Please click on the link below to hear an audio sermon on the Practical Application of Good Music. A sermon outline is below.
Practical Application of Good Music by Pastor David Reagan Antioch Baptist Church, Knoxville, T.N.
Summary: Music is a powerful tool, a vehicle for intense communication. It works strongly and effectively in our lives. Rock music, built on properties of blues and swing is made of poly-rhythmic properties that influence our emotions toward a bad temper. It was designed from specific musical attributes to manipulate and create feelings antagonistic of purity. “The blues is the song of those who turn their backs upon religion.”
The elements of music are melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, and vocalization. Each element is very important. The trouble with deciding which music a church uses is that there are many degrees between good and bad music. It is hard to know where to divide the line. In many churches, there is no system of music responsibility, and resulting bad music and actions follow like a flood, destroying churches. It takes courage to be in charge of making those choices.
It is all right for music to have surprises, but overall, it needs to have form, direction, and predictability to support the congregation. Surprise creates tension, and too much tension is not helpful. Disharmony also creates tension. Complexity is good until it begins to confuse listeners. Minor keys are not bad, but present a sense of sadness. Overall, it is haunting, sad, and meditative. We have times of sadness, but those should not characterize the victorious Christian life.
Rhythm has taken over much of today’s music. A straight 4/4 rhythm rouses a person to march. The natural beat is on the first and third counts. A 3/4 or 6/8 beat song is more meditative. The natural beat is on the first beat for 3/4 time or the first and fourth beats for 6/8 time. Rock music changes the emphasis of the beat. There is a path in rock music that does not begin at the result. Rock music uses off-beat or syncopated rhythms repeatedly, it plays with the natural rhythm, changing it. We have to be careful in our choices in rhythms, it can make music pure or dirty. Rock music sometimes goes a half beat beyond the natural beat, creating extra emphasis on the beat that is not supposed to be emphasized. It gets you off of the right beat, creating an off-beat feel. With “What Can Wash Away My Sin”, there is no dancing feel to it. When syncopation is added, a sexual dance is the natural reaction. Watch children’s actions when syncopated music is played, and they will begin to dance to it. There are people who can listen to rock music without loosing all their morals, but the direction is important – it excites the sexual drive away from what is right, influencing our hearts, and eventually, our decisions. This reaction becomes stronger the more it is used. The whole idea is to loosen morals. The back-beat hits the end of the accented beat with a thump. It creates tension and is rock music, emphasizing the second and fourth beat. The world knows what it does, but it is the Christians who do not want to admit what it does to them. The off-beat and back-beat are forms of soft rock. Hard rock emphasizes every beat harshly. It has sexual connotations.
The study of good music with a desire toward godliness brings standards that everyone may not understand. If in doubt, ask yourself does this music emphasize the offbeat? Music is not evil because it is new, but because it is designed with an evil purpose, with tools that go against God’s principles.
The boogie, honkeytonk, is designed by stretching the first beat, and dividing the second beat by two. Many good, sound and solid preaching churches have a pianist playing boogie beat, which appeals to the flesh. It is fun, and powerful, but not godly music. These forms of music go back to jazz, rock, and blues and were designed for the dance halls. Not all music use these tools to the same extant, but the tools are effective to the extant they are used. One of our problems is that young people in the church are using the world’s styles of music in the church, then using the same techniques in the world to get a bigger audience.
Over professionalism: Showing off technical skills instead of emphasizing the message of the Lord.
The country whine: Using a back of the throat in a gravely way.
The contemporary whine: Whine with a depressing attitude, usually used with a ballad style of music that has no resolution.
Music is a tool. The devil is a great musician. Music can make us feel inspired, ready to charge, sleepy, depressed, rebellious, and more. A strong off beat has a memorizing effect, similar to drugs and alcohol.
In our church, we want to hold to good, conservative Christian music. Other churches may not be as strict, but I wanted you to know why we don’t use the same music as everyone else. There are reasons you should know for guarding what you listen to in your homes. Lots of times what you listen to breaks down your resolve for godliness. If God is dealing with you to surrender your music to Him, be obedient to Him today.
Misusing the Elements of Music
- Found in some Romantic Period Classical Music and in the music of the Middle East and Far East.
- Has no distinct direction; no recognizable movement from anywhere to anywhere.
- God’s truth has direction; His music should have it as well.
- Too Tense
- Tension in music is caused by surprise.
- Melodies have certain forms that we can anticipate; we often anticipate where the next note will be—even when we do not know the song.
- Surprise is created by singing or playing a note other than the one anticipated.
- The use of surprise in music
- Music with no surprises can be boring; surprise can be effectively used to gain attention or create interest.
- Too much surprise creates an unfulfilled tension much as an unhappy ending does in a story or movie; God’s music should not leave the listener unfulfilled.
- Caused by playing notes together that do not naturally go together.
- Often found in Modern Classical Music.
- Makes people wince; it almost hurts the senses; it should be avoided in Christian music.
- Complex Harmonies
- Some harmonies are much more complex than others; they bring notes together that do have connections but the connections are more difficult.
- Those who work with music a lot are comfortable with much more complex harmonies than are people who just listen; the average person finds such harmonies difficult to follow.
- Hitting an occasional complex chord brings the same surprise as the singing of an unexpected note and can be used to bring freshness to the song.
- However, extreme use of complex harmony draws attention to itself and diminishes the message of the song by making the listening experience too intellectual (thus blocking the actual message of the song).
- Minor Keys
- Minor keys are built on a different scale than the major keys (The key of A Minor starts with the A on the piano and uses all the white keys).
- The minor keys have a very different sound and create a very different emotional effect than the major keys.
- They are more haunting.
- They create a sad, meditative feeling.
- Minor keys can be very effective in an occasional melody or song where the purpose is to make the listener meditate on his failures or on the sadness of some condition.
- However, sadness is not a major theme of Christianity and when it is a theme it is always a means to a better, happier, end (Psalm 137:1-4).
- Minor keys are becoming very popular as vehicles for modern Christian music (even among those conservative in other ways); we need to keep the use of minor keys in a minor position in our worship.
- Refers to the practice of accenting the normally unaccented beats of a song; the backbeat is often provided by a bass instrument.
- The backbeat (and offbeat) is the foundational basis for all rock music; hard rock hits every beat.
- Backbeat is designed to create a physical, sexual tension in people.
- Also called syncopation; refers to the practice of placing accents between normal beats off time from the regular accents.
- Used in soft rock and in most modern music.
- Creates a desire to jump in jerky movements; to dance.
- It de-emphasizes the message of the music by overemphasizing the physical response to the music.
- Uses an 8/8 rhythm with the pattern of a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth note.
- A jazz style of piano playing coming from bars and clubs; the honky-tonk sound.
- As in the other styles, it appeals to the flesh.
- General Comments
- All of these rhythms go back to jazz, blues and rock (which are all interrelated).
- They all have a strong effect on the flesh; they were designed to create sexual tension.
- They have a tendency to break down moral restraints; they mesmerize the mind and excite the flesh; where these rhythms predominate, virtue is often lost and moral looseness prevails.
- There are admittedly lesser strains of these beats that do not obviously bring these evils but they still have the same effects, only to a lesser degree. Also, everyone who listens to this music does not fall into moral perversity just as all who drink alcohol do not become drunks, but the danger is always there. The music tends to excite the flesh but people still have a will and react to the excitement in different ways. Some people just have a good time and do not associate the feeling they are having with anything sexual. Others are led to greater sins.
- Another danger of this music is that it is the music of the world and the world can always do better at its music than the church can. Many are being trained to love the worldly sound in the church. What are they going to do with this love? Many will go to the world to get their “better” version and will take the ungodly lyrics with the music.
- God’s music ought to sound different than the music of the world. Worldly music has no place in the church.
- Lyrics that say nothing of Biblical significance should not be sung.
- Lyrics that teach false doctrine should not be sung.
- Lyrics that exalt man and his feelings and opinions should not be sung.
- This refers to the way a voice sounds as it sings; the singing voice.
- Hyper-professionalism: some learn from classical-style professionals; although excellence is always good, we should avoid trying to sound high class in the average church.
- Country Whine: Many try to sound like their favorite country-western music star; the church is not a place for performance; the emphasis should be on the message of the song and not on the performance.
- Contemporary Whine: similar to the country whine, it carries an air of indifference and despair.