Music and Worship
Author: Nettie Gill
Publish date:
Summary: What does your music choice say about your God?

There is no language more powerful than the language of music. Music crosses all cultural and linguistic barriers.

You will find people in Asia appreciating the music of Bach, Mozart, or any number of European composers. You will see North Americans choosing Indian ballads over their own local selections. And, even in the heart of Africa, you will find indigenous tribes singing and dancing to the music of the Western pop heroes.

In Africa, certain tribes even use the music of such composers as Jimi Hendrix in their Voodoo rituals since the beat and atmospheres found in his work, and that of other rock musicians, so closely resemble the rhythmic style of the native jungle groove. Rock is equally suitable for inducing the right atmosphere for the ritual dances and religious ceremonies.

Influencing the Emotions

Music, of all the art forms, speaks most loudly to the emotional faculties. We react to music on the sensory modal level of functioning. Music is heard in the part of the brain that receives the stimuli of sensations and emotions. It bypasses the brain centers involving reason and conscious decision making.

CC Horia Varlan on Flickr

In other words, music does not enter our minds via the master brain but enters by way of the thalamus, a relay station for sensations and feelings. When a stimulus reaches the thalamus, the master brain is automatically invaded. If the stimulus is continued for some time then the person's brain is eventually influenced to react to its surroundings in the way the stimulus suggests it should. Reason is broken down and the response becomes automatic. Read more about the brain's response to stimuli such as music

Willem Van de Wall, in his book, Music in Hospitals, puts it this way:

Much of what we call irresistible in music is so because we react on the sensory-motor level of functioning.i

Medical research has shown that the nerves of the ear have more extensive connections than any other nerves of the body. Read more about the ear

It has also been scientifically revealed that music has a direct effect on the pulse rate, blood pressure, nervous system and glands of the body.

Jimi Hendrix, the guitar hero who wrote the hit song entitled "Voodoo Child," reveals the strength of music as a medium for setting atmosphere and indoctrinating minds:

The blues are easy to play but not to feel. The background to our music is a spiritual-blues thing. Blues is a part of America. We're making our music into electric church music—a new kind of Bible, not like in a hotel, but a Bible you carry in your hearts, one that will give you a physical feeling. We try to make our music so loose and hard-hitting so that it hits your soul hard enough to make it open. It's like shock therapy or a can opener. Rock is technically blues-based...We want them to realize that our music is just as spiritual as going to church.ii

Read more about the mood-altering abilities of music

The Spiritual Connection

Classical music great Claude Levi Strauss made the connection between spirituality and music. Here are his words:

Since music is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man.iii

The spiritual implications of these statements are more than clear. And it is only when one has experienced music, not merely as a casual listener, that you can appreciate the incredible depth of influence that can be accomplished through the use of this powerful yet subtle form. I would stop short of comparing the musician to "a being comparable to the gods," but I would most definitely stress that anyone who doubts the persuasive influence of music is doing so purely from the point of ignorance, or stubbornness.

In Christianity we see many denominations, especially the more charismatic churches, using music to create an atmosphere of celebration and liberty of expression, serving much the same purpose as the music in the aboriginal or mystical worship context.

God gave us all wonderfully created ears and brains that we can use for the good of ourselves and those around us. All these intricately and carefully made structures are part of the body temple that belongs to the Creator Himself. He wants to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit by taking up residence in our lives. In love, He warns us about the results of abusing the dwelling place of His Spirit:

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple(1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Let us seriously consider what we subject our bodies to. Weigh the consequences carefully before just listening to any kind of music at any volume because it feels good. Be aware of the atmosphere that is being created by the music you hear. "Test the spirits, to see whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1), and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in the choices you make, musically, and otherwise.

i. Willem Van de Wall, Music in Hospitals (New York Russel Sage Foundations, 1946): 15.

ii. David Henderson, 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky (Bantam Books, 1978): 9-10.

iii. Oliver Sacks, Awakenings (London Pan, 1981): 56-57.

Music is a very controversial subject. The music we listen to and participate in will tell whom we worship! Rick Warren, in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life says this:

Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all—fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new. You probably don’t like it all, but God does! If it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship…

Christians often disagree over the style of music used in worship…But there is no biblical style! There are no musical notes in the Bible; we don’t even have the instruments they used in Bible.

There is no such thing as ‘Christian’ music; there are only Christian lyrics. It is the words that make a song sacred, not the tune. There are no spiritual tunes.i

Compare the above statements with what the inspired writings say about music:

The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. Better never have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me would be brought into our camp meetings. The truth for this time needs nothing of this kind in its work of converting the souls. A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit’s working…

The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with such a confusion of noise and multitude of sounds as passed before me last January. Satan works amid the din and confusion of such music, which, properly conducted, would be a praise and glory to God. He makes its effect like the poison sting of the serpent…Satan will make music a snare by the way in which it is conducted (2 Selected Messages, 36-38).

We are admonished that the character of our music can elevate our thoughts and feelings or degenerate them (See 2T, 322).

I realize that this quote refers to worldly music, but I also believe that it can apply to so-called Christian rock. Listening to the beat and the grating singing sounds that come along with even Christian rock only causes one to become insensitive to the sounds and words of worldly rock. Only the words are different.

Alan O’Day, singer, musician, and composer wrote this:

To me, Contemporary Christian music is the station that I tune in on the radio, thinking that I’m hearing secular music because it sounds so hip – until I catch the words and realize the lyric has a slightly different intent. I am happy to see that Christian music is moving into the 20th century, and that in some cases, the distinction between Christian and secular music is being blurred.ii

Richard Harrington, writing in the Washington Post, says that the religious recording industry recognizes the terrific sales potential in pushing more “positive pop” into the churches. He says it is capitalizing on its opportunity to make big sales by fusing current popular musical styles with religious words.iii

In his book Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? Paul Baker writes this:

“Christian rock” entered the churches—not through Christian musicians who sought to glorify the Lord—but by unsaved, secular rock performers who capitalized on religious themes.iv

What is today hailed by church administrators, pastors, and youth leaders as a great victory…is actually a device of the devil to destroy everyone in the churches…

Rock music, by its very history and what it does in the lives of those who tamper with it, is unholy. To attempt to use it “to glorify God” is blasphemy…Rock music began as a rebellious sexual style of music. It remains that today. It is offensive to God and to genuine Christians who love Him and seek to obey His Word, the Bible…trying to unite a holy message with the unholy music of the world is an abomination in the eyes of God.v

When you read about the children of Israel joining with the Moabites in their celebration, can you see a parallel in the Christian Church today joining in the worship celebration using the music of the world. We have been warned that this would happen before the Second Coming of Jesus.

Dr. Juanita McElwain writes this:

The same exact rhythms are used…in African and Indian music, in rock music and in music used in meetings of faith healers. The god comes, whenever he is called by anyone using those rhythms...Does the god come to celebration-type worship services, when the god’s rhythm is played in Christian rock music, even though the people present do not realize they are calling a god? There is quite a strong consensus that the god does

There are many testimonials of Christian young people who were bound by Satan as they were listening to Christian rock. It has only been by sincere confession and turning away from listening to this music, asking God to cover them with His precious blood, that victory was gained. In some cases they said it took months of daily prayer and Bible study to regain the Christian experience that they had lost because of the “Christian” music they had been listening to. The question remains, whom will you worship?

I would like to encourage you not to get lost in the apostasy at the Jordan as the children of Israel did. My primary objective in writing this article was to point people to the dangers that are surrounding us. God has an adversary who has a plan to delude people in the name of our precious Saviour. I want to challenge you to study and pray that you will not be led by the subtlety of Satan. Let the Word of God be your final authority.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).


i. Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life (Michigan: Zondervan, 2002): 65-66.

ii.  Alan O’Day, Contemporary Christian Music (November 1982).

iii. Vance Ferrel, Inside Rock Music (Tennessee: Evolution Facts, 2006): 45-46.

iv. Paul Baker, Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1979): 15.

v. Vance Ferrel, Inside Rock Music (Tennessee: Evolution Facts, 2006): 46-47.

vi Dr. Juanita McElwain, Demon Possession and Music.>

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