Baptists > Music
Great Gospel music stirs the soul and prepares it to receive the Word of God
   Whereas, various denominations of Christianity either play down the role of music in church worship or emphasize it above the preaching of God's Word, Baptists have managed to maintain a balance between the two.  Due to their view that music in a worship setting is primarily intended to prepare the soul to receive the preaching of God's Word, they neither minimize it's importance nor over-emphasize it.
   Furthermore, the visitor to a Baptist church will be surprised as to the involvement of the membership when it comes to the music of the church.  First and foremost is the fact that those in the congregation are just as likely to sing out with joy and praise as any choir member.  There are always instrumentalist whether it be a lone pianist or a well practiced orchestra.  The choir may be made up of several members who love to sing or seventy members who sound like the angels around God's throne.  It may be a quartet, a trio, a duet, or a soloist who sings the "special" just before the pastor comes to the pulpit.  At any rate, one can always expect great music in both small and large churches alike.
   Baptists take the preparation of hearts to receive God's truths as very serious business.
Early Hymnody
   Church history tells us that the first congregationally sung hymns in Baptist worship services were, in fact, the Psalms put to music.  Of course, the original music ascribed to the "song lyrics" in that book have been long lost, there were those who were able to segment various portions of the Psalms with musical accompaniament that matched the mood of the text and did so very effectively.  If you were able to visit a church during the 1600s, you would hear the congregations singing from this Biblical book and doing so in an attitude of worshipful praise.
   However, by the colonial period, a revolution in church music began to take place.  Whether it was the high praise of hymns written by the Lutheran reforemer, Martin Luther, or those of the original Methodists, the Wesley brothers, hymns that contained lyrics in rhyme written by men of God began to be merged with the singing of the Psalms.  True to Baptist form, those who had always sung from that Old Testament book refused to do so while the more "progressive" of their brethren embraced these new "man-made" hymns.
   Who now would argue that such hymns like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" or "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" are considered to be sacred in their own right.
   Furthermore, how many of those who have sung the well-known verses of "Amazing Grace" even realize that it's composer, John Newton, had in fact been a Yankee slave trader who was known as the most wretched of all; that is, until he committed his soul to Jesus Christ and spent the rest of his life telling of how he had once been lost, but now was free?
Great Hymns of the Faith
   What church member of the twentieth century does not recall a time when every Baptist church had a hard-covered hymn book or two tucked into every "pew pocket" when they arose to sing as a congregation?
   The song leader would call out a hymn number and ask everyone to join in.  He would then wave his arms in time while leading the congregation as they sang out their praises to God.  In fact, non-Baptists are amazed when visiting a Baptist church at how the people love to sing.  There are few such churches where the singing does not involve everyone's full participation.  From the most gifted of voices to the those who insist that their lack of voice qualifies them as "making a joyful noise unto the Lord," Baptist people love to sing for the Lord.
Folk Gospel Music
   The American cultural revolution of the 1960s brought yet another change in the Baptist taste in music.  The youth of that generation began to find significance in blending the popular "Folk Music" of that day with Christian worship lyrics.  What became known as "Folk Gospel" caught on quickly and, again, true to Baptist form, the older generation either rejected it or found it difficult to adjust.
   Nevertheless, this style of music was generally accepted.  It was non-threatening to the majority of Baptists with the exception being the most conservative of their numbers who thought of it as being a form of compromise.  However, it became even more appreciated by the next generation who continued to develop it into a more contemporary form of gospel music.
Contemporary Gospel Music
   As the twentieth century came to a close, some Baptist churches began to adopt this style of music into their worship services by blending it with traditional hymns.  Whereas, the most conservative of Baptists still refuse to allow a guitar or drums into their worship services, others began employing this instruments.  Furthermore, they have presented a rather strong argument for their use in that guitar and psaltry of the Old Testament are both six-stringed insturments and the drum was indeed used in the Bible to accompany worship, thus, both preceded the piano and the organ.
   Thus, the subject of using what some call "rock gospel music" has become a hot button in some Baptist circles.
   The purpose here is not to approve or disapprove of any form of gospel music but to accurately report the practices of all things Baptist.  Thus, it is accurate to state that more and more churches are doing what Baptists have always done; that being their ability to use the current cultural means of communication to declare the Gospel message without stepping past the bounds of Scriptural truth.  Therefore, it is becoming more common to find Baptist churches with multiple services that include traditional, blended, and contemporary forms of music.
   As this trend continues, those churches who hold to traditional hymns as their sole means of musical worship will be continuously challenged.  That challenge may have less to do with musical preference and more to do with who will allow it to become a source of devisiveness amongst Bible-believers.  Keeping in mind that Baptists have always held to the independency of the local church, condemning other churches for how they worship God may be taken as a denial of that fundamental doctrine.
The Music Controversy: The history of the introduction of contemporary gospel music to Baptist praise and worship.

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