What Are Your Thoughts About the Use Of Drums in Church Worship?
Question from a reader:
I’m currently reading Heaven (excellent!), and help was offered in finding a new church with good suggestions. We moved to a new town earlier this year and the difficulty for me lies in the use of drums, which perhaps should not be a factor. However, as chairman of our music committee in our former church, I studied music in the Bible and found no use of drums. Perhaps they are placed among the other percussion instruments, but I have not yet been able to justify their use when some congregants must wear ear plugs or skip the preliminary “worship and praise” in an otherwise Biblically centered church. Still praying for God’s leading, would appreciate your thoughts as well.
Answer from Brenda Abelein, EPM staff:
I appreciate your question about the use of drums in worship, and that you are seeking additional insight and wisdom about it. Here are some thoughts that may help as you consider this issue.
Generally speaking, the Bible says a lot about a lot of things! And I believe all the words of the Bible are exactly the ones God knew we would need to know while we’re here on earth. But that said, the Bible certainly does not speak to every single possible question we may wonder about. And just because something isn’t spoken to in the Bible specifically, I don’t think we can necessarily jump to the conclusion that it’s wrong in God’s eyes.
I found this article from John Piper’s ministry Desiring God (which Randy respects greatly) very insightful in a way I hadn’t thought about this issue before. Though it doesn’t speak specifically about drums, his thoughts here really apply to any issue that the Bible does or does not speak to directly.
I would estimate that a large majority of churches today have drums and/or other musical or percussion instruments as part of the worship. The church I attend (also Randy Alcorn’s home church) uses all of the above. While the musical style or instruments used from week to week may not always be my favorite, I look around and see that God is definitely using that worship to meet the hearts of others on those weeks. This raises an important question of preference or principle? Is the use of various musical instruments in church strictly right or wrong biblically (principle)? Or do I personally just not like their use in church (preference)? For many, I believe it’s about their personal preference. On some level, we would all like to have the kind of worship every week that speaks to our own heart personally. But if there’s more than a few people in your church, it’s likely that the worship doesn’t ever meet everyone’s preferences all of the time.
Since you have studied music in the Bible in depth, though, it sounds like this is a principle issue for you. Since the Bible doesn’t say “drum”, we should not have drums in church. Did you study the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)? Or current day translations? Sometimes words or ideas can get very lost in the translation, literally. For instance, this CEB translation of Psalm 150 does use the word “drum”, while others (like ESV) use the word “cymbal” in its place.
Praise God with drum and dance! Praise God with strings and pipe!
Praise God with loud cymbals! Praise God with clashing cymbals!
Let every living thing praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Psalm 150:4-6 Common English Bible (CEB)
The volume issue is another matter. The Bible does reference volume, as in “loud cymbals”, but doesn’t mention a specific decibel level that should not be exceeded. So I would propose that volume is actually a preference issue as well, we all have different tolerances for volume. But that said, I totally hear your concern about volumes so loud we need earplugs or are driven to skip worship all together because it’s too loud. Many people love to go to Christian concerts and definitely sing and worship in that high volume environment. We are just not all used to that kind of worship experience when we go to church every week. It would be a shame for anyone to miss out on the “meeting together” with other believers that God does specifically direct (Hebrews 10:25) based on matters of preference rather than principle.
Since you are currently reading Randy’s Heaven book, I’ll use that as another example. The Bible says a LOT about Heaven, and Randy’s primary goal in writing that book was to bring light to what the Bible does say about Heaven. But our ministry receives so many questions from readers about Heaven that the Bible doesn’t specifically address. Do angels have wings? Will my pet Rover be in Heaven with me? Can my husband who died last year see how I’m doing? Should we assume the answer to all of those questions is absolutely no, just because the Bible doesn’t address it or say yes? I choose to believe that God didn’t tell us everything, so we would focus on the things he did tell us that are most important. My pastor used to say “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And the main thing is always Jesus and biblical truth.
Randy believes that God desires everyone to be part of a local church body where they can be taught truth from the Bible, serve, and grow alongside other believers. The accuracy of Bible teaching should always be the “main thing”. So seeking out a church where the worship style and instruments are not a distraction for you is fine, as long as it’s biblically sound as a first priority. But if the use of drums is an automatic deal-breaker, I fear it may be very difficult for you to find a church close to you that meets all your criteria. I’d also encourage you to be praying for direction from God and listening to what He may be telling you in the process. Maybe He will soften your heart toward the instruments and drums if you find a Bible-teaching church that feels like home in every other way.
Here are some additional tips for finding a church that we share with readers who write to us for help finding a new church. I hope these will be helpful to you as well!
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Brenda Abelein works part-time as a ministry assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries, both as a receptionist and also assisting other staff with projects.