Ed Stetzer brings up the issue of worship music again on his blog post, “How To Test Your Music.” He offers seven tests for songs to pass before they should be used in a worship service.
One of the tests he mentions is the “association test.” The idea is to ask whether the song is associated with anything contrary to scripture and/or the meaning of the lyric. This association could be due to the groove or the genre, or any host of things.
My experience has been that you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure such things out. I’ve known folks who associate ungodliness with all sorts of artistic expression (from dance to instrumentation to the color of one’s shirt in the pulpit). How much is the worship leader responsible for others’ associations? The church I’m currently a part of uses contemporary worship music, but comes out of an a capella tradition. I don’t know how we could have ever plucked a note if we were bound to these seven tests.
Now, I wouldn’t want to go head to head with Ed, but I take his words with a grain of salt. First, he is not a musician and is not tasked with the challenges of routinely choosing musical material for worshipers (at least, not that I’m aware of). Second, as my friend Dave Durham likes to point out, Jesus came to restore all things (Colossians 1:15-20). Surely this includes art, music, and even culture itself. Our artistic palette with which to worship Him is vast, my friends. He has come to restore all things.
My conclusion is that these tests may contain good principles when looking at your overall repertoire and ministry, but would be tiresome and unnecessarily academic to apply every test to every song. Certainly, let us be mindful of the culture where we are called to minister and the associations some may hold for certain expressions we may choose. But don’t let those concerns alone dictate what you should or should not do. Instead, seek the Lord and let the testing be of your heart. Sometimes we are to respect the culture; sometimes we are to challenge it.