Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Plays Drums at Centre Street Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and teacher, is well-known for being executed by the Nazis for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. What is less well-known is that Dietrich was also a highly-skilled musician. In his large family, where everyone sang and played musical instruments, Dietrich’s siblings said he was the best pianist of them all.*

A young man who plays the drums at Centre Street Church, where I attend, resembles a young Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Like the Dietrich of 70 years ago, our drummer has a fair, round face and light-colored hair, and he wears round wire glasses. Whenever I see this young man on stage, I imagine for a moment Dietrich Bonhoeffer is playing drums in church today.

That makes me think of how church music has changed from 1930’s-40’s Germany to 21st century Canada. If Dietrich Bonhoeffer were expressing his worship through music in 2011, perhaps he’d be playing drums instead of the more traditional piano. Very likely, he’d be playing a much different musical style.
But some people, sincere Christ-followers, will be uncomfortable with that suggestion. The hymns used in the German church when Dietrich Bonhoeffer was alive, were worshipful and sacred, they feel. They have a hard time believing that the music sung in today’s Canadian churches is worshipful. After all, the music is so much faster and louder. The songs are less rhythmical, and many of them don’t even rhyme!

Let me assure you – I won’t claim that all of today’s church music is worshipful. But nor do I believe all traditional music is worshipful either.
Worshipfulness of music (if we can call it that) has nothing to do with volume, tempo, beat, or the era in which it was written. A song’s worship value depends solely on the truths contained in the lyrics.

To each generation, God has given a new way to worship Him through music. Thousands of years ago, the Psalmist said God had put a new song in his mouth. (Psalms 40:3). Today, God is still doing that for those He’s gifted to compose worship music.
Now we who are, well, older, or who have different musical preferences, don’t have to like the new music. We are, however, called to love the people who are making the music.

We are all members of the Body of Christ. At all ages, in many languages, and through the music of every generation, we worship Him together. And He is pleased.
*Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; by Eric Metazas; published by Thomas Nelson.


  1. Well said my friend! I enjoyed this piece and agree with everything you said. Had me laughing a few times as I reflect back on a few odd comments you've made in reference to said drummer.
    ~ the other Reen

  2. Glad it gave you a laugh, Noreen! It's an important understanding isn't it? A little difference in perspective makes a big difference in unity.