Music and Church Worship
By: Bill Burkett
I have the feeling I’m about to touch someone’s holy cow. Drums are a percussion instrument and can play a very big part in bringing people to worship. But if drums do not keep their proper place they can lead the church into flawed worship. When I was saved and came into the church nearly fifty years ago when there were no drums in our churches. In the late fifties and sixties drums started coming in and since then have become the chief instrument (as far as sound) in many churches. Our concept of evangelism is excitement and drums help generate that feeling. But, the piano is the lead instrument in church worship! I learned this from a fine brother pastor in Kentucky who had a good understanding of music and explained that point to me. Since that time I have been giving a lot of thought to the music in our holiness churches. Drums carry a tempo but not a tune. The lead instrument in worship carries the melody, the tune to what we are singing. Melody with words is sane music that touches the thoughts and affection of the worshipers, but if the words are not heard and the lead instrument is not heard, you do not have worship of the mind but a worship of the emotions – and we all know that emotions knowledge are always competing to lead our lives. Music that is thoughtful and understood is the higher kind of music that will attract worshipers to your church and not offend any. When Elvis came to the world dancing came into the church. When the Beadles came into the world the drums came into the church. Try singing the Old rugged Cross some time with only drums – but that’s exactly what many churches do. I have been in too many holiness churches where the drums are the lead instrument drowning out the song leader, the piano and even the words of the song. I have been in many songs services in holiness churches where all you could hear was the loud and disconcerting sound of the drums. In one church I commented to the pastor that it was refreshing to be in a church for a change with no drums. He then told me that there were drums, but that before he allowed the young man to bring them into the church he explained the role of drums and how he expected to have them to remain behind the piano as the lead instrument. The drummer complied and provides a very good timing in the form of a mild tempo that compliments everything. It is no excuse that the church is small or that the drums are loud. If there’s no one sitting at the drums they don’t make a bit of sound when left to themselves, so its not the drums but the drummer who wields the sticks that determines how loud the beat will be coming from the drums. It would be gracious and thoughtful of pastors who have drums in the church to take a poll of his people. Make a simple little questionnaire and hand it out to everyone to fill in and hand back with no names signed. You may be surprised at what you learn your people have been feeling. Do it in the name of having a better church for the people. Your drummer may not realize how his playing could be improved. Most church drummers just grew up on a drums stool and have never learned some of the proper facts about drums and the role they play in a church service.
1. Are the drums too loud in our song services?
2. (Circle your choice.) Do you think the sound of the drums should be?
(b) reduced 25%? 50%?
(e) Barely heard
(f) no drums at all
3. Have you heard of anyone discussing the drums? What did they say?
4. Please make any other comments in the space below.
This would also help the pastor approach the drummer on the subject. A fine church may be losing its evangelistic effectiveness because they get people out to the meetings but then can’t keep them because the music is too loud and distracting. Brethren, it can be a trick of the enemy to keep you from growing as a church. I have recommended several people to one church in particular and when I get back with them they say,“We loved the church, and the pastor but the music was so loud we couldn’t take our friends there to get saved.” There is a propriety to the use of drums in the church. It is a background instrument and not a devil driving, ear piercing racket that overpowers every other instrument in the church orchestra. The reason it drives the devil off is because it hurts his ears. Some wise pastors have placed a glass partition around the drums. This is a great idea – just let the drummer beat his little heart out inside his cubicle. Enough sound will escape to give a proper cadence to the music being sung and the drummer can pound his heart out in his own little percussion cubicle. The fact is that loud drums can impair the hearing. Sound above what God made the ears to be used for can be as harmful as anything else abused beyond purpose. Worship is the purpose of music in the church. Everything, including the songs we sing in church are directed to God. More and more our music is to please us rather than God. From the time of the tabernacle we learn that the house of God is where we come to worship the Lord under His conditions and not for having a religious jam session. Musical entertainment has no place in the house of God. At one time this was the feeling of Christians toward music in the church. But in recent years there has been such a strong and fast shift toward loud music that has become entertainment completely abandoning the holy concept of music as accompaniment of instruments joined to the voices of the singing worshipers. But this thinking is changing and many are now saying that music as Christian entertainment (?) is right. Many churches pull their biggest crowds with musical entertainment. Of course, the next step is any kind of cross-over entertainment is OK as long as its flavored with fundamentalist jargon. Hymnology, the singing of hymns in the church, was not introduced into the church until A.D. 350 by an early church theologian by the name of Ambrose. Before that time singing played very little or no part in the church worship services. We have come a long way! Wonder what Paul or Appolos or Timothy would think if they would visit one of our modern holiness meetings with the drums blasting out a beat so loud you couldn’t hear the words being sung with people swaying and clapping to the drums? I could play the piano in some churches – there he sits pounding away but you can’t hear the sound of one key striking the board! All you can hear is the loud beating of the drums. I got to thinking, I could be the pianist in one of those churches and just sit up there and pound away and they would never know I couldn’t play the piano. Nobody would know because they can’t hear the piano. Everything in God’s house should be done decently (decorously, in good taste) and in order (rank, succession, dignity). 1 Corinthians 14:40.