Several worship leaders recently spoke against the idea that contemporary Christian music is only “ear candy” and lacks theological depth.
Aaron Keyes, worship pastor for Grace Fellowship Church of Georgia, author and worship leader Kelly Minter, and songwriter Stuart Townend weighed in on the ongoing debate of worship and theology during a live webcast Tuesday.
The webcast was hosted by Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, who frequently writes and speaks on church issues.
“The problem is that we tend to say ‘okay we do this kind of worship,’ or ‘we do this kind of worship’ and I really believe that, depending on the posture of our heart, there’s room for all of it,” said Minter.
“I personally gravitate towards the hymns because I love that and that’s what moves me, but that’s not everybody’s cup of tea.”
“I see the goal in Colossians as being ‘Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,’” said Aaron Keyes. “That should be a good aim. Not just hymns, not just psalms, not just singing spontaneously all the time.”
Keyes also considered calling contemporary Christian music “ear candy” but noted that contemporary Christian music can be very theologically heavy.
“If you take a song that might be considered a light theological song, it’s a contemporary song, and it’s about Jesus being your friend, finding a friend in Him … that’s actually not light theology that’s profound theology,” said Keyes.
He also went into detail about how as a worship leader tries to “make sure that we are not singing the stuff about God that I like the most, but are actually singing about His fullness.”
“I don’t have a formula,” added Keyes, who explained that he looked toward worship songs written recently or long ago.
Stuart Townend, who contributed to the webcast via satellite in England, talked about there being “a number of things” that go into planning out the musical selection for worship.
“In the actual worship leading, I encourage people to look for a sense of progression and songs that fit together that take people on a journey,” he explained.
“I am also looking for a sense of God to be active in our worship. I don’t think we just prepare something on our own. I believe that God inspires us and helps us.”
Townend said that he likes to bring together a “good armory” of different songs and hymns that help worshippers explore “who God is and who we are in Him.”
The songwriter also talked of the value of the psalms as being “teaching tools.” Stetzer asked his other two guests how these “teaching tools” are used in worship.
“I think it’s a huge piece,” said Minter, who drew a parallel to the Book of Nehemiah and the importance of the people receiving the Word.
“The best thing you can do is just when you’re not on stage take it in and then trust that the Holy Spirit will come at the right time,” said Keyes.
“Get into the Word. Have it running through our hearts.”
“The Exchange With Ed Stetzer” is a monthly webcast that focuses on a variety of issues related to church and culture.