Posted by: rcottrill | November 15, 2015

Drums Again

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From time to time I get comments on the article Drums in Worship. Most often, the messages are supportive, and the reader sees what I’m driving at. But once in awhile I’m strongly criticized, and the writer’s irritation with me crackles through the words. Here’s an example of that from a young woman, and my response.

COMMENT: I decided to stop reading about half way through. I am married to a drummer, and an excellent one at that. He works hard to bring excellence to the gift God has given him. Your “distraction” is his act of worship. I am sure my opinion is biased, but it appears yours is too.

I think it is sad when churches–by churches I mean people…try to box people in to a gift or a talent that fits ‘your’ idea of worship. Worship isn’t your idea, nor should it be. It’s God’s design/idea for Him, not you. [At this point the reader links me to a dictionary definition of the word worship.]

It’s [i.e. worshiping is] not for you. Sure it benefits you or not, but it’s their worship to their King. How dare anyone come in, regarding any gift, and say, “I am sorry, your gift is not fit for your King.” Thank God that he sees the heart of every man and weighs true intent.

MY RESPONSE: Well! I’m sorry if my article simply made you angry, and didn’t help you to consider another point of view. My first clue to that is that you say you only read half the article. Maybe there’s some food for thought there that you missed.

Having written the piece some years ago, I thought I’d better have another look, and did so. In it, I point out, up front, that there are widely varying opinions on the use of drums in worship. Granted that, I simply wanted to give my own perspective on the subject, and some of the reasons for my position, as a pastor and church musician.

Far be it from me to come between you and your husband, but the fact that he is an excellent drummer, who works hard at it, is not necessarily an argument in their favour. However, your statement that his drumming is itself an act of worship does give us something to chew on. Are you suggesting that whatever individuals claim to be an act of worship, in their hearts, is suitable to be done in the house of God?

It seems so, because you say, “I think it is sad when churches…try to box people in to a gift or a talent that fits ‘your’ [their?] idea of worship.” In response, first of all, I (personally) am not a church. Second, my personal convictions on any subject do not put you in a box, any more than yours put me in a box. We are simply sharing points of view, trying to help each other find our way.

However, let’s consider what happens in a local church. Are you saying that the leadership does not have a responsibility to reject anything they deem unworthy of having a place in the worship services? Of course they do. God has given them a position of authority (I Tim. 5:17; I Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7), and they are charged with the protection of the flock (Acts 20:28-30; Heb. 13:17). A desire for excellence is appropriate, but it’s only part of what’s needed, as is what’s going on in the individual’s heart.

To have corporate (congregational) worship, there must be some kind of consensus–and some evidence–that what is done leads the group in worship, not just an individual performer. And we must be careful in that to distinguish emotional excitation from spiritual exaltation. There are times when people mistake excitement for blessing, and sensual pleasure for worship. In the words of hymn writer John Greenleaf Whittier:

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

To take what may (or may not!) be an extreme example, if a woman says she wants to offer, as worship to God, her gyrating dance, performed in a significant state of undress, must the leaders agree to allow it in a worship service? No, God forbid. It would likely awaken in many men thoughts of a different kind (cf. I Thess. 4:3-7). There must be limits. “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (I Cor. 14:40, NIV). “All things should be done with regard to decency and propriety, and in an orderly fashion” (Amplified Bible).

Which gets us to the consideration of how we decide what is worshipful and what is not. You say that worship isn’t my idea but God’s. Quite true. But then you offer a definition of the word from a secular dictionary. These sometimes can be helpful, but sometimes not. It’s more important, since worship is God’s idea, that we concentrate on what He has to say about it in His Word. Some form of words such as worship, glorify, and praise are used over 500 times in the Bible, so there’s lots of material to draw from.

One of the things we see there is that human practices, traditions, and cultural influences can be wrong–even those held by many people, for a long time. The Samaritan woman said to the Lord Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [i.e. this is our tradition], and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (Jn. 4:20). She’s really asking for the Lord’s input on whose tradition is right.

But Christ answers bluntly, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (vs. 22). (Weymouth has, “You worship One of whom you know nothing.”) In other words, the Lord says to her, your tradition is wrong, and you are ignorant of the truth. God has revealed Himself and what He requires through the Jews (cf. Rom. 3:1-2).

The reality is that, sometimes, “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15). When the people of Israel were being prepared to enter the land of Canaan that God had promised to them, He warned them not to incorporate heathen practices into their worship.

“Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deut. 12:30-31).

Am I saying that drumming fits into this category? Not necessarily. But it’s a fact that rhythmic and prominent drum beats are commonly associated, in various cultures, including my own, with sensual and carnal practices–sometimes even with the occult. To ignore that association is incautious. It may simply say to those who are saved out of that corrupt lifestyle, “Hey! You can have all that and Jesus too!” keeping them from making a clean break with the old life.

I hear from many people, in various parts of the world, who see drums as a hindrance, rather than a help to their worship of Almighty God. And if we insist that it couldn’t possibly be the Spirit of God who is prompting those convictions, we’d better have very solid and biblical reasons for saying so.

Thank you for your response. I encourage you to keep on seeking God’s best, and I will do likewise.


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