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Thumbs Up – Thumbs Down

I’ve started listening to Pandora.

For those of you that are even FURTHER behind the techy-wagon than I am – Pandora is an online radio station. The coolest thing about Pandora is that you can type in an artist that you like, and they will select similar songs and artists and create your very own perfectly crafted playlist. At the top of the page, there’s a thumbs up and thumbs down icon. If you really like the song and would like to hear more like it – you can click the thumbs up. If you hate what is playing, just click the thumbs down and Pandora will banish similar songs from your offended ears forever and evermore.

I always feel bad clicking the thumbs down. It’s not like any of the artists will personally feel my rejection, but I still feel judgy. Clearly I have other issues.

As I was listening today, I began thinking about church, music, worship, and personal style and preference. Oh my, this is the topic of all topics, isn’t it? Jeff and I have been in the church music scene all of our lives, particularly the last 19 years as worship leaders, and we’ve experienced no shortage of discussions, tears, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth when it comes to music in the church.

And yet today, as I was getting ready to hit the thumbs down on another stinky Pandora selection – I felt like the Holy Spirit challenged me on how often I take this same approach when it comes to CORPORATE worship. Far too often we approach corporate worship with our own internal version of thumbs up or thumbs down. If the music style fits our preference… thumbs up. If we don’t care for the song selection… thumbs down. The worst part about this is we quickly acquaint “anointing” and “the presence of God” with our personal preferences.

How self-absorbed can we be? Shouldn’t the time when we’re worshipping God together be the time when we’re least concerned about ourselves?

Music preference is a very personal thing. The number of styles and genres selling MILLIONS of copies of music every single day should remind us that there is something quite intimate in the way a specific style of music resonates with us personally. And what connects deeply with me – can absolutely make the hair on your neck stand on end. It’s incredibly individualistic – yet another testament to our incredibly creative Creator.

So what do we do when we gather together with a hundred believers to lift our voices in song, when every single person may have a different taste in music?

It’s an impossible problem.

Seriously. There is NO answer to this question.

Oh, we’ve tried. We’ve tried to offer hymns as well as choruses. We’ve tried to offer a wide variety of styles and choices. We’ve created separate services for different tastes. We’ve even gone so far as to remind people that there is probably a church across town that will more fit their particular preferences. We share blogs promoting our point of view and how God most certainly prefers the same type of music we do.

And I can only imagine that all our whining and complaining has done nothing but grieve our Father.


Because it has nothing to do with Him.

When we are frustrated because the style of music being played isn’t our particular preference, we assume the type of music I like is only kind of music I can worship to. This is true if you are a twenty year old wanting louder guitars and it is just as true if you want hymns on an organ.

It’s all about YOU.

And whenever worship is all about US – we have missed the point entirely.

The ONLY solution to this problem is for us to lay aside personal preference and instead focus on lifting our voices in unity.

Jeff always says, “Can’t we just all get into a room and sing some songs?” It really should be that simple. Let’s just sing some songs. It doesn’t really matter what they are… but that they are an expression love and devotion to God. That they remind us of His attributes. That we have a chance to thank Him for all His goodness. And if you find yourself frustrated because they aren’t songs that you personally enjoy – then it’s time to do a heart check about the level of “self” you’ve allowed to creep into your worship.

I remember a few years ago my grandma was visiting our church. I know that to her, the music was loud and obnoxious and still, you could hear her singing above the crowd in her sweet loud granny voice. I mentioned something to her and she said, “Well… it might not be my cup of tea, but I just love to sing to Jesus.”

I’m embarrassed at the fickleness of my worship.

So – can we all do something? Can we remember that for twenty minutes, once a week, we come together as individuals to lift our voices corporately? It doesn’t matter what the songs are. You may love it. You may hate it. What matters is that you lift your voice and join with the voices around you – young and old, black and white and everything in between – and focus our hearts on our one true God.

We live in a day and age that you can access ANY kind of music you love ANY time. You can worship to any style of music the entire 10,060 minutes left in your week. You can thumbs up and thumbs down your Pandora station all the live long day. You can satisfy your personal preference to your hearts content.

But when we come together. When we step into that room on Sunday, we should leave our preferences at the door. And simply worship.

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