Should rock music be used in church?

from WELS Topical Q&A
Q: What is your thoughts on having rock music in services. We were told that this is what the youth want. They said that you go this way to get them into the church. Once there they will hear the word. I find this hard to understand how the word would become important to them under there conditions. The Pastor that told us this is from the Missouri Synod. Is this a common practice now in this synod?

A: In worship we use music to praise and proclaim our God and Savior. Since God forbids us to add to or subtract from his Word (Revelation 22:18-19), we may not use music that has words which contain false doctrine. We will also want to avoid songs whose words and message are imprecise or confusing.The Bible, however, does not tells us what kind of music we are to use in worship. Because music in worship is intended to praise God and carry the proclamation of his Word, we will want to be careful that the musical styles we choose and the instruments we use focus our attention on the Word and allow people to voice their praise.People have different tastes and interests when it comes to styles of music. Some people appreciate simple language and music. Other appreciate involved language and complicated music. Worship leaders try to make music choices that serve their people by balancing simplicity and difficulty.

Your question asks specifically about “rock” music. People define rock music in a variety of ways and many different styles of music can be listed under that term. Some of these contemporary styles may be appropriate for worship while others are not. Even non-Christian teens realize that certain kinds of rock music are associated with illegitimate sex, illegal drugs and rebellion against Christian and social norms. Most Christian teenagers realize that some of today’s rock music (heavy metal, for example) is inappropriate for carrying Christian words. They would consider it silly or foolish to sing Christian texts in a musical style used by the heavy metal artist Marilyn Manson. Some studies indicate that most Christian teens do not prefer the music of worship to be in the style of the 1990s rock music they like for entertainment.

On the other hand, teenagers and adults recognize that some styles of contemporary music no longer have bad connotations and may be appropriate for worship. Throughout history the church has added to the wealth of our musical heritage by using contemporary music styles. For instance, Luther’s hymns were written in a style different from the chant hymns that would have been common use in his early childhood. The style of music in the 16th and 17th century Lutheran chorales is different from the music of the hymns from the 19th and 20th centuries in our hymnals.

Whatever music choices the church makes, however, must always meet these criteria: Does the music edify? Does the music appropriately carry the message of God’s word so that the Christian faith is able to be built up and strengthened? Or is faith distracted from the Word because of the music? Does the music carry the gospel message or is the music being used as a substitute for the gospel?

Some teenagers may enjoy a Christian song played in a contemporary style, but would prefer to listen to it with other teenagers and not in worship with older Christians. It is best if older and younger Christians join together and find old and new music that carries the Word in musical styles that can best edify the entire worshiping congregation. Pastors and members will want to be open to some new musical ideas as they judge their choices according to the criteria listed above.

We will also want to recognize that it is God’s Word and God’s Word alone that builds and strengthens faith. It is not the musical style of a song or its accompaniment, but the Word-based content that edifies worshipers. Without God’s Word, no musical style is beneficial to the faith; with God’s Word a variety of musical styles can benefit faith.

You will have to ask a representative of the Missouri Synod how common the opinion expressed by the pastor with whom you spoke is in that synod.


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