Church music

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Church music wars battle for souls with song

Bye-bye to Be Thou My Vision, a sixth-century Irish hymn with century-old English lyrics. Godspeed, Amazing Grace.

Nearly 50% of Protestant churches now say they use electric guitars or drums in worship, up from nearly 35% in 2000, according to the recently released Faith Communities Today study of 14,000 congregations.

STORY: SwedishLutheran church hosts 'techno Mass'
But just because you don't like the tune doesn't mean it's theologically incorrect, says Rick Muchow, music pastor for the Saddleback Church founded by evangelist Rick Warren. "The Bible does not have an official soundtrack."

The nation's fifth-largest Protestant church, with nine satellite locations, runs several concurrent worship services Sunday mornings at itsmain site in Lake Forest, Calif., each with a different genre of music.

By Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

Good News Baptist Church fights the tide of contemporary music with a traditional choir.
Muchow lists: a Gospel praise service; a "straight-ahead rock" called Overdrive; one called Fuel that's "geared to 20-somethings with more alternative music"; and a Traditions service with piano and asinger. Traditions is the only service using hymnals.

In the vast main worship center, however, the sound is "radio-style contemporary Christian with a small rhythm section," maybe an orchestra or choir now and then, and big screens beaming down the words to be sung by praise choruses, Muchow says.

"There are all different kinds of churches for different kinds of people. We don't worship music,we worship God," Muchow says.

Still, an unbending conservative guard of churches carries a flag for songs and sounds of the past. Their pastors claim people of all ages are drawn by timeless truths in classic hymns.

The fight can get fierce.

"There is an intense war being waged today for the heart and soul of Bible-believing churches, and one of the Devil's most effective Trojan horses ismusic," warns pastor David Cloud.

Cloud established a Web directory of hundreds of Independent Baptist Churches in the USA and Canada. Every church on the list pledges strict Christian doctrine, uses only the 400-year-old King James Version of the Bible, and bans contemporary music.

Pastor Wayne Hardy's Bible Baptist Church in Stillwater, Okla., is on the list although he laughs at Cloud'sclaim that rhythmic music is Satan's beat. Hardy suspects part of the rise of PowerPoint praise choruses on sanctuary theater screens and drum cages by the pulpit is that "CEO-type pastors have to attract crowds in to fill their megachurches."

Hardy draws 500 souls to Sunday worship at his church where music choices are guided by the idea that "holiness is more appropriate in worship thantrendiness. God is our audience in worship and God doesn't have the same demand to be entertained."

Worship music has a job to do, says Ken Hedrick, music pastor for the Good News Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., says, "It's not neutral. Its role is to praise and glorify our Lord, teach believers and edify them. It prepares our hearts to hear God's word."

Hedrick leads a 20-piece orchestra withan organ, two grand pianos, strings, trumpets and trombones and a 30- to 50-voice choir. Sunday services draw more than 300 people weekly, including dozens of teens and young adults. But no percussion section pumps out a beat "that causes our bodies to do things they shouldn't be doing," he says.

Hannah Brown, 17, who plays violin and piano and sings in the Good News choir, agrees, saying, "Ibelieve this music is more glorifying to the Lord, more focused on God, not on me and making me feel good."

Tommy Kyllonen, also known as Urban D, the Christian hip-hop artist pastor behind Tampa's Crossover Church, is down with the new music.

"We have a big world and a big God. As long as people are worshiping in spirit and in truth, we...
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