It often seems that nothing can upset a church congregation more than how the worship service is run. Is the music too loud? Are there too many instruments? Too few? Are there too many choruses, or too many hymns? No one seems to know what the right balance is but everyone knows what they don’t like.

I recently found a couple quotes from some church leaders regarding the styles of worship. One leader “called for a return both to the traditional hymns and to the traditional forms of those hymns”, while another complained that “fleshly church music is neither pleasing to God nor does it edify the congregation, but only tickles the ears of the world, robs the time set aside for true worship, grieves the simple, and thus brings great harm.”

Of course, when Philip Jacob Spener and Johan Mucovius made these statements in the 1690’s church music was a bit different, but it seems attitudes towards it were not. It is fascinating to learn that through the ages, the positions and opinions of the conservatives and radicals toward the style of worship music has repeatedly flip-flopped. At one time or another conservatives were opposed to signing hymns, (they wanted only to use the Psalms), against the singing of written songs as opposed to free expression led by the Holy Spirit, and against including the organ in church music. It was the young and the radicals that proposed all of these things.

If I can conclude one thing, it is that it is not the style of worship that matters as much as its heart. If I am focused on God and on worshiping Him, it really doesn’t matter if my neighbour is raising their hands or even dancing in the aisle. It does not matter if the music is fast or slow, loud or soft, familiar or new. All that matters is does it point toward God, focus on Him, and bring praise and worship to Him. That should be the only question.

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