Category Archives: Church

What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?


(image courtesy ChristArt)

by Spencer D Gear

There was a discussion on the use of instruments in church music on Christian Forums. One writer wrote:

[My] argument is in reference to those churches which have music bands with drummers and guitarists…. it doesn’t’ attract youths but certainly make them comfortable, the music is the same with the world’s music. Furthermore did anyone researched on the origins of drum beats? it originated from voodoo practice whereby they would beat a rhythm during their witchcraft worship. How many churches still practice old fashion hymns with just an organ or piano?[1]

[2]How does this view of drums fit with the use of cymbals? They are pretty loud instruments.

Here are some cross references dealing with loud percussion instruments:

Drum Praise

(image courtesy ChristArt)

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 Samuel 6:5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets[3], harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums[4] and cymbals.[5]

1 Chronicles 13:8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

1 Chronicles 15:16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

Ezra 3:10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel.

Nehemiah 12:27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.

New International Version ©2011 by Biblica

As for churches that sing hymns accompanied by piano and/or organ, there are not many around my region. However, the last 2 churches my wife and I have attended, including the current one, sing hymns from hymn books (now on digital projectors). One was Baptist and was packed to the rafters with people, including considerable numbers of teens and young adults. There was no need to do thrash music to attract the youth at that Baptist church.

The other, the one we currently attend, is Presbyterian. The congregation is elderly with a few young families – but not too many – and the numbers are dwindling. That has more to do with the lack of outreach than the nature of the music. I know of another Presbyterian church in Brisbane that has thrash music with expository preaching. A friend I know attends that church and puts up with the music so that he can be edified by the preaching.

Some of the issues for us

Listen to iPod

(image courtesy ChristArt)

These are some of the musical issues in churches for my wife and me:

  1. Does the service focus on worship of the trinitarian Lord God Almighty or is it human-centred? We seek the former.
  2. Is the content of the lyrics of the songs, hymns and spiritual songs Christ-centred and promoting sound doctrine? I’m finding many contemporary songs to have too many trite, subjective lyrics. There are a few with these characteristics in the older songs as well.
  3. Does the music drown out the lyrics or is the music meant to be an accompaniment to help with the adequate singing of the hymns/songs?
  4. Are the melodies singable for the average person who attends a church service? I’m a very average singer and I find many of the contemporary songs to be not meant for congregational singing, but are meant for performance by a group and band.
  5. Does the music support or detract from the message of the preacher/teacher?
  6. How much of the music is influenced by the nature of music in the contemporary culture?

To be honest, I am concerned at the direction in which many evangelical churches are going with music and preaching content in my part of the world. Contemporary music, light lyrics and topical sermons are the order of the day in evangelical churches.

Here are but two examples of the light lyrics, in my understanding:

Air I Breathe[6]

This is the Air I Breathe
This is the Air I Breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me


And I
I’m desperate for you
And I
I’m lost without you

Never let me go[7]

In the shadows; My spirit weak
Love broke through the darkness and lifted me
And I know you’ll never let me go

In the storm in the raging sea
Love conquered the fear and delivered me
And I know you’ll never let me go

Oh love in the shadows
Be the light who leads me on
You’re love I will follow
Be my guide, You’re will be done
Oh Lord

In the arms of the One unseen
Love carried the cross that was meant for me
And I know you’ll never let me go

Oh love in the shadows
Be the light who leads me on
You’re love I will follow
Be my guide, You’re will be done

Oh Lord I surrender, now forever I’ll be loved
In the love of the Father, You are faithful You are strong
So hold me now, hold me now, hold me now

Nothing in this life has walked these streets
Love opened my eyes show me what You see
And I know I’ll never let You go

Now compare

There is power in the blood

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


How great Thou art

Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;


Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel he gentle breeze;


And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die – I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:


When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Do you see the picture of what is happening to music in the evangelical church?


Youngblood, R F 1992, 1, 2 Samuel, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 553-1104. Youngblood, R F 1992, 1, 2 Samuel, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 553-1104. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Music: If it feels good, do it!’ zanness#171, available at: (Accessed 2 May 2013).

[2] The following is my response as OzSpen#181, ibid.

[3] The 1978 edition of the NIV translated this word as ‘songs’. Youngblood explains: ‘”Songs” (perhaps of victory….), the singular of Hebrew for which is sometimes equivalent to “music” (cf. 1 Chron 25:6-7) introduces the list of accompanying musical instruments that follows’ (Youngblood 1992:870). It does not make sense to me that the 2011 NIV translated with ‘castanets’, which is not common English here in Australia, when ‘songs’ would be much clearer to the contemporary reader. The ESV translates as ‘songs’ but notes that this is from the ‘Septuagint, 1 Chronicles 13:8, Hebrew fir trees’.

[4] ‘The systrum, mentioned only here in the OT, was used widely throughout the ancient Near East, especially in Egypt. It consisted of a handle fitted to “a metal loop with holes through which pieces of wire were inserted and bent at the ends. Since the holes were larger than the wire, the instrument produced a jingling sound when shaken. The Hebrew word comes from a verb which means ‘shake;’ so it is reasonable to suppose that the mea’an’im were sistra (Sellers, “Musical Instruments of Israel,” pp. 44-45)’ (Youngblood 1992:870).

[5] ‘”Cymbals” were of two kinds, one set of which were struck vertically (harsh/noisy cymbals) and the other horizontally (clear cymbals). The former may be reflected in the “clash of cymbals” and the latter in the “resounding cymbals” of Psalm 150:5. The cymbals here were probably clear cymbals (similar to but smaller than their modern descendants, bronze examples of which (cf. 1 Chron. 15:19) archaeologists have found at several cites in Israel (e.g. Beth Shemesh …; Hazor. While not mentioning sistrums, the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 13:8 concludes the list with “trumpets,” resulting in a total of six different musical instruments used to accompany the first attempt to bring the ark from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem’ (Youngblood 1992:870).

[6] Available at AlltheLyrics: (Accessed 2 May 2013).

[7] Available at AlltheLyrics: (Accessed 2 May 2013).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 April 2016.

Christian denominations and the church of the first century?

Episcopal Church (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Does this thought ever flash through your Christian mind, “Is the church of today anything like the church of the first couple of centuries of the Christian era?” Were there clergy? What about church buildings? When did architecture and cathedrals enter Christianity? They’ve entered my mind many times and I’ve concluded that today’s churches and denominations are a country mile from New Testament Christianity.

Yes, we read about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11) but their purpose was to work themselves out of a job as they were designed to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Eph. 4:12 ESV). How close is that to what is happening in your church? How many of your pastors/teachers/clergy are spending their lives equipping believers for ministry? Or, how many of them are increasing their power through prominent pulpit or mass media ministries?

We should be brave enough to confront the issues. Has the church worldwide drifted from its biblical goals and purpose? How do the 100 million Christians in China compare with what is happening to churches and denominations in the West? What about the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and in countries such as North Korea? Are these churches closer to the biblical model than in my country of Australia?

One Christian Forum has been pondering this question, “What denomination today is closest to First Century Christianity?” That’s a very good question. There have been many responses.

My own contribution has been that I would choose the house church movement. Any church that exalts the clergy is not, in my view, closest to first century Christianity.

First century Christianity had this approach to what happens when the church gathers:

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Cor. 14:26 NIV).

Every member ministry was the norm of the early church. That is not the approach of the Eastern Orthodox Church. But it is what happens in house churches.

There is evidence of churches meeting in homes prior to AD 70. See Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 16:40; 20:7-8, 20; Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 2; 2 John 9-11.

The contemporary church is so far removed from this every-member involvement when the church gathers and, sadly, many charismatic-pentecostals are moving away from it when the church gathers on Sunday. Some still maintain this 1 Cor. 14:26 openness to the gifts in small groups.

Why do you think that the church has moved from this norm of what happened in the early church? One standard answer is that many of these gifts have ceased. My understanding of the cessation of these gifts is they will cease when the poor reflection becomes: “We shall see [Him] face to face” and then be fully known (1 Cor. 13:12).  See my articles:

In John Shelby Spong’s book, A New Christianity for a New World (HarperSanFrancisco 2001), he throws out core Christian beliefs such as the atonement (an “offensive idea”, p. 10) and the bodily resurrection of Christ, yet still wants to say: “I am a Christian. I believe that God is real. I call Jesus my Lord. Yet I do not define God as a supernatural being. I believe passionately in God. This God is not identified with doctrines, creeds, and traditions” (Spong 2003:3, 64, 74).

Spong’s primary question to answer in this book is: “Can a person claim with integrity to be a Christian and at the same time dismiss, as I have done, so much of what has traditionally defined the content of the Christian faith?” (p. 7)

Jack Spong was no lightweight in the liberal Episcopalian Church in the USA, being bishop of Newark NJ. For Spong to be able to teach and preach such heresy as a bishop in the Episcopalian church is an indicator of the sickness in that denomination. But other denominations have the same problem as I have indicated with some of the Anglicans and Uniting Church in Australia. Take a look at the theological heresy that is taught in the United Church, Canada.

I’m not sure that people are aware of the theological sickness in many denominations that have departed from the faith.

Take a read of John Dominic Crossan’s theology (The Historical Jesus; Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography; Who Killed Jesus? The Birth of Christianity). He taught biblical studies in the Roman Catholic, DePaul University, Chicago, for 26 years.

One person in this thread stated, “I don’t see denominations as a problem. I see them as a solution”. My response is:

Yep, denominations like:

Right! We need denominations like we need a sore head!



Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 January 2017.