What Kind of Music Does God Prefer?

The term worship wars described the conflict many churches experienced with worship style. It might be more accurate to describe these disagreements as music wars, since they mainly had to do with musical style. The worship wars may have died down, but our differences remain. Some people prefer a contemporary style featuring a band and the latest songs. Others favor traditional hymns accompanied by organ or piano. But does God prefer a particular style of music?

If He does have a preference, the Bible does not say which style it is. What is clear from Scripture is that music has an important place in the church’s worship. This is reflected in today’s text, which lists those assigned to be musicians in temple worship. One curious feature of this passage is its statement that David made these assignments with the help of “the commanders of the army” (v. 1). This probably does not mean military commanders but chief officers among the Levites. If this is an army, it is an army of musicians!

Another interesting feature of this passage is the connection between this ministry of music and prophecy (v. 3). We often don’t think of music as a mode of prophecy. When the church sings and makes music from the heart to the Lord, however, it is an expression of its life in the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). As the church worships through music, it proclaims the word of Christ in a diversity of forms through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16).

In other words, worship is not merely mood music. It is a mode of instruction. By it we speak to God and to ourselves at the same time. If this is true, then the message of the music is as important as the style.

Apply the Word

We’re unlikely to resonate with every style the church employs in its worship—but we can benefit from the message expressed in song. Pray for your church musicians and worship leaders as they select music for congregational worship. And if you don’t appreciate the music, ask God to grant you the patience to listen to its message!

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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