What Is Worship Music?

When the Bible was translated into the language of the people and out of the Latin that only the upper class religious leaders knew, it was now open to everyone. Language, though usually referred to in reference to a spoken tongue or dialect of a certain people, can mean a variety of things. Language can mean also, a way of communication through whatever means to another individual. For instance, if you were to go to a different culture and greet them with shaking their hand, chances are, they would not interpret that as a greeting. You would have to greet them in their language or custom which might be a word or a gesture or even a ceremony. The same applies in music. For those who are accustomed to classical music, today’s rock beat might seem like something, literally, out of an African tribe. But it is a different language of communicating. Some music communicated different things, while other music communicates the same thing of others, while only in a different ‘language’ so to speak. In ancient times, even dating to Biblical times, Christians sang a hymn of some sort. I’m sure that the hymn that Jesus and his disciples sang at the Last Supper sounded nothing like, Almighty Fortress Is Our God, neither did it sound like the contemporary song, He Is Exalted by Twila Paris. There are three languages here communicating the same thing. For those in Jesus’ time, their hymn was their way of worshipping God in song. If Jesus’ disciples were here today, undoubtedly, they would not understand that Almighty Fortress Is Our God or He Is Exalted were worship songs or hymns. For one, they would not understand the spoken language, but that aside, they would not understand the song composition. When David danced before the Lord after recovering the Ark of the Covenant, his song was undoubtedly far different sounding than even the disciples’ hymn. Language in music changes over the years though communicating the same thing throughout the years, in this case, praise to God. Jesus’ disciples would still feel that worshipping God in song meant using the hymns they had sung with Him. They would not accept songs by Martin Luther, John Wesley, or John Newton. Nor would they accept songs by Twila Paris, Michael W. Smith, or Steve Green. However, if we today heard the disciples hymn, we would probably think it was some sort of Middle Eastern dance or chant and not see it as worship whatever. The difference in culture has a great effect on this as well as the difference in time. The worship language of the 1500s until the late 1800s or early 1900s was hymns by those like Martin Luther. After which came what we call Old Time Gospel songs and shortly after came what we call Praise and Worship. It is the different languages of different ages throughout time. All of which express praise to our God in our own way and culture. Personally, I know that singing hymns from the 1500s are truly worshipful and have a good deal to say within the music.  Also, I know that singing He Is Exalted by Twila Paris written within the last 30 years is also truly worshipful and thought provoking. Christian music has become far more popular in the last 10 to 15 years with the rise of Praise and Worship and Christian Contemporary Music. It’s granted that some people listen to the music without a correct understanding of Christianity. But the same was  true in Martin Luther’s day and in even in relatively recent days such as 19th  century England when people went to church as a matter of form and many people  lived very immoral lives at the same time. Today’s worship music language is the Praise & Worship style. There are those who prefer to worship God with hymns of the 1500s and traditional hymns and there are those who prefer to worship God with Contemporary worship. Its all worship and with the right attitude, it all worships God. If you don’t have the right motive or attitude when singing ‘Praise Ye The Lord’ or ‘Shine Jesus Shine’, neither one is edifying to God. To pick apart and say one is worship and the other is not only hurts the church and divides the body. And as the Bible states, a house divided against itself can not stand. Furthermore a church or church family that is divided on types of worship can’t focus on what a church is supposed to focus on because it is too caught up in mundane details of different generations. Just like you would not force Africans to learn English if you went there to be a missionary, we ought not to force our contemporary music on traditional music worshippers and traditional music worshippers ought not to force traditional hymns on contemporary worshippers. Both are worshipping God in their own language and both are just as pleasing to God as singing a hymn at the Last Supper over 2000 years ago.


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