10 Guidelines for Church Music

10 Guidelines for Church Music
Gary D. Erickson

The musical saturation of our society, bizarre extremes in popular music, and the commercialization of youth-directed music in this generation are a historical phenomenon. The void of moral leadership in some homes has given place for music to mentor the youth of America, providing the most decadent, rebellious, and crude sermons. Allan Bloom states that rock music affects youth more than TV and movies. He expresses the incredulity of this juggernaut in these terms:

This phenomenon is both astounding and indigestible, and is hardly noticed, routine and habitual. But it is of historic proportions that a society s best young and their energies should be so preoccupied. People of future civilizations will wonder at this and find it as incomprehensible as we do the caste system, with burning, cannibalism and gladiatorial combats. It may well be that society s greatest madness seems normal to itself.

As we move forward in a fast-changing world with so many innovations, so many varied popular trends, and so much evil, we need God s guidance to make it through a labyrinth of musical confusion. I offer ten guidelines in conclusion.

1. The bulk of biblical music was used for worship. Music can be used for other things, but worship should remain music s primary function worship in the sense of lauding, praising, celebrating, and honoring the Lord Jesus Christ. Music should elicit worship of the Lord and not the musician.

2. The music must edify. The music director should look for telltale signs in the audience. Does the music really bless the people? Does it bring about real change in their lives? Do they seem strained, detached, or bored? Music is a ministry first to the Lord, then to the church. If we lift up Jesus and magnify Him, edification of the church and evangelism of the sinner will occur.

3. Magnify the message of the music. The music must harmonize with the message of the song. Music that is so loud it drowns the words or so novel that it distracts from the message will disqualify itself as true Christian music.

4. The lyrics must be biblical. Good theology and Christian music go together. Writers and musicians must not yield to the temptation of sentimentalism, emotionalism, and the popular at the sacrifice of good theology.

5. Do not replace anointing with technology and artistry. God can put His rich blessing upon music that is seasoned with prayer and sincerity. We want to have the best we can afford in electronic gadgetry, but such things can be gaudy and cheap when they replace the real anointing of God. It is also important to remember that watts of power is not Holy Spirit power! We also should strive for excellence in the quality of our music, yet not at the expense of the anointing of God (Zechariah 4:6). The anointing will do what human effort can never do.

6. Realize that Christian music is a very special ministry. Music biblically was used for prophetic inspiration. God will use music today, just as He did throughout the Bible, to intervene supernaturally.

7. The church needs to become “innovators” of good Christian music, not “emulators” of a contemporary culture. Pop music styles might help attract sinners, but they do not help the musician mature musically or spiritually. The message can also be lost in the quagmire of music emphasis. Being contemporary is not our goal. Ministering should always be our primary objective.

8. Carefully evaluate musical response. It is important to understand that musical response can be deceiving. A lively praise service or concert sets the stage for certain contaminating invasions. Music can move the emotions without moving the spirit. People physically demonstrate at secular music concerts in ways similar to some worshipers. Our criteria for true Christian music should not be based solely on the emotional response it creates. The integrity of the music and the words should be measured by the Word of God and keen sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

9. Do not cause disunity in the body. Styles influenced by the rock syndrome are definitely the music of today s youth. More than a love for the music style is the social identity, which sets them apart from the adults. As such, there is great potential for division. Music should not be elevated to a place where it is allowed to cause disunity. Michael Sweet of the Christian rock group Stryper defends his group s excesses in the following words: “It s a difficult situation, but I am here for the lost sheep. I would rather go and get one lost sheep than please ninety-nine saved ones.’ The obvious question is, how can we win a sinner to the body of Christ if we are at odds with the body? The church should seek ways to bridge the generation gap and not contribute to it with musical extremes.

10. The message should be clear! Crossover lyrics, innuendoes, and witty puns can be cute and creative, but the message must be distinctly perceptible, clear, and concise. Communication is a key element in true Christian music. There is much confusion in today s society. Christian music must not contribute to this sad condition with ambiguous, esoteric language that leaves the listener confused about the saving power of the gospel message.


Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1987).

Dan Peters, Steve Peters, and Cher Merrill, What about Christian Rock? (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1986), 160.

The article ’10 Guidelines for Church Music’ written by Gary D. Erickson was excerpted from Christian Music in Transition, 2008.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.’