What Kind of Music Does God Like?

[This post is part of the Worship Series.]

Worship isn’t music. But often, discussions about worship get most heated when talking about music. So let’s go there first.

Sometimes churches make statements along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter what people like or dislike when it comes to worship music, the real question should be,‘What kind of music does God like?’”


Ipod To God

I have to admit, I really love questions like this. And I really love hearing how people determine the answer to questions like this…

Ultimately, the answer to that kind of question would have to come from Scripture, wouldn’t it? So for the purposes of this post, the Bible will be our source material.

One thing we know for sure is that Scripture teaches that God loves music and songs that are directed to Him and that are about Him. But there are also a few other thoughts from Scripture that describe some of the types of music that God digs [or at least approves of…] Let’s look at a few of them:

[This list is kind of long because I’m posting the whole verses instead of linking to them. It was a toss up, but I figured you’d rather just read them instead of clicking back and forth to see them. ]

* Music using many instruments

1 Chronicles 15:16
Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. (NASB)

Psalm 92:3
With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. (NASB)

2 Chronicles 29:27
Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel. (NASB)

* New Music

Deuteronomy 31:22
So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel. (NASB)

Psalm 33:3
Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. (NASB)

Psalm 40:3
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;Many will see and fearAnd will trust in the LORD. (NASB)

Psalm 96:1
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. (NASB)

Psalm 98:1
O sing to the LORD a new song,For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him. (NASB)

Psalm 144:9
I will sing a new song to You, O God; Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, (NASB)

Psalm 149:1
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song,And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones. (NASB)

Isaiah 42:9-10
9″Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” 10Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them.

* Music that is played skillfully

Psalm 33:3
Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

Psalm 47:7
For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm.

* Loud Music

2 Chronicles 20:19
The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

2 Chronicles 30:21
The sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments to the LORD.

Psalm 66:1
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;

Psalm 150:5
Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.

Psalm 98:4
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.

Revelation 7:9-11 9
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (NASB)

* Music that benefits the people singing and hearing

Ephesians 5:19
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (NASB)

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (NASB)

* Repetitive and Simple Music

Isaiah 6:3
3And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.” (NASB)

Revelation 4:8
8And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” (NASB)

* Music that is Testimony to a lost world

2 Samuel 22:50
” Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations, And I will sing praises to Your name. (NASB)

Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. (NASB)

Psalm 57:9
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;I will sing praises to You among the nations. (NASB)

Psalm 108:3
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples, And I will sing praises to You among the nations. (NASB)

Romans 15:9
and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,” THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES,AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME.” (NASB)

Psalm 40:3
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD. (NASB)

There are many more. But again, if your worship service involves any of these, you’re probably on safe ground, musically and Biblically:

  • Music using many instruments
  • New Music
  • Music that is played skillfully
  • Loud Music
  • Music that benefits the people singing and hearing
  • Repetitive and Simple Music
  • Music that is Testimony to a lost world

God also likes music that uses no instruments at all. And He likes music that is grandiose. He likes music that is simple. He even likes music that is both grandiose and simple [like the Hallelujah Chorus]. He likes music that reflects thanksgiving and praise to Him. We could go on and on…

You’ll notice that this list really doesn’t include a musical style of any kind; it just shows some of the stuff that God seems OK with. I guess if we’re not OK with them it should probably give us reason to pause.

This list is not a mandate for ANY particular style. The truth is, there is not a “Biblical appendix” that contains sheet music and instrument lists for what is appropriate for worship songs.

I don’t follow the thinking that says that it doesn’t matter what kind of music people like in worship, because God loves people and He is the creator of music. He is the one who makes music possible and He likes it all. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

I do need to mention here that we do know what kind of music God does not like, however, and it has nothing to do with guitars and drums or pianos and organs.

God hates it when worship is offered by those who have hypocritical hearts that are far from Him, and who keep lists of rules that are based on their own traditions as the criteria for what is best for worship….

Isaiah 29:13
13 The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men. (NIV)

God is far more concerned with the heart of the singer than the style of the song.

“What kind of music does God like?” is kind of an obnoxious question, but if you have to ask it, at least stick to Scripture for your answers.

[Friendly reminder: I will be monitoring any comments very carefully, so remember to be nice if you want to add your 2 cents. And if you add much more than 2 cents, you really need to get your own blog… 🙂 ]


27 thoughts on “What Kind of Music Does God Like?

  1. That was great info. Thanks. I, myself listen to Hip-Hop and Rap but always feel like I should not listen to it. I think I should change what I listen to and start listening to music that is more pleasurable God. Thanks for your help.

      • I agree. I use to listen to “Christian” rap & rock (until 2 days ago), but after watching Ivor Myers testimony & Christian Berdahl I’m not so sure. I still have to investigate some more. These genres are apparently too aggressive & genres including reggae apparently switch off something in the brain so that you become receptive to things without questioning them.

        Myers mentioned Acts 16:
        ’16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.’

        -The fortune teller wasn’t following them around saying “they are servants of God, stay away from them”. She was saying they “are telling you the way to be saved.” So while what she was doing wasn’t good, her words were truthful. Likewise, there may be “Christian” music from not good genres but with truthful words. Does that mean that it’s good? Are truthful words the measure of goodness? Acts 16 seems to suggest otherwise. Myers likened Christians performing these styles of music to being sheep in wolves’ clothing.

        Ivor Myers Testimony: http://www.presentruth.com/2008/05/escape-from-the-black-hole-ivor-myers-testimonya-story-of-what-god-can-do/

        Also see Christian Berdahl’s work: http://www.shepcall.com/the-distraction-dilemma/

      • In response to the reply by “WhatMusic?” – Thanks for commenting. I understand where Myers is coming from in his testimony, but disagree with some of his conclusions. Beginning to “act like and walk like” rap artists that he used to listen to, for example, is not the result of being “hypnotized.” It is the result of imitating someone you like and want to emulate. This happens all the time when there are people we admire, even preachers. (See http://johnnyleckie.blogspot.com/2006/05/sincerest-form-of-flattery_17.html )

        Christian artists are not “wolves in sheep clothing.” That is a characterization that is simply not accurate and seems to be driven by fear and over-reaction.

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding your comment?

        Also, please see my responses to other commenters on this post, particularly my responses to James, Yamina and Troy .

        Thanks again for participating in the conversation.

  2. That was great info. Thanks. I, myself listen to Hip-Hop and Rap but always feel like I should not listen to it. I think I should change what I listen to and start listening to music that is more pleasurable to God. Thanks for your help.

  3. Thanks for the comment, James!

    This post is part of a series on worship and the role music plays in worship services, so it is geared in that direction.

    But for a good guide for what is appropriate music for general listening, however, I usually follow Philippians 4:8:

    “8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB)

    For Rap and Hip Hop artists that generally fall into that category, try searching for Toby Mac, John Reuben, Lacrae, Preachaholics, or Grits.

  4. hi i know you might of found this biblical text but also you would have to consider and take a look at god’s character and likes because Christian rap rock and so on aren’t really right as they mix the popular music with god you still with the world living music but in the name of god which isn’t really right to the eyes of god.

  5. Hi, Yamina! Thanks for the comment.

    I hear what you’re saying and would agree that we should be very careful about the kinds of things with which we associate ourselves and that we allow into our minds.

    But I think it is very important for us to understand that there is no such thing as “Christian” music that is not or was not at one time a style of “popular” music. The oldest of hymns reflect the music of the day in which they were written in one way or another. Some that are considered “sacred” today were actually sung to bar tunes of their era.

    Music was God’s idea. How in the world could you possibly play an “ungodly” musical note? I believe that God wants us to “redeem” music for His glory.

    I would encourage you to check out the rest of this series, and the post, “That’s Entertainment!” in particular.

  6. Great info! We just returned from a Christian rock music festival (The Big Ticket, in Gaylord Michigan). We have seen how the Lord can move people through all kinds of music, even very LOUD, rocking music!

    We have always believed that limiting the genre of music for worship is just Legalism raising it’s ugly head. It is ok to worship with hymns, and to worship while ‘headbanging’! Just as long as we continue to ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’!


  7. Love the web site, thank you so much for it. I did want to make a comment about Gospel Rap, i don’t know to much about Christian Rock though.

    I have shared my belief with others that I don’t believe that Gospel Rap should be in church and i refer to Romans 14: 14-17 which i believes gives a wonderful example of how we should look out for our brethren. When it comes down to it, Gospel Rap only reminds me of the world and it hinders me and Romans tells us that “If your brother is grieved by your meat, then don’t eat it in front of him, if you do then you are not walking in love”. If it blesses you, it doesn’t mean that it blesses me.

    There are many people who can’t take gospel rap because it only hinders them. The way i look at it is, if people want to listen to gospel rap outside of church, then go ahead but in church, it shouldn’t be because many people are grieved by it. God bless

  8. I know that drums and other forms of music weren’t permited in some churches back in the old days but thats over and done and i don’t know any worship music that hinders others.

    Also many people say that they are listening to the message but if that was the case then why do alot of christians prefer gospel rap over regular gospel music if its all about the message, they all hold a message but they rather have the gospel rap rather than regular so i know that its more than just about the message. I have heard someone says before “Nobody didn’t really like gospel rap until the new beats came out”.

    Im not trying to condemn anyone or bash them, i have been called a pharisee and a legalist just because gospel rap hinders me, Im definenetly not a legalist but just concerned. Love ya and keep up the good work. God bless

  9. Troy,

    I apologize for the long delay in responding! If you’re still out there, here are a few things to consider:

    1. It appears that there is an issue with rap from another time in your life that causes it to be a hindrance to you. Does it remind you of your life before Christ? Or is it just a style preference that you just don’t like? Answering those questions will help you communicate why you have difficulty with this style.

    2. There is a difference between what works and is appropriate for a worship service and what works and is appropriate for listening to in your car. Which one hinders you? Or is it both? This is an important issue to distinguish, because how you respond to one is different than how you respond to the other.

    3. It’s easier to make concessions and adjust the music in a one on one setting than to change what could be a strategic move on the part of your church leadership. If it’s just with your friends, explain to them that that style hinders you, and explain why. Then ask them politely if you can listen to something else. If it’s used in a worship service, talk with your leaders and try to understand where they are coming from. Then either get behind that vision or move on.

    4. It’s ok that music is about more than the message. It’s self evident, actually. If it was only about the message, it’d just be a poem or something. Music is a gift from God that can be enjoyed in all of its various forms, words or no words, “new beats” or “old beats.”

    Well, there are a few things to chew on. I hope it’s helpful in some way and that you work out your differences with your church and friends in a God honoring way.

    God bless!

  10. This post caught my eye as I was passing through. I was browsing across what is called the Isaiah Project because it was incredibly interesting to me that there are notes applied to every Hebrew alphabet letter, so you can literally play the scriptures… The Isaiah Project caught my eye as more than just the average “MAKE something out of nothing because it’s scripture”, because it was mathematically and systematically accurate. Something consistent!
    I am the type of person that listens to everything from classical and gospel, to heavy metal, depending on what is going on for me personally, and I do believe that messages can come in many forms. lol, this sounds almost like a sales job…
    What I was getting at is— while listening to even just the samples of the verses and psalms converted to their musical forms, it is easy to tell that God likes an incredible variety of sounds (A more classical feeling is given to a lot of them simply by the instruments chosen for the pieces, but the variety of beats and rythums is evident.)
    I just posted this in answer to the comment about not having God chosen sheet music. Thats not quite how they said it… but anyway, God’s scriptures can be put directly to music simply because they were written that way.
    I do heavily agree with the, it completely depends on the singers or songwriters heart when it comes to the music and not necessarily the style.

    Here are some links on the Isaiah Project if you want to listen to them. Some are just samples on the right side of the screen under the picture of the CD, unless you want to buy the CD, but the Youtube video was a fun experience for me. Reminded me of of some of the old English minstrel songs with some incredible meditative qualities as well.


    This post was very interesting, thank you all.

    As-Salāmu `Alaykum

  11. Praise the Lord Bro. Johnny

    Thank you for your response, I have been studying up on this topic for a while now and i made a short vid speaking about it. Would you please check it out for me and tell me what you think? God bless


  12. I sure have let some dust settle on this post before responding to the last comments! Sorry about that.

    Hyrum, that was some very interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

    Troy, I love your sincerity and passion. Fun to see you on video! Thanks for adding your thoughts and perspective on the issues of Gospel Rap in your context.

  13. Very Good Article. There is a guy named DJStewart that’s going around dissing most of the CMJ artists, even Rebecca St.James. I’ve checked a few articles he wrote, not only on music and must say he’s loaded down with self-righteousness. This article has biblical proofs backing it up.

  14. I was wondering if God is OK with me listening to music such as Evanescence? They don’t praise the Lord but they don’t deny Him. I don’t know of many religious bands. Only Skillet and Group1Crew. God bless!


  15. Alexis – It’s great that you’re even asking the question! So many of us simply mindlessly consume media without even pausing to consider that. This post was really about what is appropriate in a worship service, but your question is a good one.

    First, there are a lot of great Christian bands out there who are worth checking out. Here are a couple of places to discover a few: http://www.897powerfm.com/ and http://www.christianrock.net/charts.asp

    But back to your question. What’s ok to listen to? I usually run any media (music, movies, etc) through a couple of filters:

    “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8 NLT


    “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything – 1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT

    You don’t want to become “legalistic” about these things, but instead be wise about them. Is it good and excellent? Is it something that distracts me from God’s purposes for my life? Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it’s no.

    There’s a lot of music out there that isn’t “Christian” per se, but is good and excellent. There’s a lot of “Christian” music out there that isn’t good or excellent. And there’s some music out there that’s just fun and a nice part of enjoying the life God’s given us.

    I listen to Evanescence from time to time. Some songs are great-others, not so much. 🙂 (The story of their band is interesting, by the way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evanescence | See “Musical Stye”)

    Thanks for stopping by, Alexis. I hope this wasn’t too long of an answer to your short question, but I hope it helps as you seek to live in a way that honors Christ.

  16. I appreciate your observation, Johnny! As I was reading over your article, it occurred to me that in the setting and day of the writing of the scripture you quote amplification systems did not exist. The musicians and singers had to perform loudly for large crowds to hear anything at all! Today’s performers blast listeners with LOUD music that damages hearing, when sustained at that level. I am on a praise & worship team and have lost hearing from an amp positioned near me. I cannot understand songs performed with instrumentation so loud the vocals can barely be heard.

    • Hi, Betty. I’m so sorry to hear that you sustained hearing damage from being close to an amp. The point of those is to broadcast sound over a larger area – being that close is like putting your ear in front of a megaphone! Good grief. I pray that God brings healing to you and that your hearing is restored.

      That situation seems to me to be an issue of a really bad mix (can’t hear vocals over the music) and incorrect stage setup (vocalists near amps). It is much better to have speakers/main amps/etc. in front of the team and a separate monitor mix for the stage for the vocalists and musicians.

      But I digress. 🙂

      About amplification in Scripture: Yes, there were no electronic amplification systems, but Even in Biblical times, the sound of trumpets, cymbals and other musical instruments combined with shouts and the voices of many people singing would have in fact, been quite loud. Especially those times when these things were utilized in the setting of the Temple. A decibel is a decibel, whether it is sound that has been amplified or is simply acoustically loud. I’ve attended evenings at the symphony that were louder than the worship band at my church. 🙂

      Of course, “loud” doesn’t mean “burst ear drums.” Maybe worship leaders should use a decibel meter in rehearsals to avoid reaching damaging levels? Perhaps. But definitely there should be some kind of protection for the ones who are playing instruments and leading who are closer to amplification systems. (See above)

      But I think the general idea is that worship of the Living God should be joyful and exuberant as opposed to dull and lifeless. And the “shouting and loud instruments” have certainly been used and approved at various times in Scripture.

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing your insight, Betty!

  17. I am just now seeing your response to my comments and I want to thank you for your response. I totally agree that our worship should be joyful, exuberant, and full of life! I appreciate your insight!

  18. I have been blessed by whatever post was made. Could you please advise on how best the worshipers should worship best.

    • I’m sorry – I’m just now seeing your comment!

      Of course, the simple answer is “in Spirit and in Truth.” 🙂 When I approach planning a worship service, I try to keep at least three questions in mind:

      1. Is it God Honoring?
      2. Does it remove barriers of understanding to unbelievers who may be present?
      3. Is it the best we can offer?

      Hope that’s helpful. Thanks for your comment!

  19. Excellent content you post here! You can earn some extra $$ from your
    blog, don’t miss this opportunity, for more details
    just type in google – omgerido monetize website

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s