Diverse Unity in Adventist Worship

SDA music is sterile. It sounds as if someone made up a tune to some lyrics. It is presented like medicine that is recommended, a ghastly liquid that is supposedly good for you and you ought to swallow and smile and say AMEN.

What if they could create truly great songs like this?



I think I have witnessed nothing in the church with the capability to start an argument faster than the topic of music in worship. Just a few weeks ago what was a friendly conversation over lunch with people from a nearby church somehow got onto the topic of music in worship and I soon had a woman in my face expressing with great energy about how she feared using any musical instruments in the church other than the piano or organ would quickly lead to loud rock-n-roll music and people dancing wildly in the aisles! I could hardly believe my ears, but it was obvious that she believed it.

What I find missing from virtually every discussion about music in worship is a definition of worship itself. Years ago I used my electronic concordance to do a verse-by-verse search of the Bible to see what instructions I could find about how to worship and found too little to form the basis for a universal concept. What should a person’s posture be in prayer? I found references to standing with hands raised heavenward, kneeling and lying prostrate on the ground. (I don’t remember finding any mention of anyone folding their hands in prayer or having their eyes closed.) There also is scant mention of what anyone did to worship God. But what I found was that when a person offered worship to God it was often after a personal encounter with God and that encounter triggered a response of adoration and praise.

The biggest thing I learned was that God accepts our worship, whatever form it may take. So any claim about what is “Biblical” or “worshipful” is based on misconceptions about what worship is. What matters most in worship is not how we worship but if we’re having encounters with God that compel us to worship Him.

As for those who speak loudly and critically about worship styles and music in worship, I have found that the strength of conviction with which a person expresses their complaint or criticism is very revealing about the personal insecurity they are experiencing in their relationship with God.


In Psalms, David tells us several times to “sing a new song to the Lord.” Singing to God lifts our hearts to Him and enables expression from the depths of our soul that words alone often cannot tell.

I have had the great blessing of becoming personally acquainted with several very talented composers and arrangers of spiritual music. They each tell of how the songs they write are not of their own composition, but an outgrowth of their personal relationship with God and their private worship experience. As composer Dennis Jernigan says, he is “not a song writer, but a song recorder” because God gives him the songs.

After the current SDA Church Hymnal was released, I went through the entire book and created a spreadsheet recording the dates listed for when the song was originally written and when the arrangement given there was written. I was shocked to see that the average age of the original compositions was more than 240 years old and the average age of the specific arrangements was more than a century old! Some songs like “Faith of our Fathers” were five centuries old. That’s hardly a new song like David told us to sing.

Contemporary Christian composers and artists are producing a veritable flood of glorious, praise-filled music that are powerful in lifting my heart to God. Dismissing music just because it is new is a prescription for missing powerful, even life-changing blessings.


Very interesting, William!

Perhaps dismissing music because it is old is also a prescription for missing powerful, even life-changing blessings?

Could a “fusion of horizons” possibly enrich our experience even more?


I deride and dismiss “praise music”. — we derisively label it “SEVEN ELEVEN MUSIC “. — not after the grocery store chain —. but because it is seven words repeated eleven times —-all to the tuneless accompaniment of drums and banjos!

Recently a church I usually support financially, started to have “praise music”.

My annual generous contributions switched from their church budget to giving the money to SPECTRUM instead!

I should have been an Episcopalian, since I like a “high church” liturgy.

The current church I attend has one of the largest pipe organs on the west coast, with a virtuoso organist to match, an awesome bell choir, and a splendid choir.

Also an ordained clergywoman as the senior pastor, who preaches a succinct superb sermon never lasting more than fifteen minutes.

Needless to say it is not an Adventist congregation as even our institutional college churches with stellar choirs and organists, have preachers who are too verbose!

The quality of the worship hour is extremely important to me!

Many Adventist congregations allow lengthy verbal announcements ( all such should be printed in the bulletin) lengthy childrens’ stories and other gobbledygook which detract from the sublimity of the worship experience.

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I think you’re really gonna enjoy Heaven, Robin, providing God doesn’t burn you alive, of course. :slight_smile:

I, on the other hand, disappear into Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music, wallow in it, binge on it, the schmaltzier and more repetitive the better.

I also like your kind of music.

For some reason, Hanz comes to mind…

All of the above. How we relate to the music depends on how it blesses us and how effectively it lifts our hearts to God and express what is on our hearts to Him. There are a number of old hymns that do that for me but their number is being eclipsed by the number of newer songs that do it for me. I don’t think it matters If one song speaks to my heart but doesn’t speak to mine because we come from different life experiences. What I ask is if it is effective in lifting your heart to God.

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I love the Nairobi Statement of Worship and Culture. It’s a solid work that should utilized more by a global worship community like the Adventist Church.

Please, tell me which church that is so I can avoid going there. To me, the pipe organ is just an assault on the eardrums because it is so overpowering that it fails to facilitate me expressing my praise and adoration to God.

Delivering informative and inspirational sermons as short as that female pastor is an admirable model for others to follow. Still, I find that I am becoming almost allergic to sermons for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is that I have searched the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and have found not a single example of anything even remotely resembling the modern concept of a sermon. What I have found is that Jesus, Paul and others used the model of a rabbinic dialogue where there is an exchange of questions and answers and a guided discussion that requires the listener to think critically and thus learn inductively. We’re supposed to be following the example of Jesus, so since he never used anything resembling a modern sermon, why should we? Since worship is our expression of praise and adoration to God, the greatest effect of a sermon is preventing worship because it prohibits us from expressing much of anything.


Its not a new concept

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Are you familiar with the Hillsong Church in Australia? They are far more than a single congregation and actually are multiple congregations in each of three cities in Australia along with having branch churches in a growing list of cities around the world. They typically have multiple services with a variety of worship styles in different services to attract people with varied musical and worship style preferences. Some of the compositions and arrangements by their musical talent, most famously Darlene Zschech, (EX: “Shout to the Lord”) have become record-setting global favorites. I have been blessed by many of their songs and the testimonies telling the stories behind the songs.

Had to pause in my carpet ripping to dance to that. :dancer:

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Of course it’s not. But they took a style of music, modified it as all good artists do, and applied it in the gospel genre.

What do you think about Amazing Grace? According to Wikipedia, “in 1835, William Walker assigned Newton’s words to a traditional song named New Britain, which was itself an amalgamation of two melodies (Gallaher and St. Mary) first published in the Columbian Harmony by Charles H. Spilman and Benjamin Shaw (Cincinnati, 1829).

Having learnt that the hymn has roots in a tune called “St. Mary”, would you now tear it out of your hymnbook and walk out of the church when it is sung? When asked the day of the week, do you refrain from saying Sunday, for example, because that name was given in honour of the sun god of pagans long ago? How far from the company of society are you willing to go to be lily white and pure?



Looking forward to a video of the performance.



Sorry, I only do private performances for my Invisible Friend in the Sky. :innocent:


Why does the discussion of “worship” generally default to “music”? pet peeve of mine, btw

How do different personalities respond to worship gatherings? (NOT talking about JUST music… :rofl:)

I had never considered that what Cholerics thrive on is the same thing that frustrates Melancholics. And whereas a Melancholic enjoys repetitive elements like liturgy, those elements annoy Sanguines. This creates an interesting challenge for a pastor’s vision. It is an area that I want to continue to explore.

Curators should be sensitive to these differences. A thoughtful curator should provide a few elements that address the different worship comfort preferences. Is this what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23?

Of course you can argue, that one should segregate personalities… what a family mess that would be!


LOL, from carpet ripping to cutting the carpet.


Hey…that was good…real good, Cadge! :laughing:


Great song!

Actually, if you know anything about some of the old hymns- they had lyrics set to popular dance or marching music of the era. :slight_smile: Very innovative back in the 1800’s!

I believe that Adventism doesn’t really promote its “creatives” as they should and even if they came up with something truly creative they would squash it. This happened to the very original and creative Steam Punk version of the Great Controversy which even won a “Geekie Award” for best trailer.


You have such a great point! I think that it has always devolved into the “music” topic because it is a combination of noise and lyrics. Music is so recognizably different from generation to generation. Not so much with prayer, etc., though it could be very different.