On next Lord’s Day morning, if the ministers over this land of ours were to ask this question: “How many of you have ever worshiped God?” no doubt virtually every hand would be lifted. Therefore, it would be presumptuous, would it not, for me to say that very few people have actually worshiped God? But there are some Christians who have never really worshiped Him. We feel that is revealed today in the lack of vitality and vigor in our worship. It is a fact that public worship is anemic and aimless for the most part. It is further reflected in a lack of meaning and an abysmal ignorance of worship. It has been reduced to an empty shell and a hollow sham of ritual and cold liturgy—no warmth of life, just cold form! This, in a day when folk are saying, “We want reality in our Christian faith, we want reality in experience.”
J. Vernon McGee, The Best of J. Vernon McGee : A Collection of His Best-Loved Sermons, Volume 1, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 69.
John 4:23–24 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Ephesians 5:19–21 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Colossians 3:16–17 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. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Revelation 5:6–10 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
What should real worship lead to and what place does music and singing have in it. We will let the Scriptures be our guide. Godly worship music and songs should develop OR include the following…
- GOD as the object of affection and adoration with HIS PLEASURE in mind.
- This being said… when my children sing to me songs in their range and with their scope of understanding, I just love to hear them sing.
- I would never expect or demand that my 5 year old sing Handel’s Messiah, but I love to hear him sing David Crowder’s “How He Loves”
- Thankfulness to God. We should understand that it is God that should be thanked and worshiped and adored.
- Honor for Jesus Christ.
- A moving of the HEART which is the seat of EMOTION
- Doctrinally sound lyrics – “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly”
- Make much of GRACE
- Submissiveness to our Lord and the authority He has over us.
A few definitions may be in order here… Psalms – songs that expressly praise the Creator Lord, hymns – songs that teach doctrine, spiritual songs – songs that express the relationship aspect of our Faith
SO where do we want to be? I need to stress the we, God has a different design for different churches. Each church is independent and unique. It took me a while to really grasp that to be forthcoming. At my church we have begun to speak of a blended service, but what does that entail? I believe that we need current music to relate to our lives today. It is interesting to me that the Bible speaks of a New Song and yet many are so concerned with introducing new music. We need to use the music that people are worshiping to when they are at home, at work and in the car and we also need to give them music to listen to at work, at home and in the car. It was such a blessing to me the other day to learn of one of our new children in the church singing Never Once and telling her grandmother that it was her new favorite song!
Another point is that music and songs are used to remind us of the past and lessons learned. I think of God on the Mountain. This isn’t a current song and neither is Hidden Valley’s however both were my songs in the night and as such should be remembered and even sung. In our church we have many older Christians. Hymns and such are their songs in the night. This is why I think that a blending of styles in worship is useful. I have intentionally avoided the use of the word contemporary because such a word is useless when discussing such matters. I heard a preacher call Twila Paris and Steve Green contemporary. I think both may still be making music but honestly their heyday was about 15 years ago. This hardly qualifies as contemporary.
Why change our worship style? As I mentioned above people need to worship God in their culture; in their day to day living. People need to worship God in a way that they can relate to. If we were to get right down to it and followed the “old-fashioned” approach we would all be singing to harps and in a difficult style, unknown to most of today’s western church… I’m talking about the 1st Century style of music and the Psalms. While we should sing the psalms to God, I find NOWHERE in the Scriptures, Old or New does He limit us to a style (with the possible exception of encouraging variety). That is the bottom line. Why change? Why stay current with our congregation? Because it is ultimately their worship to God that is being affected. By stringently adhering to a cultural and or generational position instead of a Biblical one or by completely ditching what has been used for years we do more harm than good.
What change? What is blended worship? Is there such a thing as worldly music? We investigated what godly music and worship is earlier in this study, now we must answer the question of taking care that we do not offend God in our worship. The answer is simple and is found in 1 John 2:16
The ultimate question that we must ask in regards to the morality of music is NOT does it move my flesh… such thinking would imply that enjoying sex in the confines of marriage is wrong because it is enjoyable. The question is more what does it move the flesh to? Does it move the believer to a perverted sensuality? I think here of an older “contemporary” song by Jackie Velasquez where she sang in a breathy almost panting and groaning style that was reminiscent of sexual acts. Or does the music inspire anger and rage? Does the music feed rebellion and angst? I am not speaking about the WORDS but the style. This can be very subjective and so we must learn to understand our congregation. With these things in mind we should move ahead. A key to this understanding is that the two most current generations were raised in an age of so-called rock and roll music. To them it isn’t necessarily rebellious or full of angst. To the older generations it is all about rebellion and angst. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. This is a cultural and generational distinction. If you are raised in something that was formerly rebellious and is no longer so, how can it represent rebellion for you. We still need to be sensitive to those that may feel that way about certain styles of music and guide them gently to a place of Biblical truth.
In the same vein of what offends God I would point to Amos 5:23. It fascinates me that the Lord was condemning the traditional songs of His people. It wasn’t the style that God was condemning it was the HEART with which they sacrificed and of their worship songs were sung and played!!!! If we take this stylistically we would reject the use of stringed instruments i.e. the viol. We would also be wrong! Think of Paul when he was speaking of eating meat offered to idols… he didn’t condemn the meat, he explained that the meat itself was fine, if your conscience accepted that the idols and false gods it was offered to were dead and of no viability. However if in your heart you believed (wrongly and immaturely) that the idols had something to do with meat you should not eat of it.
Paul also goes onto teach in Colossians 2:16–23 that we need to be careful that we don’t let a man steal from us our freedom in Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary worshiping of angels… the word angel has been used of the messenger of God, particularly the pastor… we are not to get caught up worrying about the MAN-MADE ordinances, worshiping the man and obeying him, blindly following his ordinances, taste not, touch not, handle not… I might expound, sing not, play not (drums ring a bell?)… I have yet to find in the Bible the Lord forbidding the use of the back-beat.
Therefore,in going through the Scriptures I find that music is to be used wisely, to honor God, to teach, to praise, to enhance our relationship to God and each other among other things. I find that our songs and singing must be with understanding and with a heart that is in tune with our God. I also find that singing isn’t the beginning nor is it the end of worship, it is simply stated and expression of worship. Our worship should be with our giving, singing and our very lives, living each day in humble adoration of our living, loving, guiding and yes chastising Creator.