Monday, May 23, 2016
Music 19 - Why Do We Have Music in a Church Service?
That is an interesting question. The answer is even more interesting because your answer reveals the underlying philosophy that builds your church's music program. This philosophy will influence your church's musical direction, and in turn that musical direction will influence your church's corporate culture, its DNA so to speak.
This is because music is a bigger part – timewise – of a church's corporate services than anything other than the preaching. Music takes up more time in a church's weekly schedule than prayer, more time than meetings, more time than discipleship, more time than evangelism, and more time than fellowship. In some churches it event takes up more time than the preaching of the Word of God itself.
There can be no doubt that music is highly influential in the life of the average 21st century American. For example, I once heard Lady Gaga, who has won six Grammys and sold 146 million singles in the last ten years, interviewed. She was asked how she became the way she is. Ironically enough for one whose early albums included the infamous "Born This Way" she said on ABC News May 26, 2011, "Don't spoon-feed me the Beatles and Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and Elton John, and expect for me not to turn out this way." In other words, she is the way she is because of how the music of her past influenced her. That statement could easily and absolutely should be applied to every American generation of young people since the 1950s.
This assertion – that music is highly influential – applies to a church's corporate music as well. No less a guru than Rick Warren said in his bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Church", "Once you have decided on the style of music you're going to use in worship, you have set the direction of your church in far more ways than you realize. It will determine the kind of people you attract, the kind of people you keep, and the kind of people you lose." In other words, a church's music style directly affects everything about what that church is and becomes.
In my view, the reasons a person or an organization does something are more important than the something itself. Somethings change but the underlying philosophy is continual. Reasons are more permanent than actions, and thus are telling. Anybody can see where a person, organization, or church is at. I want to see where it is going. And the foundational reasons why you do what you do reveals that to me.
Why does my church choose to use and perform the style of music we do? What is our underlying philosophy? Simply this: our philosophical approach to church music can be summed up in one word – edification.
The vast majority of the references in Scripture to music are in the Old Testament. Of the minority remaining in the New Testament only three passages are specifically set in the context of church.
Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Notice that while this singing is done to the Lord that does not mean it is done primarily for His benefit. Like any other work we do, we should sing in church heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3.23) in the sense of seeking to please God with our music rather than pleasing men. But these two passages are crystal clear – church music is designed to primarily benefit the people assembled. In corporate music we are speaking to ourselves. We are teaching and admonishing one another.
In plain language then we see that church music was designed to edify the brethren. It was designed to comfort them in distress, to teach them doctrinal truth, to draw their hearts toward God and so build their most holy faith. It was designed to minister to them in need. It was designed to warn them, encourage them, motivate them, etc.
Church music was designed primarily to help build the saints who are singing and/or listening to it. It was not designed primarily to help the preacher. It was not designed primarily to minister to God. It was not designed primarily to reach the lost.
Music is an emotional language. Because of this it is vital that church music be understandable. The third direct New Testament reference to music in the local church is I Corinthians 14. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. (I Corinthians 14.15) If the music in a church service was for God it would not matter what language it was in; He understands them all. But it is not. Music in a church service was designed primarily to edify the saints assembled. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (I Corinthians 14.26) It only edifies me if I can understand it. Thus we see why it is corporate music must be understandable - because its purpose is edification of the brethren.
You say, "Okay, but why does it matter?" Because when your intentional purpose for church music is different than the above explanation it begins to take your music in some bad directions. Over time, given enough rope, an incorrect philosophy of church music will breed incorrect applications of church music. This, in turn, becomes hardwired into the church's DNA and errors then abound everywhere.
Contemporary American Christianity has taken music in some strange directions. Not coincidentally, they have taken the whole concept of church and perhaps even the whole concept of Christianity in some strange directions. A major part of the reason why is that it completely misunderstands the purpose that music plays in a church service. A wrong philosophy has errantly built an entire movement.
The truth is that our music in church was designed by God to edify His people. Any other approach is simply unscriptural.