In most of today’s growing churches, instruments of every kind, including drums, are included in musical worship. The proliferation of popular worship music has fueled the desire in local congregations to recreate that sound in their own churches. Drums, cymbals, and all kinds of percussion instruments are now a regular part of many worship services. However, not everyone is thrilled with the trend. Some wonder, “Is this okay? Is it wrong to have drums in church?”
In order to answer this question, we need to consider the objections to drums in church. Modern worship music has gravitated toward a sound mostly associated with rock bands. Some view the decibel level and predominant rhythm as detriments to true worship, which Jesus said must be “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). They argue that the drums themselves represent all that is ungodly about music and that drums do not belong in a church. Some denominations forbid the use of any instruments at all during musical worship, citing the fact that instruments are not recorded as being part of the New Testament church.
However, we must be careful about drawing up rules based on the silence of Scripture. Simply because the first-century church may not have used drums or other instruments as part of their worship in no way means they refused to do so on principle. Most early churches were small meetings in homes. They had no central meeting places dedicated to worship, so the lack of musical instruments may have been due to space restrictions. There is also no mention in Scripture of pews, podiums, hymnals, or stages. The fact that such items are not mentioned in Scripture means nothing, and we must view the absence of musical instruments in the New Testament the same way. The drums kits we use today were not in existence until the early 1900s. So if the early church did use drums, they would have been along the lines of bongos—something easily transported.
It is also important to remember that, in the beginning of the church, the Old Testament, as we call it, was the only Bible they had. The first believers would have structured their worship in ways similar to the temple worship they were accustomed to. And the Old Testament Psalms are filled with calls to praise the Lord with everything available to us (Psalms 81:2; 98:5; 150:4). After the Hebrews had passed through the Red Sea unharmed, Miriam led the people in praise, using a tambourine, a percussion instrument (Exodus 15:20). It is not beyond the possibility that those with drums may have joined her.
It would be wrong to have drums in church if those drums are the focus of attention rather than the One to whom the songs are addressed. If the beat is so overpowering that it draws attention to itself, then drums may be detracting from rather than adding to the worship experience. But the same can be said of any instrument, including a piano or an organ. It can also be said of worship leaders, pastors, or others participating in the service. All the glory should go to God. Drums are often viewed with suspicion or singled out as representative of worldly compromise, but such thinking is misguided. Drums are no worse, or better, than other inanimate objects.
Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 are solid, go-to passages that can be applied to the question about drums in church. Paul addresses the plethora of “gray areas” about which Christians may disagree. These are topics not directly confronted in Scripture, but ones related to personal conviction. His conclusion is that we must do everything from faith with a clear conscience. If we cannot focus on the beauty of Christ with a drum set on stage, then that may not be the right local church for us. But if we must have the sound of drums in order to worship, we may be misdirecting our worship. Drums are neither right nor wrong in themselves (see Romans 14:14; 1 Corinthians 8:9–13). However, that which is not “from faith” becomes sin for the one participating in it (Romans 14:23).
So, if a person’s conscience will not allow him or her to worship in a service that includes drums, then he or she should ask the Lord about it and then follow the dictates of conscience. To some, drums may represent a former lifestyle filled with wicked actions accompanied by a heavy rock sound. For them, a worshipful atmosphere may require the absence of such sounds. The drums are not wrong in themselves. It is the person’s mental association of drums with negative experiences that causes the problem. Those who may stumble in their faith because of drums should stay away from services that have drums (1 Corinthians 8:7–8). At the same time, they should recognize that drums may help increase a congregation’s focus on the wonder of our great God and that they can be pleasing to the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31).