Music in Church

Warning: Long Post here.

We’ve all had the conversations before. The one where the lead/senior pastor says something like, “we really need to cut down on some time in our services, let’s cut 10 minutes out of the worship and 5 out of the teaching”. I’m all for shorter services – especially with my attention span. But here’s what typically happens when it comes time to execute; at least this has been my experience:

We cut back on the music, in our case people come 5-15 minutes late, so they either miss it or miss a portion of it. The teaching gets cut back a few minutes as well (at least for the first service, but it gets increasingly longer each one). And then, this is what happens in our case specifically. The service wraps up in time, and we realize we have time, so we take it with closing announcement, stories, impromptu interviews, etc. So, we end up at the same time anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with this – that’s not really what this is all about.

What this is about is, what role does music really play in church today – in our American culture?

You’ve probably noticed that outside the walls of the church there are many similar gatherings, where a band is brought in to loosen up the crowd – maybe a big name to draw a crowd. After a song or two, the speaker gets up and does his thing for however long he or she can keep the crowd and then the band comes back up for another song or two… And interestingly enough a lot of these events are designed to raise money…

Some examples:

Ne-Yo, Goo Goo Dolls, Barak Obama

Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffet, Lenny Kravitz, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton (sorry about the cheesy link)

John Mellencamp, John Edwards

I’m not really talking politics here – just a theme that seems to work and is suspiciously close to what we do every weekend in churches across America.

The question is, what is the role of music at church? I hope we all understand that the term worship is much more than just music. Music and song is just one form of worship, and one that is quite hedonistic in a sense that we enjoy good music (as opposed to not many people “enjoy” scrubbing toilets or changing poopy diapers).

Is music used to whip the people up and get them into a good mood for a message? Or to soften their hearts so that the Word can really “take root”? Or is it just something we’ve always done and so we continue mindlessly following in the footsteps of our forefathers?

I don’t have the answer. I do know that God has gifted humans with the unique ability to create – a Godlike character. Music is a creative process and therefor we glorify Him with our creative process and the act of presenting worship before him. At this point all I can say is that no matter what time we are given, no matter how many people are in seats, no matter what other staff members are doing, no matter what is going on in our lives – music has a way of reaching into our souls and touching us very deeply, and the Holy Spirit leads our hearts to worship through those times – sometimes.

So if the world uses music to raise money or get a vote – great. We use music to encourage our hearts to worship the creator of music. And if no one else appreciates it, our God does and we do (those working hard every weekend).

I’m not sure what the point was, but it felt good to get it out.

9 thoughts on “Music in Church

  1. Rich Kirkpatrick

    Well, I go to the old book about this. It says 100 times in the scripture (OT and NT) to sing. There are specific Hebrew words about using strings, cymbals, etc. In the ancient times, singing and “praying” were seen as the same in the religious context.

    My point is that worship is not music, but worship IS something. If you say “worship is everything” than worship is nothing in that logic–it is without distinction. If we simply have weekend services as outreach, teaching, or gathering events without the purpose of exalting God in His proper place, I would rather just do something else than be a worship pastor.

  2. Vince

    Depends…doesn’t everything

    A worship music driven church needs to protect the music worship and be careful to not let the teaching get too lengthy. Where as a church built on Bible exposition needs to be sure an feature teaching ant not short change it.

    Most will fall somewhere in between. Find a out what you do well…and focus on that.

    The trick is having a team that can be honest with each other and speak truth about what you do well and what you don’t.

    I’ve been to churches with average worship and awesome teaching…which ends up being a good experience. The reverse can be true. Scale back what is weaker and feature what is strong…not ideal, but works.

  3. Andy

    I think that corporate worship can stand on its own and not be a ‘warm up’ for a message.

    I have been priveledged to go to a church where when the worship was over the pastor got up there, prayed and then said, “God is really doing something here tonight, lets forget the message and continue to worship him.”

    I’m sure this caught the band a little by surprise, but God really moved in that service. About 1-1/2 hours of worship. People’s bodies and minds were healed through prayer time while worshipping. If you were not touched, you were checked out somewhere else.

    I know the pastor well, and I know he was sincere. He had a well planned out message, but that night he realized that an effective God centered service required just worship and prayer.

    I felt lucky to be there.

  4. Billy Chia

    Hmmm… the Church artistically/organizationally/creatively inspiring the “secular” world? I see more of this on the horizon.

  5. Mike

    Alex,

    For me, music speaks, for others, the teaching is their gig. Programming and logistics is a crazy thing– we have to get people out to get the next service in but yet we don’t want to stifle the Holy Spirit. I would say support the Lead/Sr Pastor in this but do explain that not everyone is here just to experience his teaching, they are here to experience what God has planned. I would always have one song in the bank each week just in case the Holy Spirit leads that way. We have done this in the past and has paid off.

  6. eric

    I think one of the main purposes of music in the Church today is to unify people in declaring God’s goodness… Music has the power to bring our corporate hearts and minds into focus on one thing. I pray that at most Churches that one thing is Jesus and God’s overwhelming greatness.

    Look at the examples in the Old Testament. Many times it seems that music is used as a calling and a declaration of Gods goodness. It’s almost as if the musicians are saying “Hey everyone… God is here and He is good. You should join us in declaring that fact!”

    There are also examples of David using music to soothe the soul as he did when Saul became sick.

    No matter how you use it, music is powerful.

  7. Rob Tremonte

    I agree with everyone in this case. On a side note, worship is a cry from the heart. David spoke to God through music, he shared his heart through music, he gave God the Glory through his music, like Eric said, He set Saul free from demonic opression through his music…

    In modern America, we alot of the time distort the simplicity of worship into productions. It’s every musicians pitfall.. The beauty of worship music is in the simple hearts cry to our God.

  8. Matt

    I just saw everyone commenting and I wanted to feel a part of it.

    I say yes. Alex, it was cool reading this…along with everyone’s comments. While my comment doesn’t contribute any substance…reading this may just help me ‘re-focus’ and give me a little kick in the pants for tonights service…in 1hr59min…

  9. Jeff Thompson

    My pastor recently had a radical passion for worship develop in his life. He’s a HARDCORE student of the Word and one day he came to me and said “Jeff, do you what the most frequently referenced command in the Bible is? It’s “sing to the Lord”. It’s mentioned over TWO THOUSAND times in the Bible!” He’s started singing to the Lord every morning during his quiet time and says it’s revolutionized his life. I truly believe that if the senior pastor doesn’t “get” how important worship is to the Lord, it’s going to be an uphill struggle. I think a lot of pastors have worship because that’s “just what you do in church”. If you’re in a church like that, my heart goes out to you!

    There’s Biblically-ordained power in congregational worship. The question is, will we as worship leaders LEAD people to a place where they understand the importance and power of worship?

    That’s my greatest challenge, week in and week out.

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