out goes the communal permanent pew, in comes the individualistic stadium seating. Out goes the sensual tangibility of candles and incense, in comes the fantastical spotlights and fog machine. Out goes the pipe organ designed to accompany theologically rich congregational singing, in comes the color-coded mic stands for the performers. Out goes the memory-facilitating physical hymnal, in comes the transience of words projected on the screen. All of these changes are much more than just a style-swap.

The worship service should be centered around the Word of God. Believers should focus their emotions on divine truths, such as the forgiveness of sins and the need for a Savior. In numerous churches across America, these holy truths are overshadowed by a concert-like pre-show experience. In fact, churches sometimes designate as much time (or more time) to the musical segment of the service than to the actual sermon.

Ultimately, the elevation of music can lead to a misguided worship experience. When in doubt, look back to the life of Christ Himself. There is very little in the Bible about the importance of music in worship, and even less about music that focuses on humanity's feelings about God. Instead, authentic biblical worship focuses on the teachings of Christ and on Godly truths, which should always remain as the predominant focal point of worship.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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