Don’t Take it Personally

Inevitably, those of us involved in leading worship will encounter criticism. And at some point, this criticism might be along the lines of: contemporary music is evil. Or, drums are of the devil. Or, I can’t stand that kind of music. Or, electric guitars were designed by aliens to one day destroy the earth.

OK, maybe not that last one, but you know what I’m saying.

There are many godly, sincere, good people who believe that contemporary music or anything related to it (drums, guitars, projecting lyrics, synthesizers, etc.) is not appropriate for use in church. Some of these people articulate their objections respectfully and kindly, while others are less generous in their distaste for the genre.

It can be difficult for contemporary musicians and those who believe that contemporary music can and should be used for God’s glory to know how to respond to the line of thinking that says just the opposite.

The number one mistake I have made when being faced with the argument that contemporary music is evil has been to take it personally.

In my mind, it goes like this: They don’t like acoustic guitars, I play acoustic guitar, therefore they don’t like me, and now I don’t like them.

Or: They think the rock beat is evil, I think they’re wrong, therefore they think I’m ignorant, and now I think they’re smug. And I still don’t like them.

And so on and so on. Now we have different members of the body of Christ who don’t really understand where the other is coming from, who are taking it all personally, and who can’t talk with each other.

I’ve read the books and listened to the arguments that seek to portray contemporary music as demonic at its core, or thoroughly inferior, or designed for the purposes of rebellion, or as the enemy of those who prefer traditional hymnody and classical music. I’m convinced they’re misguided on all counts, and that a biblical perspective on music encourages endless variety, stylistic pluralism, skillful execution, and spiritual discernment all for the glory of God.

But instead of hearing the criticism and responding with Christ-like patience and Spirit-enabled charity, I so often find myself responding out of sinful pride, and seeking to defensively protect my turf. It’s silly. I take it personally and in so doing, ensure that nothing fruitful happens.

To my fellow worship leaders, and contemporary musicians, let me encourage us to respond in three ways:

Understand where they’re coming from. Listen to their arguments, read their books, consider their concerns, and try to see them as God sees them.

Dialogue with them. We can learn from them, they can learn from us. It really shouldn’t be an “us versus them” thing anyway. Whatever we can do to stay unified by the Gospel, let’s do it.

Don’t take their concerns personally. It’s not about you, even if they think it is. Even in the face of mean-spirited criticism, respond with grace and understanding.

Justified or not, contemporary musicians have a reputation of being insensitive, untrained, not well-read, oblivious, callous, and boastful. When we’re presented with critique or criticism, we just shrug our shoulders, murmur under our breath, and turn the amps up louder. This is not good.

Instead, may we seek to be as approachable as possible, informed, aware of the sensitivities around us, and surprisingly willing to dialogue. Who knows, maybe electric guitars really are an alien invention…

3 thoughts on “Don’t Take it Personally

  1. Simon Dixon March 31, 2010 / 2:51 pm

    Can contemporary and classical musicians worship together in ‘harmony’? I want to say YES they absolutely can – especially where there is a mutual respect and a genuine desire to worship the Lord.

    As a classically trained organist, I was literally taught that the guitar was no.1 enemy …until I experienced Spirit-Lead contemporary worship and felt I was worshipping a living God for the first time in my life – not to Bach or Handel ..but to a 3 chord chorus !

    So,thank you for contemporary worship,guitars,synthesizers, projecting lyrics and drums – please keep the songs coming and forgive us crusty classical musicians, we usually are responding either out of a lack of faith ( if we have one ) or a fear that we might have to play a chorus …and we have no idea how to do that !

    • Jamie Brown April 6, 2010 / 10:36 am

      Simon — thanks so much for your encouraging comment. I remember watching you share very similar thoughts on a video of a Worship Central band workshop you participated in and wishing I could take your 4 or 5 minutes and post them on here. So glad you put them into words!

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