GUIDE TO SELECTING
All music fits into one of three categories:
First, there is music that helps you and gives you strength. Only godly music can do that. It is the only kind that can help you go to heaven.
Second, there is music that doesn't do much of anything for you. It is useless, turns your mind into a desolate wilderness, and should be rejected.
Third, there is music that definitely hurts and weakens you. It tempts you to do bad things and can lead to demon possession. Totally avoid being around such music.
Here are three basic Bible principles which should help guide you toward better decisions:
First, will it glorify God? Here is the first basic principle: "Whatsover ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). If your life is dedicated anew to Him each morning, this will be the cardinal rule of your life.
Second, only involve yourself with that which is good. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8). If it is not virtuous, and does not increase virtue, leave it alone.
Third, you can identify it by its fruits. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). Music can easily be judged by the effects on those who listen to it. Does it draw you closer to God? Is it only casual entertainment which is not helping you fulfill your work for God? As for music which sensualizes and debases the character,—leave it totally alone!
Here are several questions you should ask yourself, when you select godly music for your church or for yourself:
1. Are the words doctrinally correct? 2. Is the message clear? 3. Does the music fit the words? 4. Is it people-oriented or God-oriented? 5. Does it draw attention to the performance/performer or to the message? 6. What is the message that it teaches?
7. The way it is given, will it actually teach that message?
In summary: Does it honor and glorify God? (1 Cor 10:31). Is it doctrinally sound? (2 Jn 10). Is it musically well constructed? Is it associated with the world and impurity? (2 Cor 5:17; 1 Jn 2:15; James 4:4).
We could also phrase these guidelines in more detail:
1. Above all else, all "Christian" music must glorify God—or it is not Christian (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17, 23-24; Eph 5:19).
2. Some styles of music are just not Christian.
3. Contemporary "Christian" music was not, and is not, designed to reach the lost. We should not use the excuse that "we must use music the sinner is used to and can identify with in order to reach him."
4. We should not, in any manner, use music which is identified with the world's music, its patterns, its impurities, or its objectives (1 Cor 2:14).
5. Truly Christian music must be doctrinally sound if it is to glorify God and help human beings. Many current "gospel songs" are doctrinally incorrect. We must not let ourselves be attracted to a nice, catchy tune and forget to weigh the words in the light of Scripture (2 Jn 10; 1 Tim 1:3; 4:16; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 7, 10).
6. Christian music, if it is to honor God, must be "good" music and not have the perversion beats, drums, slides, and noise of pagan music.
7. If it is to honor and glorify God, Christian music must be of a style that is not associated with the world, its sin, and impurities. We should not borrow from rock, jazz, popular, big band, rhythm and blues, etc. For they originated in dance halls, barrooms, nightclubs, discotheques, and earlier still from heathen rituals to establish communion with evil spirits.
8. What is the appearance of the performers and the atmosphere of the performance? Many contemporary performers wear styles of hair and clothing that are not Biblical (1 Cor 11:14). Many performances feature elaborate sound systems designed to make the music as loud as possible, along with flashing colored lights (to produce a "psychedelic" effect) and/or white smoke to provide an eerie, demonic atmosphere (2 Cor 5:17-18; 6:17-18).
9. Much of contemporary "Christian" music is not much different from the world's music, except for the words—which are often very weak or just plan unscriptural. The Bible tells us there is to be a distinct difference between believers and non-believers (2 Cor 5:17; Rom 12:1-2).
Here are several interesting descriptions of good quality music:
Clear soft tones which are not harsh, shrill, or offend the ear. The singing is not loud, but clear in intonation. The words are given with distinct utterance and clear intonation (9 Testimonies, 144). Music ought to have beauty, pathos, and power (Evangelism, 505). It is all right for properly selected musical instruments to accompany voices in their songs of praise (9 Testimonies, 144), but they should not compete with and overpower them with noise and confusion (2 Selected Messages, 36-37). Good singing is subdued and melodious, similar to the sweet music of birds (Evangelism, 510). Voices should be modulated, softened, and subdued (ibid., 507-508). Sharp, rasping voices are also inappropriate (ibid., 507).
We should try to sing praises to God, sweetly and reverently like the angels in heaven, not like commercial hard rock singers, only intent to make another dollar.
Here are additional guidelines for what the musical presentation should be like:
1. It should direct the hearer to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
2. It should prepare the way for the presentation of the message from God's Word or continue its appeal, in order to bring a godly response from the hearers.
3. It should be played and sung by those whose lives are consistent with the message they bear.
4. It should be a vehicle for the deep impression of Bible truth, which will inspire a positive change in the life.
5. It should be presented in a carefully planned, orderly manner.
6. It should be simple and melodic, and presented without any emphasis on personal display.
7. It should give precedence to the preaching of the Word of God, both in emphasis and in allotment of time given to the music.
8. It should maintain a balanced appeal to the emotion and intellect, and not just charm the senses.
This is yet another set of suggestions for what the presentation of music and words should be like:
1. It should bring glory to God and assist us in acceptably worshiping Him.
2. It should ennoble, uplift, and purify the Christian's thoughts.
3. It should effectively influence the Christian in the development of Christ's character in his life and in that of others.
4. It should have words that are in harmony with the clear teachings of the Bible.
5. It should reveal no mixing of the sacred with the profane.
6. The music should match the message of the words.
7. It should be presented in such a manner as to shun theatrical and prideful display.
8. The words should be presented so they can be clearly heard and understood.
9. The message of the words should not be overpowered by the music or the way it is presented.
10. A careful balance of the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual elements should be maintained.
11. High principles of dignity and excellence should never be compromised, in efforts to reach people just where they are.
12. The musical presentation should be appropriate for the occasion, the setting, and the audience for which it is intended.
The following two basic principles should govern our choice of music:
1. All music that we listen to, perform, or compose, should glorify God. "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). This is the fundamental Bible principle. Anything that cannot meet this high standard will weaken our experience in the Lord, and we dare not yield to it.
2. All music that we listen to, produce, or present should be the noblest and the best. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true . . whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil 4:8). This present life is a preparation for heaven; and all our music should be a foretaste of what we will experience in the life to come.
Lastly, we might mention these points:
1. Vocal treatment: The raucous style common to rock; the suggestive, sentimental, breathy, crooning style of the nightclub performer; and other distortions of the human voice should be avoided.
2. Harmonic treatment: Music should be avoided that is saturated with the 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords, as well as other exotic sonorities. These chords, when used with careful restraint, produce beauty; but, when used to excess, they distract from the true spiritual quality of the text.
3. Visual presentation: Anything which calls undue attention to the performer(s), such as excessive, affected bodily movement or inappropriate clothing, should find no place in worship or in witnessing.
4. Amplification: Great care should be exercised to avoid excessive instrumental and vocal amplification. It should only be the amount needed so that the congregation can clearly hear the words, as distinguished from the background music. When amplifying music, there should be a sensitivity to the spiritual needs of those giving the witness and of those who are to receive it. Careful consideration should be given to the selection of instruments for amplification.
5. Performance: The basic objective in the performance of all sacred music should be to exalt Christ rather than to exalt the musician or to provide entertainment.
In the home, the following guidelines should be considered:
1. Music education and appreciation should begin early in the life of the child through the introduction of great hymns and songs in the informal happy experience of family worship. Only carefully selected music should be played on home audio equipment. The example of father and mother to these high standards is very important; for the children will tend to emulate the conduct of their parents.
2. Family singing, possibly with the playing of accompanying musical instruments, should be encouraged.
3. Experiments in writing poetry and song compositions might be encouraged.
4. Parents must keep ever before them the fact that Satan is trying to ruin the Christian experience of each member of the family. So, by precept and example, they must teach and lead in the highest standards of Christian music.
5. Extreme care must be used in the type of programming and music listened to on the various media. Everything vulgar, enticing, cheap, immoral, theatrical, and countercultural should be totally avoided.