Posted by: rcottrill | December 5, 2010

Drums in Worship–Appropriate or Not?

Drums. Do they have a place in the worship services of the church? Or not? There is certainly a difference of opinion as to whether they are an appropriate accompaniment to congregational singing or music ministry in our services.

Some welcome them enthusiastically. For others they are an unnecessary distraction–at best, something to be endured. Still others are appalled at what they see as a worldly intrusion, and reject their use altogether. Herewith, then, some observations. One person’s perspective on the subject.

I know I will leave myself open to howls of protest from some but, for me, drums do not belong in the church. I see them as a sad encroachment of the godless world that is not only unnecessary, but at times even detrimental to godly worship. I’m not speaking of those congregations large enough to have an orchestra, in which percussion instruments provide occasional accents, carefully kept in balance with the other instruments. Rather, this evaluation concerns an almost incessant and intrusive percussion, the almost ubiquitous rhythm section of popular contemporary music, sacred and secular.

Yes, drums appeal to some, and they provide an opportunity for another kind of talent to be put to use. They are also said to promote excitement in singing, but the feeling about the latter is far from unanimous. On balance, there are several factors which at least commend discretion in the matter.

FOCUS
What is the purpose of more strongly accenting certain beats (sometimes monotonously) in the hymns and choruses we sing? Is it necessary? Can’t we keep together without it? Does it add to their beauty? (Not for some. Not for me.) Personally, it rather reminds me of some demented plumber banging endlessly on the drainpipes!

Musically, most times, a focus on the rhythm seems uncalled for. A continuous beat that so often bears little relation to the words does not enhance their message. And its presence tends to give songs a certain sameness and uniformity of style–like putting ketchup on all our food–that hinders an appreciation for the nuances of feeling represented in our sacred music.

They can even seem almost to overpower the voices, particularly in smaller auditoriums. There is a danger of abuse, and this writer has experienced it a number of times. Without great care, the beat can overwhelm the singers. I have been in services where the volume of the drums and amplified guitars was so deafening I could not hear those singing next to me.

This smacks of a return to the Dark Ages, when the joy of fellowship in song was taken from the congregation and replaced with a performance by the “professionals” up front. Lost is the wonderful experience of the harmonious singing of God’s praises, in which we are able to appreciate the contribution of all.

Further–and this is a critical point, it could be argued that a constant drumming–or drumming that seems to compete with the singing–tends to turn a spiritual ministry (through the message of the words) into a more sensual experience (through the rhythm of the music).

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 1:18). The foundation of spiritual growth is still a thoughtful study of, and meditation on, the Word of God. And music, used properly, is to provide a setting and a frame for the effective communication of that Word, to aid us in “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16).

Are we losing a sense of the distinction between fleshly excitement and spiritual joy? Let the exhilaration of our congregational singing arise primarily from an appreciation of the truth–and of God Himself (Ps. 28:7), and not simply a physiological and psychological response to a beat. The latter may, in fact, distract worshipers from a true worship.

Listen here to a popular choral rendition of the beautiful old hymn Rock of Ages. The text of the hymn is a prayer. How “prayerful” does this sound to you? And did you notice? We get a repetitious singing of the first couple of lines of the hymn, but we never get to “Be of sin the double cure– / Save me from its guilt and power.”  So, we never get proper teaching as to the reason we need to hide in Christ, by faith. The same truncated treatment is given to a smattering of The Solid Rock.

More than a century ago, Charles Haddon Spurgeon criticized some of the church music of his day with words that still ring true:

Is it not a sin to be tickling men’s ears with sounds when we profess to be adoring the Lord?…Do not men mistake physical effects for spiritual impulses? Do they not often offer to God strains more calculated for human amusement than for divine acceptance?” (from Psalms, by Charles Spurgeon).

ASSOCIATION
Percussion instruments have a long history, and are mentioned in the Word of God (though it is interesting, if not significant, that drums never are). They have been used to mark time, to send a signal, and, in the case of symphonic bands and orchestras, to add accent and emphasis at certain points in a musical work.

Historically, and for many years, drum kits (traps) have been used predominantly in dance bands, and secular rock bands. There they provide a driving beat which stirs a rhythmic response and adds excitement for dancing. That association is difficult to shake off, since it continues to be prominent in the popular music of the day.

Also, drums have traditionally been a vehicle for solo virtuosity and showmanship. I can admire the incredible drum work of Buddy Rich, arguably the greatest drummer of them all. But I wouldn’t want this sort of thing in church. (Just for fun, give a listen, here to a four-and-a-half-minute solo, for most of which Mr. Rich’s sticks are simply a blur. Amazing!) As noted previously, due to their intrusiveness and tendency to dominate, drum sets do tend to draw attention to the individual. In the services of the church, and in congregational singing, this is surely contrary to our purpose, where “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30).

Because of this strong association in the minds of some with worldly music and worldly pleasures, there are those who see their inclusion in worship as a step backward. We should not be trying to see how much like the world we can be; we should be demonstrating as clear a distinction from it as possible. For certain individuals, the instruments may even recall their past experience in the world–a life they are trying to leave behind.

It may be significant that there is not a single reference in the epistles to Christians using instrumental music of any kind. In spite of the fact that various instruments were used in Old Testament temple worship, and in spite of the fact that some are seen again in John’s prophetic vision of God’s throne, in Revelation, the apostolic church apparently avoided the use of instruments–percussion or otherwise.

The likely reason is their close association with worldly entertainment and heathen worship in the first century. I’m not suggesting we do away with all instrumentation in the services of the church–though this can be a refreshing change. However, such associations must be a concern for us as well (cf. I Jn. 2:15-17).

SEPARATION
The music of the world intrudes on our lives at every turn, on radio and television, in restaurants and doctor’s offices, in malls and elevators, and even as we walk down the street. Should there not be some haven free from it? Perhaps there ought to be, in the house of God, a music that is distinctly His, and not simply a copy of what the world is doing.

The great hymns of the church, and the more doctrinally solid choruses, fit that criterion. They represent triumphs of faith over many centuries. In the words of essayist Robert Bridges:

If we consider and ask ourselves what sort of music we should wish to hear on entering a church, we should surely, in describing our ideal, say first of all that it must be something different from what is heard elsewhere; that it should be a sacred music, devoted to its purpose” (from the Preface to The Hymn Book, 1938).

That our sacred music is “different” is something to celebrate, not complain about. That it is rooted in tradition is a characteristic in itself inseparable from its message. Christianity is anchored to the past. To the cross, first of all, but also to the Reformation and to great times of revival that followed. This fact should at least encourage balance between the old and the new. We ought to rejoice in our spiritual heritage and not be too quick to cast it aside.

Let us “ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jer. 6:16). Before we rush to “keep up with the times,” it is worth considering whether the “times” reflect better the spirit of Christ or of the world. Sometimes music that is called “Christian” is superficial, and even downright unbiblical. We are to be in the world, but not of the world (cf. II Cor. 6:15-17).

UNITY
The other side of the coin of separation from the world is the unity of believers. Paul’s desire for the Corinthians was, “that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). At times, the debate over this issue divides along generational lines. Because of this, the presence of drums tends to attract or repel different segments of the congregation, fostering disunity and distrust. When young people and the older generation should be coming together and learning from each other, it seems counterproductive to create unnecessary division.

Some congregations are prepared to “endure” the drums as a kind of compromise, in hopes of keeping teen-agers in the church. But at what cost? It is demonstrable that, for at least some young people, music with a dominating rhythm is a passion–one would almost say an addiction– that has robbed them of a fuller appreciation of other kinds of music.

We may do these individuals a disservice by accommodating them without careful thought. Further, in my experience, this attempt to keep people interested in church by copying what they enjoy in the world often has had very limited and short-term success.

It is important for leaders in the church to weigh all the factors carefully rather than simply succumbing to pressure from either side in an attempt to keep the peace (cf. Rom. 15:1-2). More is at stake than just a difference in taste. What principles of God’s Word are relevant? What is the value of this addition? Is it appropriate to the situation? Does it help us to meet the needs of all segments the congregation? A consideration of such questions will encourage balance and temperance in the resolution of the issue.

Bottom line: We are each different as to the music in our lives, and with respect to how it affects us. But communication problems arise if the music accompanying a Christian message is associated in the mind of the hearer with a corrupt and sinful lifestyle (I Cor. 14:8; 15:33). We must not, with our music, encourage or glorify that attachment to the world that God hates (II Cor. 6:17; I Jn. 2:15-17).

Neither drums nor any instrument should intrude a platform “performance” into the fellowship of singing. Better to have no instruments at all than do that! And whatever is used, the volume should never be deafening, or even dominating. It must never prevent worshipers from hearing and blending with voices around them.


Responses

  1. [...] Here is a nicely sung version of I Surrender All. But… (pet peeve coming, here) to me, the incessant  percussion is just a distraction. It does nothing for the song whatsoever. For more about the problem of drums in the services of the church, see the article Drums in Worship. [...]

  2. Thanks for this commentary on drums in worship. One of the reasons that people like drums in worship is, as you pointed out, the fact that drums bring excitement to the worship service. While I do treasure exciting worship services in the sense of being moved by the Holy Spirit, I do not treasure “worship services” where it seems that the entire focus of “worship” is to move me emotionally (in contrast to my being or becoming spiritually moved). In fact, I fear that many in the church today mistake — to their own grave peril!! — emotional excitement for spiritual movement. Drums, when they are a significant part of the worship service, can and do contribute to this mistake. Drums also, because they excite emotionally and because they are so loud, allow people to overlook the shallowness and vapidity of so much of modern worship music, which is another problem plaguing the modern church.

    • Well said. And your last sentence is especially insightful. If you have never read my article Worship in Song, I encourage you to do so. I use Psalm 28:7 to show how real worship is supposed to work. The article also notes some weaker or false motivations for worship. God bless.

  3. I left my former church because musical accompaniments of the hymns were incorporating more and more rock and jazz. I now attend a small Reformed Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant, TX, where we sing a cappella out of the hymnal — with 4-part harmony — and it is wonderful. Teenagers and children are with their families in the services, and everyone sings. The Bible-expository sermons are an hour in length — I wish they were two. The hour drive for me is worth it. People come from all over East Texas.
    Anyone reading this is welcome to contact me for more information.
    cblairedit at aol dot com

    • Sounds like my kinda church! I’m not Reformed in theology, but have preached in Reformed Baptist churches and had great fellowship there. Your description of the congregational singing I’ve experienced in Independent Baptist churches too. I’m certainly not against musical accompaniment if it supports the singing. But what you describe at the beginning tends to overpower and dominate. Lost is the joy of true fellowship in song, when you can’t even hear the person next to you. Combine hymn singing that features parts blending in harmony with good expository preaching, and you’ve definitely got a winner! No wonder you drive an hour for the blessing of it.

  4. I must respectfully disagree. I believe that percussion can be very worshipful. One must be careful to not “lump” all percussion in with drums when discussing it. As was said in this post, percussion, aka. timpani and the like, can accent the sound when a full orchestra is present. That being said I do agree that in many American churches, the music is much more the focus than God is. I would argue, however, that this isn’t the fault of the drums, although, their misuse undoubtedly plays a part. Percussion has been used all around the world all throughout history to worship God. Percussion, such as cymbals and clapping (yes, that is percussion), is even mentioned in the Bible. Thus, one can’t simply rule it out entirely as detrimental to worship. I have the privilege of knowing Christians from Africa, where percussion is almost exclusively used to make music. Guitar is a novelty, and the organ is pretty much unheard of. Yet we can’t say that their service is somehow inferior to one with a “traditional” organ and such because the percussion distracts from the music.

    As far as the use of percussion for keeping of meter goes, I believe percussion can be very useful. At the church I attend, while I love the church and I am not complaining, the hymns we sing tend to slow down as we progress. I would contend that this actually distracts from worship as well, and so defeats the purpose of avoiding the use of percussion anyway. Here, a certain amount of percussion, tastefully executed, would be of inestimable value, because it would keep the song on an even tempo.

    Again, I agree with the author’s assessment of modern American “Christianity” for the most part, and I lament the degeneration of music in worship. I agree that church shouldn’t be a concert, and for much of America, that is just what it is. But such degeneracy in no way calls for a complete reversion to simply organ music or A Capella. Don’t get me wrong, such music is beautiful. My family sings a hymn every night A Capella. However, we cannot let the diluted and vapid music of popular Christianity cause us to “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak. The problem isn’t the instruments themselves. The problem is the people performing and the people listening. They are already weak in the walk with the Lord, assuming that they are walking with Him, so they are predisposed to consider the service entertainment. This predisposition simply is most obvious in the music. We must look at the root of the problem, not simply the symptoms, in order to arrive at a solution.

    Percussion, even such as clapping, can greatly aid worship when said worship is joyful. We clap our hands to express joy everywhere, why should it stop when we enter the sanctuary to worship our Supreme Joy?

    To be clear, I am in no way attacking the author of this post. To me, this isn’t important enough to get angry about. I am a devotee of Christian rock music, and the rock industry isn’t all secular. I listen to Christian bands that make music ranging from CCM to heavy metal. I even write and record rock music myself. I only want to encourage those who might read this to really consider percussion and the like, and not throw it out simply because many church misuse it. If I have missed the entire point of this post forgive me and disregard. This issue is just something that I’ve struggled with for a while, and I haven’t fully arrived an an answer either. I just want to encourage thought.

    • Thanks for your gracious comments Andrew. You definitely have a point of view that will be shared by many. But I stand by my study of the Word of God, and my experience in many different churchs, over a period of 40 years or so. In many cases–though I won’t say all–drums and the amplified beat of a bass guitar are far more of a distraction than a help. That may be the culture of the day, but we need to base our decisions on God’s truth, not culture.

      That’s kind of what the discussion in John 4:20-22 is about. The Samaritan woman was asking, in effect, “Whose culture is right, Yours or ours?” The answer given by many today would be, “Both. We mustn’t judge the cultural preferences of others.” But the Lord Jesus did not approve of Samaritan worship. He bluntly told her that they were wrong, and it was the Jews who were right.

      Though I can enjoy instrumental companiment for congregational singing, it needs to be a support, not get in the way. Much better to do everything a capella than have that kind of carnal bedlam. More than once I’ve walked out of services where I’ve been assaulted by a deluge of sound from the platform. I feel as though my very soul is under attack.

  5. Bob. Thanks for this article, I think you are spot on with your evaluation of the subject. With your permission I’d like to file this article in my church Worship file for future reference.Sorry I didn’t get to N.B. for the annual get-to-gether. Maybe next year. Give my regards to Beth.

  6. Mr. Cottrill, I can appreciate the sentiment behind your stance on drums in worship; however, I wonder if a more simplistic approach to worship might be considered.

    It’s the heart of man that God hears, not the “resounding gong or clanging symbol”. Our instruments, whether our voices, harps or saxophones are at best an extension of our heart’s song to God. I must wonder if God differentiates between the praise of a lark and that of a walrus. Different sounds, yes, but praise all the same. I believe that Psalm 150 is a great reminder that all that we have, we owe Him.

    The enemy has already taken so much from us. Must we also give him our instruments? They were God’s first.

    • H-m-m… Well, several things in your post deserve comment. First, as to the thought that it’s the heart of man that God hears, not our instruments and our music: It is quite true that “the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). However, the music we make arises from our hearts (our inner values and motivations), and it too is important. One reason is that human beings can’t see into our hearts as God does. They must take the music we present as a testimony of what we believe, and what’s important to us. “And if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle” (I Cor. 14:8).

      The idea that the devil threatens to take our instruments, and “they were God’s first,” is not precisely true. God created all things, calling into being ex nihilo the elements that are the building blocks of the natural world. In that sense we can say that He is the Origin of the brass and wood and other materials of which our instruments are made. However, it is human beings that make musical instruments, as well as write and perform songs. And the moment we add the human element we introduce the factor of moral choice. Motives can be good or evil. How is that instrument used? What is the purpose of that musical style? Or that song? Then, there is another principle beyond personal motivation to consider.

      A religious rock band may say that their purpose is to glorify God with their shouted lyrics and thundering beat, but they cannot escape the important principle of association. Associations are powerful. When I smell roasting turkey, even in July, my mind turns to thoughts of Christmas! My brain makes an automatic connection with the holidays. So, what does the music just mentioned bring to the mind of the average listener? The contemporary rock music of the world, by the admission of many of its stars, is intended to communicate rebellion against authority, and glorify sexual immorality. How can that provide a suitable framework for the worship of God?

      Some years ago, I was on the pastoral staff of a large church in Ontario. One particular evening, a rather raucous contemporary band played in the service (unusual for us). A young fellow in his 20′s came to me afterward, quite upset. “What are they doing playing that kind of music here?” he asked. “I left the bar scene to get away from that!”

      The church needs a music that is clearly distinguishable from that which is heard elsewhere. A holy music, separated unto the service of God. We don’t need to apologize for being different. We are different. And our music should show it, just as other things in our lives should. As noted in my article, I’m not against the use of percussion instruments per se, when they are used occasionally for emphasis, and are kept in balance with other instruments. But I do think we dishonour the Lord with the way some are being used today in what is thought of as contemporary worship.

  7. [...] This is a great Christmas hymn. I’ve used it in my Festival of Lessons and Carols as well.wordwisehymns.com – Drums in WorshipAppropriate or Not?- Drums in worship?Wordwise Hymns – Drums in [...]

  8. As a musician, I think that the “I must decrease” element is the most important of all.

    Many Church band musicians are mistaken when they think they are glorifying God. They are often glorifying themselves.

    Also, if the performance aspect of playing is paramount, that takes away from the worship aspect of it.

    In all, music probably should be kept to a minimum.

    • Some interesting observations. Thanks! Not sure I necessarily agree that “music…should be kept to a minimum.” Certainly, we don’t need more performances to entertain, or accompaniment that drowns out the congregation. But we need a congregational fellowship in song, employing the great hymns of the faith, with God’s people singing to “one another,” and “to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

  9. It sounds like you believe that other instruments are appropriate in worship(which I agree with entirely). My question is, is it your opinion that drum(kits) should be removed from worship mainly because of the association with the music that the world uses drums for? And if so, are there other instruments that fall under the same category?

    • Thanks for your question. Association is certainly one of the factors involved. But what I’m particularly concerned about is the way many churches allow drums and amplified guitars to dominate, often overpowering the singing of the congregation. Drums in the percussion section of an orchestra–that’s quite different. Percussion is used there from time to time for accent, but it does not consistently overpower everything else. Any instrument can be abused, including a church organ. But it’s clear that in the contemporary musical culture, drums and guitars are expected to provide a driving beat and an overpowering “experience.”

      God’s people should be careful not to copy the world in this. I’ve been in churches where the congregation has been robbed of the joy of singing together because they simply can’t hear one another! Further, it becomes much more difficult to meditate on the message expressed in the words of the songs. On a couple of occasions, I’ve simply walked out of this bedlam.

  10. Ah I see. Well like you(and many other people), I enjoy and appreciate the talents of any musician outside of worship.
    However, it seems to me that the instruments most used in secular music change from time to time, and from genre to genre. For instance, Country/Western uses the acoustic guitar, violin, and pedal steel; more and more modern secular artists use keyboards and acoustics; Bluegrass uses the banjo and mandolin; Honky-tonk uses the piano; not to mention our good friend the organ, which is a staple of rock music. These genres all use these particular instruments for purposes other than God’s glory. I guess my question is, since these genres use these different instruments as much as other genres use drums and guitars, what’s the difference, and are these instruments even ok in worship?

    • H-m-m… Well, association is an important factor to consider. I can remember a fellow coming up to me after a service. (I wasn’t in charge, but he knew of my studies in Christian music.) He said of the service, “What are they doing using that kind of music in here? That’s what I left the bars to get away from?” Missionaries in some areas face the same challenge. A week ago I was talking with a man who works among a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. Everything they do is steeped in animism. And when they get saved, and start studying the Word of God, they have to develop a whole new way of looking at the world. Their music is affected too. They can’t simply take the old chants and songs and put some Christian words to them. The former association is too strong.

      Paul faced this issue with regard to meat offered to idols (I Cor. 8:1-13). It was the practice to take the meat offered to idols in heathen temples down to the market place afterward, and sell it. After all, the idol wasn’t going to eat it! And often it was excellent meat. Some Christians had no problem buying and eating that meat. Others were appalled. Perhaps because they had been saved out of idolatry, their conscience bothered them about it. Paul had these strong words for the meat eaters: “When you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (I Cor. 8:12-13).

      Some congregations seem to have settled the matter, and have a clear-cut music policy. Others struggle with it. Sometimes, this may be because they are determined to appease those with worldly tastes, and hope to keep them attending. In effect, the tail ends up wagging the dog. If there is godly spiritual leadership, and a motivation to keep as far away from the world as possible, rather than playing with fire and a cosseting of worldly values, these things will work themselves out. It might, in fact, be good for a church where the standard is uncertain to abandon the use of all musical instruments for a time.

      I’m not sure that would work in every case. But it just might have a truly beneficial effect. It would tend to focus attention more on the words of the hymns–where it belongs. And it could, with a bit of instruction and practice, help the congregation to discover the joys of singing in harmony! Give a listen to what’s happening in the video clip below. It’s a gathering made up mostly of teens and young adults. There is a bit of accompaniment. But it either drops out entirely, or is so overpowered by the singing that it’s hardly noticeable. I’d love to have been there! Spine-tingling!

  11. Mr. Shaw has posted a lengthy comment on my article expressing reservations on the use of drums in Christian worship. Rather than posting a separate response, I’ve integrated my comments with his (given in part), with Mr. Shaw’s being printed in italics.

    As a Christian first, and a percussionist second, I must say that the arguments presented here are well-researched and present several good points.

    Thanks for your encouragement. It’s a subject I’ve studied for many years. I also taught a college course on a philosophy of music for years, and have heard most of the arguments you mention many times. Let me see if I can address a few of them.

    1) The Gospel of John (1:3, KJV) makes a very clear statement: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So, it would be impossible to disagree with the fact that even – eek! DRUMS! – were made by God.

    No, it’s not “impossible” at all. God did not make drums. The reference in John has to do with Christ, as a member of the Trinity, being an active Agent in the creation of the world, “in the beginning” (vs. 2; cf. Gen. 1:1). His role as the Creator is also stated clearly by the Apostle Paul (Col. 1:16).

    With your claim you seek to remove drums from any possible criticism. After all, if God made them, who are we to criticize? Just remember that God made the devil too. But we’d better not assume that he is harmless! The fact is, God didn’t make drums, He made people. And it’s people who, for good or ill, make things (including drums, and guns and toothpicks), and it’s people who use them, for wholesome or destructive purposes.

    2) To say that drums do not belong in worship music is narrow-minded and religious. It is no different than saying that females should not work – they should stay home and cook and clean and have babies. To make this argument causes confusion and division in and of itself.

    Oh my! There are several claims here that are worthy of comment. Let’s start with the term “narrow-minded.” (I’m not, here, addressing the matter of drums, but simply the principle of narrowness.) I realize it’s used in this case as a pejorative, but I’m willing to embrace it. If one is a Bible-believing Christian, intent on living a holy life, the Word of God itself marks out a narrow path. Many Scriptures could be appealed to in this regard.

    The Lord Jesus warned that the way to life was through a narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14), and He told His hearers that He came not to bring peace but a sword, referring to the way in which following Him would even divide families (Matt. 10:34-36). Second Corinthians exhorts us to “separate” ourselves from the taint of sin and worldliness, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 6:14–7:1). First John tells us that if we love the things of this sinful world, we cannot at the same time claim to love God (I Jn. 2:15-17). “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

    So often “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15). The Lord warned Israel that when they conquered the Promised Land they should beware of trying to incorporate the practices of the heathen into their worship style–which for the Canaanites even included child sacrifice. The Lord said, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 12:29-32). A narrow path yet again. Warnings about straying from the precise pattern God sets out are found many times under the Law (e.g. Deut. 5:32; 17:11, 20; Josh. 1:7; 23:6; Prov. 4:27; Isa. 30:21). To wander off the narrow way is to be a worldly, carnal believer, not living a life pleasing to God.

    Now, as to the accusation that I’m “religious,” which you mention several times. A religious person is simply one who shows by his actions that he fears and worships God (or a god). Even though this is another term sometimes used in a negative sense, it’s actually a good thing–with a couple of qualifications. To fear and worship false gods, as the Athenians did (Acts 17:16, 22-23) is wrong. As it is to think that somehow our conduct will earn us acceptance with God, as the self-righteous Pharisees did. Paul abandoned that false notion when he turned to Christ (Phil. 3:4-9).

    James puts us on the right track. He says the right kind of “religion” demonstrates the love of Christ to others, and avoids the contamination of worldliness (Jas. 1:28-29). To somehow skew this exhortation to follow a righteous lifestyle, making it synonymous with the idea that “females should not work – they should stay home and cook and clean and have babies” is, of course, ridiculous! (As is your later contention that it’s like “the disciples of Christ shooing away the little children.”)

    3) Do you have comfortable seating in your church? How about a roof? Heat? Walls? All of these things are “of the world” and therefore should not be part of the church. Jesus did not have a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20), so does that mean that Christians should not have beds or pillows?

    The Bible says “the time is short” before Christ’s return, and we should therefore be as “ those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away” (I Cor. 7:29, 31). Use, but don’t misuse or abuse. If things such as roofs and walls were treated as unrighteous in the Word of God, I suppose we’d all have to move to the tropics–but that’s not the case. Or if they had a clear association with sinful and worldly practices in the minds of many, it might be the same–but they don’t. This is not a specious argument. It wasn’t the rich fool’s desire to build bigger barns that proved his folly, but his failure to also prepare for eternity (Lk. 12:16-21).

    4) I give much value to historical context, but also have a mind to realize that the different cultures of the world not only differ in a historical context, but also a geographical one. Our culture is not the same as the culture when the traditional hymns were written, nor is it the same as the days of Christ. To imply that drumming is satanic is so far off course. Drums are made by God, and when used tastefully to praise Him, drums bring glory to God – simply because they were made by Him….The Christian world needs to simply wake up and stop putting “biblical limits” on the church.

    Yes, culture and tradition comes into the picture too, along with historical context. But it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. First, not all cultures or traditions are equal in terms of their moral or religious qualities. It was an argument based on culture and tradition that the Samaritan woman raised with the Lord Jesus when she said, “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship,” (Jn. 4:20). She was challenging Christ to debate with her whose culture was correct. Modern political correctness might have dictated a softer answer, but the Lord’s response was basically that the Samaritan tradition was wrong, and the Jews had it right (vs. 22).

    Second, I’ve already commented on the fallacy that “drums are made by God,” and I’ve never said that all uses of drums are “satanic.” But it’s definitely a mistake to think that taking things from a corrupt culture, things that have a strong heathen and carnal association, and simply bringing them inside the doors of a church will christianize them and make them acceptable for godly worship.

    Percussion instruments in an orchestra or symphonic band are surrounded by many instruments which are able to keep them in balance with melody and harmony. The classical music of the eighteenth century demonstrates that. But a definite change in music began to take place in the nineteenth century due to the influence of tens of thousands of slaves kidnapped and brought to America.

    Almost every African culture used dominating and rhythmic drumming in its heathen worship and religious rituals. The adrenalin-pumping excitement of this tradition was slowly assimilated into the music of the Western world. Its rhythms and beats came to strongly influence jazz, the “big band” sound, and Rock and Roll. Since this secular music fills the air waves, and is listened to by many for hours each day, it’s difficult for me, and others like me, to hear it used in the worship of the holy Son of God. As to your plea to “stop putting biblical limits on the church”–Ouch! The moment the local church stops doing that it stops being a church.

    5) We need to stop debating such small things as this….Stop focusing on minuscule things.

    Labelling this issue a small and minuscule thing is interesting. It clearly raised your ire, and led you to spend about 750 words presenting your own point of view, sometimes in a rather harsh and judgmental way. Sadly, you frequently descend to stereotyping and name-calling. That any church not willing to use drums is adhering to “self-righteous rules” and is not a “missionary” church, evangelizing the lost, is simply not so. I’ve been in churches, and preached in churches, where there’s not a drum in sight. The worship glows with spiritual ardour, and the churches are growing as a result of their evangelistic outreach.

    I’ve also been in services where no instruments of any kind are used. The singing is filled with rich harmonies, and the pace is such that we can focus on the message of each hymn. In some ways I prefer this. There seems to be a greater sense of fellowship in the singing. Having said that though, I’m not against musical accompaniment, as long as it doesn’t overpower the singing and draw undue attention to itself.

    Almost any instrument can do this, of course. But in my experience it’s drums and amplified guitars that are most often the culprits today–sometimes because of the misguided desire to be just like the world, so worldly people will feel more at home in the church. If they can be used in moderation, fine. But I think they are an unnecessary and dangerous intrusion all too open to abuse. I stand by the content of my article as being a point of view at least worthy of careful consideration.

  12. I enjoyed your article on “Drums in Worship – Appropriate or Not?” I think it was the best online article that I have read. As it happens, I agree with you completely. Like yourself, I too, find myself running out of church services because my spirit it grieved. I assume that the Spirit was grieved which, in turn, grieved my spirit.

    My question to you is this: There are no churches in my local area that do NOT use drums and electric guitars in their worship service. What am I to do? My answer has been to stay home and allow the studying of the Word to edify me on Sunday morning. I am tired of being grieved with the world in the local congregation ( I refrain from using the word church because the true Church does not exist in these places). I have read many online articles that endorse staying home rather than being a part of a worldly service. I am torn as to what to do. Am I disobeying Hebrews 10.25? Will I come under the Lord’s discipline for this attitude? Does the Lord expect me to love the brethren, nonetheless, regardless of the music being used?

    Anything you could advise me on will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
    Stephen

    • Greetings, Stephen, and the joy of the Christmas season to you and yours. Thank you for your kind words.

      You ask some very good questions. I wish I had simple, straightforward answers, but I don’t. Those of us who don’t want our hymn singing degraded by a carnal beat, drowned out by unholy noise, or simply abandoned in favour of shallow choruses, are often in the minority.

      Going back many years, my uncle and aunt lived in a small, remote hamlet. They had no car. And the only church in town tended to be liberal in its doctrinal position. But this elderly couple–who by their own testimony were born again Christians, attended that church, because they believed God’s people should do so on the Lord’s Day, and they wanted to set a good example.

      Now, there’s a bit of a catch. My uncle was almost stone deaf, so he wasn’t going to be corrupted by what was said from the pulpit. I’m not sure I’d make the same choice he did, but one gentleman I spoke with more recently voiced a similar problem to yours. He said he felt forced to choose between sound biblical preaching, and God-honouring music, because he couldn’t find a church that had both! What a tragedy!

      I’m a retired pastor, and the church my wife and I have attended in recent years is conservative, and has always used mainly the great hymns and gospel songs of the faith, accompanied by piano, or piano and organ. We have two or three hymn books, and have occasionally changed from one to the other, to make use of some songs not found in both.

      We are currently without a pastor, and seeking the Lord’s will in that, and I’ve certainly wondered about the future. What if we get a new pastor who favours “contemporary” music as a means of pulling in more people from the community? How far in that direction would the pendulum swing? I’m afraid I wouldn’t feel comfortable continuing to attend, if things reached the point of some churches today.

      Would I simply stay home? Maybe. There is a church about forty-five minutes from us that is similarly conservative in the music used. But will it continue to be? And with my advancing age, and the difficulty driving sometimes during our Canadian winters, would that be a practical solution?

      I have experience as a preacher, and as a musician and service leader, so my case may be different from yours. But one idea I had was to offer my services to the local seniors home–to come in on Sundays and conduct services. My wife plays the piano, and I think we could provide a time that would be a blessing to the residents, by God’s grace.

      And I had another idea as I was considering your comments. It might not work; I have no assurance that it would. But I wondered about putting an ad in the paper, seeking people of like mind. It would be important to keep the tone from being negative. As I see it, it shouldn’t be critical of drums and guitars and the like.

      There are many sincere and godly Christian people in churches whose music has deteriorated. Maybe they are staying there and enduring it, hoping things will change. Or maybe they have been convinced that what is happening is right. We should not adopt a holier-than-thou attitude, but simply see if there’s interest in an alternative. Perhaps the ad could say something like this:

      Do you enjoy singing the old hymns and gospel songs of the Christian faith, with a simply piano accompaniment? Or no accompaniment at all? If you are interested in gathering with some friends of like mind for a hymn sing, please contact me at: [phone number].

      It might get no response at all. Rather, identifying others who share your convictions may require seeking them out, one by one, or family by family, through other channels. If you could find even eight or ten people who’d meet together, I know it could be a wonderful experience.

      After a time of singing, there could be some light refreshments, and a discussion as to whether the meetings could become a regular thing–even once or twice a month. (And it wouldn’t have to be at a time that conflicted with anyone’s church services.) The meetings could take place in homes (unless the group got too large for that). A supply of hymn books might be available from one of the churches that’s not using them any more.

      It’s possible you could attract folks from several different denominations. I wouldn’t worry about that. You’re not starting a new church, or a new denomination. If folks love the Lord Jesus, and are interested in enjoying and preserving our wonderful heritage of hymns, that should be a good enough basis for fellowship. Set a positive tone, and avoid arguing over doctrinal distinctives.

      As I say, it’s just an idea. On the issue you raise of disobeying God by failing to meet together with other Christians (as Hebrews 10:25 says we should), keep in mind that not all gatherings of Christians have to take place in church services. You may find believers, even in churches with music that concerns you, who would enjoy a time of fellowship away from the church. Do you bowl? Or play golf? What about crokinole? Or do you enjoy some other wholesome activity that you could join in with other believers?

      In my blog I have links to the Cyber Hymnal. Many times I’ve helped the creator, Dick Adams, find information on the hymns he’s posted, and he’s passed on to me comments he’s received about the site. In some countries where it’s forbidden for Christians to meet together, groups will sometimes gather around the computer, in a home, call up a hymn on the Cyber Hymnal, and sing it together.

      These aren’t really providing specific answers, but maybe something I’ve said will give you an idea or two. Let me (and my readers) know if you find a practical alternative.

    • Am I to understand that it would be honoring the Lord for me to forsake Sunday morning worship and perhaps get with a group of believers within the same congregation on another night for bible study? Would this fulfill Hebrew 10.25? This question is in response when you wrote: As I say, its just an idea. On the issue you raise of disobeying God by failing to meet together with other Christians (as Hebrews 10:25 says we should), keep in mind that not all gatherings of Christians have to take place in church services. You may find believers, even in churches with music that concerns you, who would enjoy a time of fellowship away from the church. Do you bowl? Or play golf? What about crokinole? Or do you enjoy some other wholesome activity that you could join in with other believers?

      If this is what you meant, then I suppose that would work out for me. Thanks for your interest in my situation. What you wrote was helpful to me. Stephen

      • Well, I’m glad if I can be of help in some small way. But I do need to clarify what I said.

        I’m definitely not saying that playing golf with some Christians is the same as going to church with them, or is a complete substitute for church. Only that it could be a means of enriching Christian fellowship. An organized church, with a believing membership and godly leaders, has many functions. I hope that somehow you can find a church that you feel able to attend regularly, even if you don’t agree with everything that goes on there. (No local church is perfect, since all are made up of imperfect people.)

        I know of a woman who drives about an hour each Sunday to attend a church in another town, because what’s available in her own community is not satisfactory (and music is one of the issues). Maybe you could find something at a distance you’d be willing to travel to attend. I pray that the Lord will give you wisdom.

  13. Thank you for the time you have given to this site. Very helpful and timely.

  14. By the same logic pianos should be banned from church. They are not mentioned in the Bible, and not used in church until the 1800′s. Until the 1800′s the piano was considered a secular instrument unfit for church. Furthermore, the modern church style of piano is derived from the popular jazz of the 1920′s.

    The anti-drum argument is classic case of broken logic, in this case starting with a dislike of drums and then “proving” the case with carefully selected facts rather then the whole picture. I have no problem with your dislike of drums in church, but don’t condemn drums unless you are willing to apply the same logic to other instruments.

    By the same token many popular hymns we derived from the drinking songs of the day and/or written by deeply flawed men. Should we condemn those as well? Jesus said we are to love one another, and in that spirit I will allow hymns and the piano in my church if you will allow drums in yours.

    • H-m-m… Thanks for your comments. However, I see some problems with what you’ve said. Let me just respond to a few things.

      1) I never stated that drums should be “banned from church.” Nor did I “condemn” them. (Neither term is found in the article.) I simply attempted to raise a caution flag with regard to their use. Percussion instruments can have a function, if they are used wisely. And yes, the same goes for pianos (and organs too)–though an instrument that gives support to both melody and harmony is quite different from a drum.

      2) You suggest that “the modern church style of piano is derived from the popular jazz of the late 1920′s.” Well, I don’t know where you go to church, but I haven’t heard anything close to that in our church. My wife is our accompanist, so perhaps I’m prejudiced :-), but I’d describe her playing style as generally legato (meaning smooth and connected).

      3) You state categorically that “many popular hymns were derived from the drinking songs of the day.” This old chestnut has been around for years, but it’s no truer today than it’s ever been. Can you give me a list of the “many” hymns whose melodies used to be drinking songs? I’ll be happy to check them out, but I know the list will be very, very small.

      4) As to “deeply flawed men”–you should add women too, since we have many women hymn writers. Three things to keep in mind:

      ¤ I guess my initial response would be: Aren’t we all? To fail to live up to God’s holy standard at one single point is to be “guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10; cf. Gal. 3:10). Apart from the grace of God in Christ, none of us is worthy to serve Him.

      ¤ As far as lifestyle is concerned, most folks haven’t been studying our sacred music and its history for half a century, as I have. Because of this, they can sing the songs without prejudice. What’s unknown doesn’t affect their attitude toward the message of the hymn.

      ¤ Our first concern should be that the hymn has a clear and biblical message. And even though I disagree with the theology of a particular hymn writer, we probably still have many areas of agreement. And if the hymn is focused on those things, I can use it with profit.

      5) You note that the Lord Jesus says we are to “love one another.” True enough (Jn. 13:35). However, I detect an implied application of this command which may not be biblical. A kind of live-and-let-live approach that tolerates any and all points of view. I know that spirit is abroad in the professing church today, but we need to resist it.

      If there’s something that’s too closely associated with worldliness or carnality, or which violates biblical principles, we’re to separate ourselves from it (II Cor. 6:14–7:1). Further, the Lord defines love for Him not in terms of concessions and compromise, but in terms of obedience to His Word (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23, 24; 15:10; cf. I Jn. 2:5-6).

      Certainly there’s room in the Christian community for differences in worship style.. In areas where we disagree, we do need to be gracious to one another, and consider our differences prayerfully and carefully. But we also need to seek to have Bible-based convictions in these areas, and not compromise on what we believe to be right in the name of “love.”

      I hope these few thoughts are helpful. God bless.

      • Excellent reply, Robert.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers

%d bloggers like this: