As an 18-year-old Adventist, I often find myself in an awkward position within the church.
I sometimes feel that my church doesn’t listen to my age group. One of the main areas of disagreement is music. This has sent many of my friends skipping merrily away from the church.
There is a disconnect between my generation and current church leadership. While some people deny it, the proof is on the paper. According to Christianity Today and Cold Case Christianity, about 70 percent of young adults “drop out” of church between the ages of 17 and 20. Of this percentage, roughly 30 percent say they leave because of the negative focus on music. This list of four and a half questions may help us.
1. Is this struggle worth our salvation? Music is important in our walk with Christ. There are seraphim in heaven singing the eternal song “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8).* Yet while music is important, it does not overtake the need of salvation. Youth pastor Mic Henton of College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, said, “Music is used for the purpose to help lead others to the throne of God by expressing the inexpressible. But it is not a requirement of salvation.” I would dare say that salvation is worth more than music choice.
2. Can we find any common ground? The answer is yes. Music is and should be a tool of worship. Pastor Henton pointed out that the Bible never truly addresses the proper way to use music. It is important to remember that just because something is new doesn’t make it bad. Alternatively, if something works, it can still be improved.
3. What does the Bible say about this? Great question! The Bible has many examples that seem to counter each other. Miriam led the women in a dance with a tambourine. Psalm 150 says to praise God “with loud clashing cymbals,” “with strings and pipe,” “with tambourine and dance,” “with trumpet sound.”
However, on the mount, Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6, NIV). If worship is worship, then God will accept it. “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).
4. What has been going wrong so far? Lack of communication! Nothing can be worse than when people stop communicating. Often, if we don’t understand or agree with something, we dismiss it. We just don’t know how to address things we don’t understand. Eph. 6:1-4 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. . . . Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (NIV). The best way to work something out is to work with dignity.
4-1/2. Put it into practice. As a family in Christ, we must treat one another the way a healthy family would. God loves us no matter what our preference of music is, just as we must love each other. Hymns and praise music may not sound similar, but they do share an important goal. Praising God should be the purpose of songs in worship. If the congregation is worshiping, the goal is met. In praising God, there shouldn’t be “progressive” or “traditional.” In the end hymns and worship songs should all meet the goal of praising God.
Alex Nesmith is a freshman communication major at Union College from northwestern Georgia.
* Unless otherwise indicated, Bible texts are from the English Standard Version.