MUSIC AND THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
In the modern evangelical church, singing, praying, giving, and other congregational acts of worship are regarded at times as preamble to the sermon. Music, in particular, appears separate from elements of worship that seem to be more spiritual, such as praying and preaching. This worship dichotomy does not exist in Scripture, and our thinking is more biblical when we understand that musicians and preachers actually share in the ministry of the Word. Proclamation and interpretation of the Bible, and the edification and encouragement of the saints, with the ultimate goal of giving glory to God. These are also purposes of sacred music delineated in the Word of God and heralded by theologians and musicians throughout the history of the church.
Paul S. Jones, SINGING AND MAKING MUSIC: ISSUES IN CHURCH MUSIC TODAY. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006, p. 3. ISBN
Professor Carl Stam is the Chair of the Institute for Christian Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a weekly "worship quote of the week" that he sends out. You can subscribe to this service or read through the vast archives of of centuries of wisdom on Christian worship here. He sent this this last week taken from Paul Jones' new book SINGING AND MAKING MUSIC: ISSUES IN CHURCH MUSIC TODAY, and it was so concise and true that I wanted to share it. As a musician in churches for quite some time, a casual member all my life, and now a worship leader, I definitely agree that this is the default state, or mode of the modern parishioner. I have found it true that of the wave of "new worship" that emerged in the late 70's and is now our praise and worship movement, this may not be the case. I do submit that in the average Baptist Church in America today, 8 out of 10 people don't act or talk of the singing, reading, offering time, welcome time (kiss of peace or raucous right hand) as being anywhere near the importance of the presentation of the word given from the pulpit in the last half hour of the service. I think that Pastors and Music ministers who have allowed pragmatism ("hey let's sing that one, the church sings it loud and they sound great on that one..." Or tradition anyone?) to determine the shape and scope of the service. Many great old songs are rarely used in the average church because people just don't want to learn new songs and half of the hymnal in most churches is unused. Many music ministers act as opening acts. Service preparation involves 5 minutes, a quick skim through the old hymnal, and plugging in 3 different songs into the bulletin template--making sure that the invitation hymn (we only have 40 or so in our Baptist Hymnal) wasn't used in the last few weeks. My point is that this view of a dichotomy in our worship is perpetuated by our leadership.
As a music minister I am sure some of my church members think that I should just shut up and sing sometimes when I'm introducing a song and using it as an application of the gospel (this happened to a close music minister friend of mine and he may be the best preacher his church ever hears--as a music minister), but the truth is that we bear false witness when we sing "take my life, lead me Lord" and don't mean it. We take the lord's name in a non-reverent, loose, or vain way when we sing "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There's just something about that name" and our minds are on the pot roast in the oven.
We have been given, through the blood of our lamb and great high priest, the ability to boldly come before the throne of God with our praise and our prayers and we should never take that lightly. I know that God is gracious to us and we can only approach him through his provision of that high priest, but we, none the less, dishonor God with our lips when we worship half-heartedly. Which brings me around to the quote above...when we sing, we proclaim the word, together, in one voice, a priesthood, a holy nation, the bride. Let's act like it and think like it. True worship is deliberate.
Be deliberate worshipers. Preach the gospel that you sing each service to your own heart. Focus on the words in front of you and the truth you sing. Examine how those truths illuminate the very nature and being of our God and emanate from his Holy Bible. Most of the songs in our hymnal (some of the gospel songs excluded!!!) can be tied to 30 verses of biblical truth. Search for how they align themselves with scripture. When you do this, you'll care less about the style of the music, or the quality of the musicians, or the tempo of the song. You will care more about the God who sent his son to earth, to touch our lives in his humanity and seal our pardon in death, who hasn't left us comfortless, and will return to establish his everlasting Kingdom. Now isn't that what worship is all about. Isn't' that why we sing? If it's not, make it so today.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
MUSIC AND THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD