Music in Church
Posted on April 23, 2020 by Catey Stover in Freedom Fighters
What is the place of music in the church?
Being a musician, music in church is very important to me. Does God care?
The Old Testament clearly states that one entire tribe of Israel, the tribe of Levi, was dedicated to worship. Levites’ principal roles in the Temple included singing Psalms during Temple services, performing construction and maintenance for the Temple, serving as guards, and performing other services. Levites also served as teachers and judges, maintaining cities of refuge in biblical times. (See Numbers 18 for details.)
In the Book of Psalms, many are written by “the chief musician”. David’s trained choir numbered 288. “Psalm” means praise. Psalm 150 reminds us to praise the Lord with trumpets, harps, lyres, timbrels, stringed instruments, pipes, loud resounding cymbals. (The timbral and harp are somewhat similar with the harp having longer and more strings. “Stringed instruments” refers to a family of instruments, not any one instrument. For example, the zither apparently was a 10-stringed lyre.)
In the New Testament, we are told to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Without over-simplifying, psalms are inspired by the Holy Spirit and teach us about God. (Many of our modern worship songs are based on the psalms, and when we sing them, we are singing God’s Word.) Hymns are songs that give praise, honor, or thanksgiving to God. Unlike psalms, hymns are not written by divine inspiration. At the last supper, the disciples sang a hymn (Matthew 26:20). Hymns tend to teach us a truth about God. Spiritual songs are songs of personal testimony or experience. A spiritual song might express the joy of one’s salvation, revel in the grace of Christ, or exalt the greatness and power of God—in short, a spiritual song can communicate a wide variety of sacred themes.
Is God interested in the quality of music? In Exodus, instructions are given for the building of the tabernacle which was God’s dwelling place at that moment. Chapters 25 -39 spell out details that specifically call for the best of everything. For example, “fine linen” is mentioned scores of times. Note also that the Levites had a “trained choir”. If they were to bring their first-fruits and unspotted, perfect lambs, do you suppose we are to bring careless music to worship?
So whether vocal or instrumental, we are to offer our best. Does that mean we all need to be trained musicians to participate in offering worship through music? No. It means that, whatever your level of talent is when offering it in worship, you are to do it to your very best. Do not be satisfied with mediocre and just plain avoid sloppy. Remember that you are “performing” this to God, not the audience!
I believe the above validates that music is important to God. And surely music is important in our worship services today. It would be difficult to put a percentage of time spent in each service since our forms of worship are so varied. But think of congregational singing of hymns and praise songs, liturgical selections such as the Doxology, special music in the service, pre-and post-service music, etc.
The Bible speaks of the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Perhaps I am stretching the scriptures a bit in this interpretation, but I think not. Most commentators remind us that there are many bad days when we don’t feel like praising God but should. It gets our focus off ourselves and puts it on God, and it leaves no room for complaining or negativity. I agree completely. But I also would like to think that my musical ministry is a form of sacrifice in order to praise. I don’t always feel like going to choir or worship team practice for any number of reasons; I don’t always feel like being at church on Sunday morning from 7:15 am until noon because the choir had to sing at both services. I don’t always want the extra rehearsals necessary for a special program such as at Christmas, Easter or a fifth Sunday of the month special musical program. I really do not like the pressure of having to memorize choir music. The list could go on. But I make the sacrifice for the purpose of praise.
Let’s return to our original question: what is the purpose of music in the church? Well, you say, we need it before the service and following the service so that there is a warm, welcoming feeling. And you need it to “fill” dead spots like when the offering is taken. It’s nice to have soft music support the prayer. Etc. Sorry, that’s not good enough for me. I have a personal taste for those times; I didn’t mean to attend a concert hall to hear Bach or Mendelssohn (compositions with no text to relate to), I came to have my spirit engaged. I prefer a hymn or gospel song where I can contemplate the words while it is being played and thus participate in the worship of the moment. (I realize this is a personal preference and it doesn’t make me any more spiritual than those who feel differently.)
We all have our personal choices in musical style, usually based on our age level or musical maturity level. (Could this be what the Bible means when it says we are to sing “a new song”?)
This is why choirs practice, worship teams practice, soloists and musical groups practice. Think “practice” rather than just “run through”. It is not just to “be on the same page” but to perfect as much as possible. Perhaps Lexus says it best, “the relentless pursuit of perfection”.
Why do you choose to attend a particular church? As for me, I want it to be doctrinally sound, and if the pastor is a great speaker, that is a bonus, and I want the music to be of high quality according to my “taste”. For those reasons, I presently attend one church on Sunday morning and another on Wednesday night for deep Bible study with a master-teacher/communicator.
Written By Neil Fichthorn: Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.
Think About This: “Think the thoughts you would think if you wholeheartedly trusted God’s promises.” ―
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal and theological views held by America’s Keswick