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Why We Must Be Open to Different Styles of Worship Music

Why We Must Be Open to Different Styles of Worship Music

By Chuck Lawless

This past weekend, I had the privilege of worshipping at a gathering of many churches from one area (in my denomination, an “associational” meeting). During that meeting, several worship teams—all using different styles, and some in a different language—led us in worship. Since then, I’ve thought about why we must be open to different styles, regardless of our worship style preferences.

  1. God is glorified by the variety of music styles. God is the Creator who created our world with incredible variety, from flowers to people. Apparently, He is glorified by such variety, so we need to appreciate it.
  2. Various styles allow others to use their gifts. Let’s be honest—some folks are better at leading hymns, and some are better at leading contemporary choruses. When we employ multiple styles, we open the door for more folks to use their gifts.
  3. Learning to appreciate multiple styles is a sign of Christian humility. A willingness to be stretched about music styles for the sake of the gospel is evidence of godliness and humility. Regardless of our preferences, it’s arrogance that says, “I’m never going to change my mind. I like what I like.”
  4. Multiple styles help us to reach and keep multiple generations. It’s no secret that older generations generally prefer hymns and younger generations prefer contemporary music. If we want to reach everybody, we must be open to worshiping with all generations.
  5. We can all learn from other music styles. Many classical hymns teach great theology, but so do many contemporary choruses. Both include selections that come straight out of Scripture—sometimes built around direct quotes of biblical texts. Both of them can be God-honoring, so we should be open to learning from each.
  6. Appreciating various styles allows us to worship together. I understand the choice to establish different worship services according to style, but sometimes we completely separate the generations in doing that. Perhaps we’d worship well together if we learned to appreciate all styles of worship.
  7. God has not ordained one music style. If He had, it be would right to stand up for the only one He has ordained. Because He hasn’t—and because of #1 above—we must be open to various styles.

What are your thoughts? 

Why We Must Be Open to Different Styles of Worship Music by Chuck Lawless @clawlessjr Click To Tweet
This article is reposted with permission and first appeared at

About The Author

Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Lawless was awarded an MDiv and a PhD in Evangelism/Church Growth from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he also served as professor and dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. Prior to that, he was pastor of two Ohio churches. A conference leader and author of several books, including Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor, Mentor, and Nobodies for Jesus, Dr. Lawless has a strong interest in discipleship and mentoring. Dr. Lawless is also president of the Lawless Group, a church consulting firm ( He and his wife, Pam, have been married for more than 20 years, and they live in Wake Forest, NC.


  1. K.BOYD

    Great post, Dr. Lawless. Worship style is significantly influenced by age and personality, we need variety for everyone. I’m a high-art person who loves classical music and an intellectually-focused sermon. Still, it makes me feel great to have the young pop-music demographic realize it’s their religion, too.

  2. rpsabq

    Tired of these articles which are basically trying to get old people to accept the new, never about young people accepting the old. Old=bad New= good. Old=not spiritual. New=spiritual. There has been an “animus” which has arisen and perpetuated against anything considered old/traditions ie. choirs/organs/hymns.

    ATTENTION: have you ever considered that it’s not the old people pressing against the new, it’s the young people trying to tear and down and replace the old?

    I was recently told: you guys can still do your thing at 8:30AM in the chapel next door and we’ll do our thing in the main worship center at 10:45AM. My response: SCREW YOU!

    Since you are more than welcome to bring your gifts to the worship service and since I am not. that means I’m not the one with the animus. YOU ARE.

  3. Ryan

    When asked about hymns vs praise music in church I always say let’s see what scripture says and It and I go to Colossians 3:16. God lists multiple types of music so therefore I think useing multiple styles is what we should do.

  4. Clonnie Yearout

    Let me begin by admitting that I’m old. Really old. Like, 68. I agree in principle with the idea that we old fogies need to do our best to accept and adapt to different styles of music in the church. In fact, I’ve made a concerted effort to do just that… and surprised myself at some of what I’ve been able to accept. There is definitely some good, God-honoring music being written today. But there’s some awful stuff out there too.

    But I’ve also noticed that articles like this always seem to be aimed at older people like me. I never see an article encouraging young people to be open to the older style of music. And I’ve also noticed that when forced to do the older stuff, young people look for ways to change it — bring it up to date, if you will. Add some drums. Add some amplification. Change the melody. Change the tempo. Insert a modern chorus in the middle. That’s okay I suppose, but it’s not doing the old stuff.

    If the Lord tarries, all this music stuff will eventually work itself out. Another generation will come along and change the music again… modernize it to whatever style is then currently in fashion… to the point that the present generation (who will then be approaching my age) will begin to complain about these youngsters that aren’t singing THEIR music. Change is inevitable, but so is sameness.

  5. Anthony Pero

    #2 is the strongest of these, in my opinion. Enabling others to use their God -given gifts to serve Him is the entire point of being a church leader. I think the only thing stronger than that a worship leader should take in to account is accessibility. If a particular style would allow a few more people to use their gifts, but make worship inaccessible for a large number of congregants, then that’s a bad trade-off.


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