Music or Preaching?

I'm currently reading Al Mohler's new book on preaching called "He is Not Silent." I'll do a review later on, because I think I am going to really like the book. Dr. Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I have followed his blog for a while and respect him a great deal, but want to push back on something he says early in the book. 

Here is Dr. Mohler's quote, talking about authentic worship within the Church: "Music is one of God's most precious gifts to His people, and it is a language by which we may worship God in spirit and in truth... But music is not the central act of Christian worship - nor is evangelism, nor even the ordinances. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the Word of God."  

Dr. Mohler is reacting to the millions of dollars which are spent on music ministries within churches. He laments the fact that music now provides the energy and excitement in worship services, and insinuates that the American Church has over-valued worship music over and against the preaching of the word. 

I absolutely agree with Dr. Mohler that many churches have lopsided priorities when it comes to their worship services. I whole-heartedly agree that many churches have music ministries and philosophies of worship which distract from the Gospel. But the problem is not that people have over-valued worship music; it is that we have under-valued it and set it against preaching. 

When we see music as the warm up act to the preacher, we distort its value as much as we do when we depend on music for all the energy and excitement in the worship service. Paul holds up music as a part of the teaching ministry of the church (Colossians 3:16-18). It should not be set against preaching, it should go hand-in-hand. Both are vital.

If music is simply a way to connect with God in our worship services or the opening act for the preacher, we miss its power. We also grease the slippery slope into songs which are written and/or chosen for reasons other than their theology and glorification of Christ.  

The teaching of the Word of God is the heart of Christian worship. Preaching and music (as well as the ordinances) fall under that umbrella as avenues through which the Word of God can be taught and applied in the lives of Christ-centered people. 


Anonymous said...

My mind sprung back to Piper when thinking about the place of worship. Piper wrote that "missions exists because worship does not." We are called to worship and we will spend the rest of eternity in worship of God. I wonder if the same could be said of preaching... it exists to call people to that which they do not seek on their own, worship.

Just a thought. Great post.

Chris Freeland said...


I think you're right. Mohler's point is that without the preaching/teaching of the Word of God, we cannot know how God wants to be worshiped without a clear understanding of Scripture. It's a good book worth reading...