What If The Lord Does Not Accept Our Praise Music?

…We have been trained by the broader culture that how we feel when we come to worship is determined by the success of the instrumentation to create a good feeling. The assumption is that praise is created by the success of the musicians, as if we have to achieve concert quality music to truly praise God. This has led many to view their church music as the one aspect to their church that they perceive as not very good. What we need is a young, hip musician up front, graphic T, with a band behind him, who will bring us into a state of true praise. This has become the de facto standard of achieving true praise in American churches.

Those churches who do not mimic this model often find that their congregants view their music as mediocre, tolerating the sub-standard approach, believing that most other churches down the street do it better. For a variety of different reasons, they are willing to remain with the church, but they have given up hope that the music will ever get better.

Further, for most church shoppers, their entire church attendance is based on this question: how uplifting is the music? If the church music doesn’t achieve the status of elevating people to the rated quality of expected feeling, many people will disregard that church altogether, regardless of how faithful the ministry of the Word may be. The question is whether such an approach to praise is correct, and whether the church itself is to bear the weight of the responsibility to create what people assume is fulfilling praise. There may be variation in the circumstances of praise, but the question has to do with how true praise is accomplished.

It might be shocking to the reader to hear that much of what is so called praise today in worship is not received by the Lord. God certainly turns his ear away from not just vain repetitions, but also empty hearts due to empty theology. It should be self-evident that our feelings have to arise to something higher than animal instincts to truly praise the Lord. Read more»

Chris Gordon, “What’s Wrong With Our Church Praise Music?” Abounding Grace Radio (May 28, 2021)


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  1. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Ro 10:17 No mention of music in salvation. If/when persecution really amps up in the Western Church, and the non-preaching part of worship (e.g. bands, sound systems, videography, elaborate backgrounds) becomes challenging and expensive, music/entertainment will fall away in importance. Music has become a tool of attracting goats into the sanctuary to make leaders ‘feel’ they are dispensing the Gospel. The results are plain and clear now. I think Pastor Gordon is spot on. I wonder if he would comment on this question: would God be displeased if in our worship we forgot to sing, spending out time on prayer, Scripture recitation, and preaching?

  2. I come from a Baptistic/congregational background. When I converted to confessional, covenantal Presbyterianism (RPCNA), and became convinced of the Regulative Principle of worship, I struggled with whether or not God had accepted any/all of my worship in the past. I shared this with a friend and he graciously reminded me that all worship of God’s elect is mediated by our Lord Jesus Christ and is made acceptable before God. Nonetheless, we are to strive to be obedient and to seek purity in our worship, in spirit and truth, as directed by the word of God.

    • Kevin,

      What if we changed “is acceptable” to “is morally approved by God”? Of course we only come to him in the righteousness of Christ and he only hears us for Christ’s sake but that doesn’t license our every whim—I know that you aren’t saying that.

      A lot of American Christians think that they are doing God a favor by gathering for “worship,” which is too often, in reality, a therapy session with a little shot of endorphins (through the use of the right chord progressions, modulations, and key changes).

      The God who caused the earth to swallow folk and who put to death a couple of liars in Acts 5 is still very much alive and as holy as ever. We should worship him with reverence and awe.

  3. “It might be shocking to the reader to hear that much of what is so called praise today in worship is not received by the Lord. God certainly turns his ear away from not just vain repetitions, but also empty hearts due to empty theology.”

    This quote from Pastor Gordon is true enough (even though a strict reading of it implies that some of what is called praise today in worship is received by the Lord), but are we to presume that all praise music is void of theology? How about the hymns of Luther, Franck, Neander, Zinzendorf and many others? No one would argue that the are inspired, but neither are they devoid of theology. I get that once one crosses the line and moves out of the Psalms, then the slope can get slippery (where are the lines after that?), but doesn’t God also give us discernment? Cannot we expect the Holy Spirit to guide our worship and our Elders to oversee the choices of the music we play and the songs we sing?

    I’ve read RTRC several times and chapter 7 at least five times….I get the regulative principle, and I’m still left wondering why this must be such a divisive subject. Sure, some churches will choose to sing only psalms. others (like mine) hymns, and still others more modern praise songs, but are we really all so prideful as to presume that our way is the only way (or even the best way) to worship our Lord? Caution in every aspect of our worship is urged, and we should always come before our God with reverence, but it is also true that we should exercise humility with one another.

    If the regulative principle be our guide, then strictly speaking, should all prayers offered during the service also be read from God’s word? Of course not. As Kevin’s friend astutely observes above, we have a mediator. If our hearts be right, then our praise will be acceptable to God, as long as it remains grounded in God’s Word. The same can be said of our prayers. Coming before the Lord should never be taken lightly.

  4. Jerry, there are two (at least) aspects to the “praise music” I find objectionable, actually to the point that I drop out and starting reading Psalms. First, I want truth, and second, I want beauty. As regards truth, R.C. Sproul said, “Truth must enter through the mind and then inflame the soul.” I want content about the God who is the center and focus of worship, and I want it to be faithful to what the Word teaches. I do not want subjective, emotional, manipulative, self-oriented content, “feeling all the feels,” as the saying now goes. Second, I want beauty of music, appropriate to the content but striving for excellence musically. The church I love does wonderful, powerful, content-ful congregational music, and the choir sings music that rises above elementary skill, but the choir is not the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Choir. They have good voices, and they have prepared well, but they are not concert-stage, ticket-purchasing-worthy. I’m not arguing with your point; I am telling you what I myself find all but intolerable on both counts, in the music of almost every church we have attended since the 1970s. And no, I can’t expect my elders or my congregations, on the evidence, to make good, wise, edifying choices. The blindness to beauty really bothers me personally, but comfort with no content or false content in music has been a go-no go factor in finding a church home. If there is a lack of discernment about the words and the music one sings, how can I be confident that the theology and the standards are faithful? If there is no alarm at the tone and content of the music, how can I be confident the leadership and the body are alert to the true Gospel and rejecting “another gospel.” That said, I have to think about Pastor Gordon’s comment that God does not receive it; hadn’t thought about that.

    • I agree with you fully Lola….thank you for sharing. I would also say that if you are part of a church where the worship has no content and where you cannot trust the discernment of your Elders to choose songs that are theologically in alignment with the Bible, creeds, and confessions, then seeking another church might be a consideration. We should not leave our churches over little things, but right theology with proper emphasis is not small thing. God bless!

  5. Amen, amen, and AMEN to both this post and to ALL of the comments. Coming from a confessional Lutheran background, I agree with Jerry M. that there are many good, praise worthy hymns that ought to be sung as well as the Psalms.

    But I’d like to bring all of this to a focal point by asking this one question: Why, oh why, do all evangelical churches have the choir, the praise team, the worship leaders, the instrumentalists, including (wincing here) an extravagant pipe organ in some churches up in the front?? I suspect I know the answer and it was that hawker Finney who went around “selling” the Gospel, using instrumentation with his traveling “show” to attract people to his tents. It was entertainment!!! And it still is, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. That “tradition” has been carried forward ever since. Put all of that stuff in the back, in a choir loft, if it has to be there at all, so the attention in worship can be focused on the preaching and the liturgy, not watching the performers. Sing the hymns and Psalms paying attention to the wording, the context, and the implication for believers, not watching someone else do it.

    • George, I have asked myself this question since I was a teenager, if the worship is not about the instrumentalists and vocalists leading it then why are they up front?

    • Great points George, thank you…..there is certainly a fine line between praise and entertainment. I think it goes back to Pastor Gordon’s essay…..it is a matter of the heart. Our organ is up front (off to the side), but our praise is, by design, praise, not entertainment. That said, after the service is completed our gifted organist will often treat us to a classical piece that is purely entertainment. The pipe organ is a magnificent instrument, and when well played can and does entertain, but like anything else (including, even, God’s Word), it must be used properly, and during the service, with reverence.

  6. George and Jerry M. – Many years ago I did some reading on the tradition of pipe organs in Reformed churches in the Netherlands. What I recall from that is that the organ console and organist sat in the back of the sanctuary. I don’t remember now the location of the pipes, but the pipe organs were small with a limited number of ranks. They existed for the purpose of accompanying singing, not for performing. I thought they had the right idea.

    In my current church, there is a band, but they are to the side of the chancel, not the center. They also remain seated, not standing, which reinforces the words sung, rather than the musicians singing and playing.

    • This is true of traditional Lutheran as well as Roman Catholic churches, as well, and of course many Reformed. The location in the front is clearly an American Evangelical development which I suspect is largely due to the influences of the 2nd “great” awakening.

    • Brad,

      It’s worth noting that the ministers and elders opposed the introduction of the organ into the Dutch Reformed churches through the 16th century and well into the 17th. It was typically the people with the aid of the civil magistrates, many of whom were Erasmian and Latitudinarian in their approach to worship, who insisted on the use of the pipe organ. It was the universal belief and practice of the ancient church, which only began to change in the mid-8th century, to oppose instruments as Judaizing. Even Aquinas called their use “Judaizing” in the 13th century. The Reformed opposed them on the same basis. The magistrates finally won in the NL but organs were still controversial in the CRC as late as the 1920s.

  7. Gordon’s article is a good start. The First Commandment comes before all others (even before the Sixth, which these days which is cited in order to shut down the First.) That said though, one is reminded in so many words of Elisha to the king of Israel (2K13:19): “Why did you stop?”

    Which is to say, Calvin and the rest of the Reformers considered the use of musical instruments in the NT worship of God to be judaizing. David only brought the same, along with Levitical musicians and choirs into the worship of the temple by the command of God (1 Chron. 25:1f, 2 Chron. 29:25. GI Williamson is a good start on this.)

    Consequently with Calvary, if not also Pentecost, the typical and ceremonial worship of the temple has been fulfilled/abolished. In the NT the entire congregation becomes the choir and as priests are to sing the lively praise of God without the aid of things “without life giving sound (1 Cor. 14:7)”.

    That all this sounds strange or foreign to ears of the modern P&R church is maybe an indication of just how much we are running on tradition and pragmatism and not principle according to our confessions and catechisms. One might hope we could at least get up to speed in acknowledging the original reformed position and doctrine of worship, even before we disagree with it as we so obviously and egregiously do these days.

    As for Jerry’s objection which conflates prayer and song, the first includes our praise of God, as well our requests and needs, which can be as many and varied as our circumstances. The second is more properly the praise of God, who never changes. And while we have a inspired songbook in Scripture, which includes the prayers of David and others, we do not have a prayer book per se, though again Scripture does include the prayers of various saints.

    In short, while we have a mediator in Christ, whose blood covers us from first to last, that is not to be an excuse for sin or sloth. The Second Commandment, if not the Third and Fourth, follows hard after the First, all of which preeminently concern the worship of God.

    IOW to whom much is given much is required. Yet again, the modern P&R church does not know its own history and doctrine, regardless of whether she agrees with it or not.

  8. Why does singing take up such a disproportionately large amount of our time when we gather at church (30-40%) when there is such a small amount of references to communal singing in the New Testament? Other than outliers like Matt 26:30, there are scant few mentions of communal singing done by Christ or any of the main characters of in the New Testament or the ministries/churches they built. But with the amount of time we dedicate to singing in church, you’d think that Jesus abs the apostles would be breaking into song and exhorting their followers to do so at just about every turn,

    Yes, there are plenty of other places in the Bible where God’s people sing, but they did other stuff in worship too. Like building altars of stones – and dancing. Should we make these two compulsory too?

    I for one would be perfectly happy if my own church scaled bank the singing considerably to the benefit of more time to be spent on preaching and a richer more in-depth presentation of the Gospel, as I desperately need to hear it.

    • Paul,

      If we take Calvin’s Strasbourg Liturgy (1545) as indicative of his preferred practice (in distinction from the Genevan liturgies, where the city council interfered) there were only two songs sung in the Service of the Word and when the Supper was administered there was an additional Psalm. Even in Geneva, there was relatively little singing.

      Certainly the Reformed pattern was never to sing continuously for 30-40 minutes and then to preach. That bi-partite liturgy, as far as I can tell, comes from Charles Finney’s revival meetings and not from any of the Reformed liturgies.

  9. Does it make me a ‘bad Christian’ that I don’t like to sing, and find the singing part of the church service makes me uncomfortable and I get feeling of relief upon its completion?

    I get a great amount of enjoyment from learning about doctrine and theology — can that be considered a form of worship? I suspect that many of the ‘heart-first’ people at church singing with their arms in the air pay little attention to this material that I consider to be so vital.

    • Paul,

      Well, I think the “heart” Christians need to use their minds and the “head” Christians need to learn to exercise their hearts too.

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