Music in church has caused more conflict per square inch than any topic I know. It seems every church I go to is either in the music wars, through the music wars, or is about to go into the music wars. Almost no one is exempt.
Music matters. People care about music. They care deeply about musical style. And, with rare exceptions, this is how it works. We defend, theologically and philosophically, the music that fits our taste. Very rarely do I find someone who thinks that the right music is anything other than the music he or she happens to like. This ought to cause us to pause.
Young people say we should change to contemporary music because it will help us to reach the lost, reach young people, reach the millennials, and so forth. Elderly people say we should not compromise with the world. Both sides find a way to defend their taste. I have only run across one exception.
I was in a church—I think it was in St. Louis—that had a 75-year-old pastor. He had moved to St. Louis after retirement. The church in his area needed an interim pastor and he was called. Ten years later he was still serving. The church had seen explosive growth—going from around a hundred to past a thousand. They were reaching mostly young people. The music was rockin’.
There seemed to be such a disconnect—this 75-year-old pastor and the rockin’ music. I asked him about this. “Do you like this music? Is it your style? Is this your choice?”
“No. I hate it. Every week we have staff meetings and evaluate the service. I really don’t know how to evaluate the music. The only thing I know is this. If there is not at least one song each week that I absolutely hate, I figure we have probably missed it. But, it is not about me. It is not about my taste. It is not about what I like. I like Bill Gaither. Young people don’t. I want to reach young people and, as every youth minister knows, you reach young people with the music of young people.”