My Journey with Church Music // Why I Appreciate Sacred Music

Today’s post is a little off the beaten path and was not originally planned to be part of my Church Music series, but since I have received several requests to write on this topic, and because it is such a big component in the music ministry with which I am involved, I have decided to go ahead and incorporate it into this series.  Please forgive me in advance if I do not come across clearly; you are welcome to begin a discussion below in the comments and I will seek to better explain anything that may have come across confusing.

  First, before we begin talking about this controversial subject, I’d like to make my goal in writing this post plain.

  What this post isn’t:

  This post is not a defensive post.  It’s definitely not a post condemning those that listen to different music.  It is not even particularly a persuasive post (although I wouldn’t be against that happening)! :)
I have shared some comparisons between sacred music and contemporary in this post for the sake of showing you how I have weighed choices and come up with my personal conclusion and standards of listening to sacred music as opposed to others.   My intention is not to bash or condemn any specific types of music or those that listen to them.

  What this post is:

  This post is the result of a request to write about why I listen to and love sacred music.  It is intended to encourage you to think carefully, critically, and biblically about your music choices.  The call to action here is to simply just evaluate your music standards with an open heart and talk to God about them.  That’s it!

Note: I did grow up listening to sacred music, which is an important factor here as to why I listen to this music.  However, I still hold these convictions and tried to write this with as little bias as possible.

First: What is Sacred Music?

  What exactly do I mean when I say “sacred music”?  Good question!  I mean anything that has to do with hymns, whether that is singing Amazing Grace a capella or listening to an orchestra play How Great Thou Art.  However, it is not restricted to only old hymns.  There are modern-day hymn writers that write fresh and beautiful hymns.  There are also sacred pieces that aren’t mainly sung in hymn form. 

  Here are some overall examples of sacred music:

All I Have is Christ – (teen choir with piano + flute accompaniment.)
I Give You My Heart – (vocal trio with piano accompaniment.)
Nearer, Still Nearer – (violins with piano accompaniment)
The Wonderful Cross Medley – (piano/vocal/violin medley of several well-known hymns)
Can It Be? – (SATB choir with piano accompaniment)

  For the record, I would not classify music with contemporary instruments (drums/electric guitars/etc.) into the category of sacred music.  However, I don't mind good, classic percussion/tympani in sacred music if used thoughtfully, intentionally, and in moderation.

  So, why have I personally chosen to listen to and play sacred music?

Sacred Music is Beautiful

  God is a creator of beautiful things.  No one can argue that God doesn’t care about beauty.  From a budding flower to a majestic sunset to the phenomenon of the Northern Lights – creation proclaims the beauty of our Savior.  God created us, as humans, to love beauty.

  When sacred music is done right, it is the most beautiful sound.  Often I will just close my eyes and think, “THIS is why I am a musician.  THIS is the epitome of beautiful music.”

Sacred Music Takes Skill

  Creating a beautiful sound takes skill.  This is one of the reasons I love beautiful sacred music so much.  As a musician myself, I understand the skill behind a gorgeous piece.  To my ears, there is nothing beautiful or skillful about banging on a drum.  Now, I’m not saying that drummers or rock stars have no skill – I know that many of you listen to that music and could say otherwise, and that is fine.  But if I am seeking to make a beautiful sound, I’d rather learn to skillfully play the violin instead of the drums.  I can easily recognize the skill of a professional violinist.  I can barely tell a drummer from a toddler playing with pots and pans.

  I found out recently that one of my younger brother’s favorite songs is actually an instrumental piece.  Yes, he is a teenager who adores a piece with classical + bluegrass instruments providing the main melody!  Although my brother is not inclined to learn an instrument, he still recognizes and appreciates the skill in a good instrumental.

Sacred Music Openly Talks about the Lord

  When my dad was younger, he was visiting a church and carefully paid attention to the lyrics of the songs sung in the service.  It was the middle of the second song before the name of Jesus was even mentioned.

  Good hymns are Biblically and doctrinally sound, and are 100% Christ-focused.  They talk about serving and living for the Lord.  They exhort one another to do things such as “Magnify the Lord,” “Sing Praise to God,” and “Come, Christians, Join to Sing!”  They praise God’s attributes by saying, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and asking, “How Could He Love Me so?”  Every point made in a good hymn should be truly “sacred” – 100% true and biblical.

Sacred Music Primarily Feeds the Soul (Not the Body) and is Christ-Focused

  This is a very important aspect of music for me.  One reason you will not find contemporary or Christian rock on my playlist is because those genres stimulate physical movement, which can be distracting and even sensual.  I’m sorry, but I don’t think God is in heaven “rocking out.”  And I don’t think He is pleased with us drawing attention to our bodies in the name of worship.

  Simply stated, sacred music does very little in the way of appealing to the flesh. It focuses ultimately on Christ.  Many don’t like sacred music because it is “boring.”  It doesn’t urge you to dance or shout or run around crazy like a chicken with its head chopped off.  It is reverent and peaceful.  It is Christ-focused, not self-focused.

  This may come as a shock to some of you with similar music choices as mine, but I don’t think there is an inherent problem with raising your hands in church during a song.  On Easter Sunday of this past year, my heart was so full that I almost threw my hands in the air while we sang "In Christ Alone."  But because of the natural tendency of that being an action that can distract others and draw attention, I refrained.

  Contrary to popular belief, sacred music is not motionless.  It can move people to display outward emotion, but that is not the main purpose, goal, or intention of this music.  Oftentimes, contemporary music encourages and pushes for a physical reaction of some sort.  Sacred music does not, although that is not entirely out of its range.

  I think we tend to group emotional responses with some sort of physical action – crying, screaming, shouting, dancing, moving, etc.  However, sacred music can be emotional without the physical.

  A lot of the “fun” sounding stuff in other types of music tends to be self-focused.  It’s because our world is so focused on having fun and personal happiness.  Just because Christ-centered sacred music does not encourage this type of fun doesn’t mean it is boring! There can still be fresh tunes, syncopation, and energizing rhythms!  There is simply the key element of BALANCE.

Sacred Music is Distinct from the World

  A.W. Tozer once said, “Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.”

  When I’m driving down the street and I hear a strong beat and music blasting from the car next to me, there’s no way I can distinguish whether or not the music is regular rock or Christian rock.  I would never know the difference.  I couldn’t understand the words anyway.

  Good sacred music is a breath of fresh air.  It is peaceful and calming.  Taking the time to enjoy sacred music is a nice break from the fast-paced, worldly culture in which we live.

Thoughts on Worship

  To worship is to “show reverence and adoration for (a deity).”  Worship is 100% about the Person you are worshipping and 0% about yourself.  True worship is honoring and praising and glorifying God in complete humility.  To worship God is to praise Him, thank Him, live for Him, and serve Him every second of the day.  We make the decision to worship God with each breath we take.

  Just like true love, true worship is a choice.  It is a selfless decision.  It has little to do with emotions, entertainment, or how it makes you feel.  If you are having a grand old time rocking out to Christian contemporary music but your thoughts are far from God, that’s not worship!  That is pure self-idolatry.

  I think that sacred music wards against this mentality, but please understand me when I say that those who listen to sacred music are not at all exempt from this sad possibility.  Satan loves to use any and all types of music as a stumbling block.  So no matter what type of worship music you listen to, I would encourage you to ponder these things, examine your heart, and think carefully about worship.

A Closing Note

  If you are still reading at this point, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  This topic is extremely controversial and I know it is very difficult to clearly present a view like this without riling up opposition.  I sincerely apologize to anyone who is offended.  I do not mean to build any walls or end any friendships over this post.  I have been requested to write a post on why I love sacred music, and this is simply my honest and blunt answer.

  I will be honest when I say that I would be absolutely thrilled if someone reading this post is convicted about their music choices, but please understand that I hold no grudges against those that do not hold the same views and musical standards.  I have good friends who listen to Christian rock and others who think it is downright evil, and I love them all the same.  We are all called to love one another, no matter the differences.  I would be devastated if a friend turned their back on me just because of this post and my view on the subject.

  Ultimately, if you are open to conviction in the area of music, I would just ask you to ask GOD what HE would like you to listen to.  I’m not the dictator of right and wrong; God is.  Ask Him to convict your heart in whatever way He sees fit.  It is more about your heart than about the music.

Extra resource:  Mykaela at Making Music for the Master wrote a fantastic article about the power of music which you can read here.

I’d love to know…

  What are YOUR thoughts on this topic?  How have you sought to be intentional and thoughtful in the music you listen to?  Yes, even if you have completely different views, I still want to hear from you – just please share your views in a kind and God-honoring way.  I am looking for DISCUSSION, not argument; there is a difference. :)  Please comment below!


  1. Yes, yes, yes! I have tried to explain this subject to different people, but you explained it so much better than I could. I agree with all of the points that you came up with. Thank you for writing it! :) I may be directing others to this post when discussing the subject. ;)

    1. Oh, I'm so glad this came across well! Thank you for leaving such positive feedback -- I am very thankful and relieved! xD And of course, you are more than welcome to reference this post any time if you'd like. :) Thank you for the encouragement!

  2. My goodness Grace, I love this post!! What you said is sooo true. I only listen to certain contemporary Christian music because a lot of them are theological incorrect but for the most part, I enjoy worship music. Like at my Youth Group, uses drums, electric guitars, etc, but sometimes it's just to loud and I think they do it to attract the young people. But for me personally, I just want to worship God! Thanks so much for this post, it was very encouraging!

    ~ Hope

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Hope! It sounds like you have a good, balanced view on worship music. I'm glad this was encouraging to you!

  3. Bravo, Grace!! This was beautifully done! Thank you for tackling this; I agree with so much of what you wrote - this is fantastic. Stay strong in these convictions!!


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