Are We Too Dependent on Music for Worship?

Greg Gilbert recently wrote a couple of interesting posts over at Church Matters on music and worship in the church. In the first post (facetiously titled “Against Music”) Gilbert voiced his concerns about churchgoers relying too much on music in their worship of God.

I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music, or certain level of excellence in music. How many times have you heard someone say, for example, “I just can’t worship in that church.”? Or “I just don’t feel like I’m connecting with God there.”

Gilbert shares about his experience in college attending the Passion Conferences in Texas. He joined with thousands of students in worshiping God through modern praise music led by excellent, skilled musicians. Then he returned home to his small church in New Haven Connecticut.

The praise bands were gone, I didn’t have a group of people who’d gone with me and shared that experience, and the churches had a piano and thirty people singing Isaac Watts hymns. That forced me to learn how to stoke the fires of worship with truths and words, and not just with excellent music. I’ve learned how to be emotionally affected by the excellent words of hymns whether they’re played and sung “excellently” or not.

Gilbert then followed up with a second post ( “Some More Thoughts on Music”) offering the following ten questions to help us consider whether we’ve allowed our hearts to become too dependent on music for our sense of spiritual well-being.

  1. Do you get bored when someone reads a longish passage of Scripture in your church? Do you start wishing they’d get on with the music?
  2. Do you need music playing in the background for the reading of Scripture to affect your emotions?
  3. Does a prayer seem too “plain” or “stark” to you if it doesn’t have music playing behind it?
  4. Do you feel depressed a few weeks after a worship conference because you haven’t felt close to God in a long time?
  5. Do you desperately look forward to the next conference you’re going to attend because you know that, finally, you’ll be able to feel close to God again?
  6. If you’re in a big church with great music, are you able to worship when you visit your parents’ small rural church?
  7. Do you ever feel worshipful in the middle of the week, at work, at school, etc. just because of thinking about God and his grace? Or does that only happen when the music’s playing?
  8. Do you tend to feel closer to God when you’re alone with your iPOD than you do when you’re gathered with God’s people in your church?
  9. Do you feel like you just can’t connect with other believers who haven’t had the same “worship experiences” that you have? Can you only connect with other believers who “know what it feels like to really worship?”
  10. Is your sense of spiritual well-being based more on feeling close to God, or knowing that you are close to God because of Jesus Christ?

What do you think? How important are matters of style and excellence when it comes to worshiping God through music? Have we become too dependent on music for our sense of spiritual well-being?


  1. Sharon Gamble says:

    I think this is an excellent topic for discussion. Are we excited about God because the music makes us happy or are we excited about God because He is our hope and our Redeemer and He is all together wonderful? It is okay to enjoy worshiping Him with music. It is not okay to be dependent on music in order to get the right “feelings”. We moved fourteen times in our military career, which meant we were in many different churches with many different worship styles. I discovered I could worship Him anywhere if my heart was wanting to please Him and my focus was on Him. Just the act of going to church and offering up my time to Him as a sacrifice was worship. And, whether we “feel” like praising Him or not…we can believe in who He is and celebrate that regardless. Thanks for sharing the article, Ray!

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Sharon – Thanks for sharing! Who else would like to jump in with a comment? I know you all have good things to say!

  3. Bethany says:

    Well, how about a comment from “the other side”? I have an a-musical husband who finds the numerous songs in church a distraction from worship. He prefers the Scripture readings/responsive reading/sermons/prayer time. In fact, while we were church shopping for a while, the joke became that he counted the songs in each church, with the fewest number of songs being a major deciding factor! One song would probably be more than enough. My sons also feel this way – that there is way too much music in church.

    On the other hand, my daughter and I are the two musical ones in the house, though I tend to prefer hymns while she prefers the praise choruses. So, we’ve never found a church that meets the musical preferences of the whole family.

    Ultimately, my feeling is that music is an integral part of worship, as evidenced by many Scripture passages, but should not be the sole focus of worship. With that in mind, we’re able to worship together regardless of the musical aspect of the service.

  4. Jeff says:

    Ray and Beth,

    Are we gettin the band back together??

  5. Ray Fowler says:

    Jeff – I’m ready! When do we rehearse?

  6. I’d say that it all depends on our hearts and attitute towards God.

    Music can help us, but no matter how good the music is, if the hearts it not prepared to worship God, nothing will ever come of it, and we’ll just there, waiting for the “satisfaction feeling” that will never come

  7. Ray Fowler says:

    Bethany – Thanks for the perspective from a “musically-mixed family.

    Michael – Good points, Michael. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  8. Barrie says:

    I think music can definitely add to our worship of God. The key to remember is that whether it is a praise song or a hymn, the purpose of the music is to Praise God and not entertain people. God knows our hearts and he truly wants all of us to Praise him whether with music or by reading His Word.

  9. Ray Fowler says:

    Barrie – Those are good distinctions to keep in mind. Thanks!

  10. Mary says:

    Music is wonderful..but should never overshadow the word of God..The music today that is called praise music is more like a concert or singing with the radio..Churches have to pay to use the music that the artist testify that their music belongs to God when in truth it belongs to the industry..The words of many praise songs are vague in scripture and lean more to hypnotic..Also..the music takes up alot of time and the preaching is less and less..Priority is wrong..We have to present the authentic gospel..not one that is watered down by music or by preaching..The Lord gave a command and it is to preach the gospel..not to have a concert to where you purchase items..The Lord backs up whom He sends and He provides for those He sends and the ones He sent did not depend on the music but the Holy Spirit to draw the lost by the preaching of God’s Word and few know the word and it is why the music is vague and there is the lust for fame..It is not about anything we do but about Jesus Christ..and Jesus did not ask for love offering nor did he depend on music but prayed to the Father before He did anything that the Father would be glorified..Nothing resembled the world..and that is what is wrong with the can’t tell if it is secular or not..

    Music has such a beautiful place in the body as it is to encourage..

  11. Ray Fowler says:

    Mary – I believe God can use a variety of musical styles to help us sing praise to him. I agree that the word of God must be central, and we should evaluate the content of the songs we sing by God’s word. I think there is some great praise music out there, and some not so great. Just like there are some great hymns out there, and some not so great! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  12. Janie says:


    This is quite a subject as I have seen in my town churches split over the music. I believe that when you have the Lord in your heart there is discernment. Also whatever style the song is, is an interpretation of the writer and the writer’s experience in worship. So much is said about the music and very little about its reason. I have never heard the angels sing so how do I know if they sing soprano? The Lord has not told me what He desires from other people only what He desires of me and does not desire for me to judge music but to go and preach the gospel. I am thankful for each and every one who uses their talents for the Lord as we do not know who is touched by its message only God knows so this leaves us nothing to debate but to be thankful for what God is doing among His people.

  13. Ray Fowler says:

    Janie – It is sad and ironic that some churches actually split over the music they use to sing praises to God. I like your focus on thankfulness for those who are using their talents for the Lord, even if it is a different style than we may prefer. Thanks for commenting!

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