An Open Letter to Everyone Who Hates Their Church’s Music
This is a follow-up post to the series “Whatever Happened to Singing in the Church?” You can check out the previous posts below.
In the previous posts, I shared several factors that can hinder people from participating in worship. In this post, I address a follow-up issue: If a worship leader has done everything in their power to help people engage, what happens if someone still doesn’t like the music?
I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about a hypothetical situation: what if a sincere, devoted Christian legitimately can’t stand the music at their church? How would they go about dealing with that?
In the context of our conversation, this was a hypothetical issue and we weren’t thinking of anyone in particular. But in reality, this situation happens in churches all the time. It can happen in any size church, and with any style of music.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a certain number of people won’t like the music style at any given church. People respond to music emotionally, not logically. We like whatever kind of music we like, simple as that.
I’ve been leading, teaching, and studying worship for over twenty years. In all that time, I have never seen a church where every single person loves the music. There are always some people who complain and cause problems.
But what happens if you are a mature, contributing member of your church, and you simply don’t like the music? How should you deal with these feelings in a way that honors God and doesn’t cause problems?
I humbly offer these eight suggestions:
1. Know that your feelings are legitimate.
There is nothing wrong with disliking a certain style of music. It doesn’t make you any less spiritual if you don’t like the same things everyone else does.
I recently visited a church in our area, and my wife loved the music. I didn’t like it at all. Neither of us was right or wrong.
2. Give the music a chance.
Sometimes we have made up our minds that we just don’t like something, and we’re not open to change. I am as guilty of this as anyone.
But if we honestly give it a chance, many times it will grow on us and we will learn to appreciate it … or possibly even like it.
3. Decide to be your worship leader’s biggest supporter.
I know this sounds counterintuitive. Why would you go out of your way to support the person who leads music you don’t like? Here’s why: because it’s what mature people do.
Worship leaders have a difficult job. No matter what music they choose, there is 100% chance that someone won’t like it. They could definitely use your encouragement.
When you take the time to develop a relationship with the worship leader, the music will take a backseat to the relationship. Relationships are always more important than music style.
4. Remember that unity is always more important than personal preference.
It’s sad, but true: music has always been a point of division within the church. That shouldn’t be the case because music is meant to be something that unites people instead of dividing them.
I have spent my life in the arts. I love the arts. The arts are vital to the body of Christ. But there is no style of art, no personal preference that is more important than other people.
5. Speak positively about your church.
There is a lot of talk these days about cultural forces that are threatening the church. However, the church’s biggest threats usually come from within its own ranks.
One important way you can help build up the church is by “gossiping positively.” You may not agree with everything, and you might even hate the music. But you never have the option of being divisive. Instead, use your influence to help unify the church.
Let’s be frank: some people feel it is their spiritual duty to point out all the problems in a church or publicly challenge its leadership. They develop a martyr mentality, and their goal is to take as many people down with them as possible.
This approach rarely does any good. It almost always ends in broken relationships, a weakened church, and a compromised Christian witness.
If you can’t support your leaders in good conscience, then you should find another church where you CAN be supportive. You never have the option of causing division, no matter if the issue is music or something else. Life is too short to stay at a church where you’re unhappy.
6. Focus on the lyrics instead of the music.
Here’s the wonderful thing about good worship songs: even if you don’t like the music, you can still find meaning in the lyrics. Since you’re a mature person of faith, you already know that worship songs are just theology in the form of poetry, set to music.
Even if you don’t like the particular stylistic container that your church uses, you can still appreciate the content of well-chosen worship songs. In fact, a great exercise would be to take a couple of the worship songs each week and see if you can find the Scriptural connections.
7. Ask God to help you focus on others.
While your church may not use the type of music you prefer, ask God to help you set that issue aside so you can focus on others and what helps them worship. It takes a mature Christian to do this, and it’s not easy!
But in the process, you will be developing your own character. Even more important, you will be setting a great example of humility, servanthood, and maturity for other people.
8. Remember that music is only a small part of the big picture of worship.
The Old Testament contains many references to music. In fact, the book of Psalms is essentially a catalog of worship songs for ancient Israel. But the New Testament doesn’t give us much in terms of information and instruction about music in a worship setting.
Keep in mind that the biblical concept of worship is much, much broader than music. It’s a whole life orientation that involves nothing less than surrendering and sacrificing every part of ourselves to God.
In the American church, we have given music such an important part of our worship gatherings that we literally refer to the time of congregational singing as “worship.” But the big picture of a worshipful life is much broader than that.
So if you don’t like the style of music on Sunday morning, keep it in perspective: it’s only a few minutes out of your whole week. God is much more concerned with how you’re worshiping Him the rest of the week, not just during a weekly gathering.
In fact, when you begin to look at what the New Testament says about living a God-pleasing life, there is far more emphasis on our character and relationships than on the structure or style of church gatherings.
A church should use the best music it possibly can. We just need to keep it in perspective in relation to the rest of the week when we’re worshiping through work, family life, recreation, and so many other areas.
One more thing
I want to be crystal clear: This post is in no way meant to be a negative reflection of my church, Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri. I truly enjoy and appreciate our music. Our worship staff and worship teams do a tremendous job of planning, organizing, and leading services.
Rather, this post is meant to be a thoughtful response to a situation that I’ve never heard addressed: what happens if a mature, sincere Christian truly dislikes the music at their church? That is not the case with me personally, but I know there are people in every church who struggle with it.
I hope that my suggestions have been helpful and will lead to more discussion, participation, and unity in the body of Christ.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some other words of advice you would give to someone who hates the music at their church? (Please keep comments civil and kind.)