I’ll give you a hint... they all have something to do with worship music.
I’ll explain in a moment, but first let’s think about the wonderful problem of worship music.
Why it's wonderful...
I’ve never understood people who don’t care about music and I can see what Bill Shakespeare was driving at when he said that such people were better suited for “treasons, stratagems, and spoils.” There just seems to be something criminal about the kind of person who can sit idly by in a restaurant, chewing a sandwich and carrying on a conversation with a friend all the while being totally unmoved by the Nickelback “song” that has just begun oozing out of the speakers above them.
How can they just sit there????
How can they be so callous????
Why aren’t they on their feet demanding the speakers be unplugged and the radio ran over by a steamroller?
All of this to say, music REALLY matters to me. When it comes on, regardless of where I am, I instinctually pay attention to it. I just can’t help it! To my mind music is the queen of all of the arts. It is something to be treated with integrity and reverence. It is a vehicle through which the deepest expressions of the human soul can be conveyed... And yet somewhere along the line we exchanged all of this for Rod Stewart... oh, dear!
While I appreciate all forms of good music I nevertheless contend that the highest form of music is worship music. Here’s why; when properly utilized, worship music allows Christians to fulfill the main purpose of their existence – namely, to glorify and enjoy the triune God.
Why it's problematic...
All of this does not appear to have led to the strengthening of the modern-day Church... If anything it appears to have created further divisions along artificial lines – namely, contemporary, traditional, and blended lines. Many churches even segregate their congregations along these lines, offering separate services to ensure that the respective musical factions will never have to worry about bumping into those with differing tastes. These services receive their labels form the type of music included and from the accoutrements of that particular style of music – things that run the gamut from vestments and pipe organs to sandals and drum-sets.
Surely, there is something very problematic about all of this.... right?
Plato is often misquoted as having said, “when the mode of the music changes the walls of the city shake.” Though this is a misquote, I for one believe that there is great wisdom in it. As the mode of music has changed within the Church over the past couple decades a very great and unhelpful shaking has accompanied it. Today in many places the music used in the worship of God is adrift on a sea of trends. The blustery opinions of every windbag with a love for a given genre seem to blow unrelentingly upon the church. In many places well-meaning pastors and musicians unknowingly shortchange their flocks with the kind of highly-commercialized, FM-friendly, theologically-vacuous songs that pockmark the landscape of "worship" today... And again, I believe that it all goes back to the fact that we seem to have forgotten why we have worship music in the first place.
What's the solution...
Figured it out yet?
Ok, fine! I'll tell you... In the Bible, music fulfills three roles within the context of worship – the three categories listed above.
The reason we have worship music at all is to engage in one of these three actions - praise, prayer, and/or proclamation.
As someone has helpfully defined these three categories:
Praise is the lauding of God for His acts and attributes, acknowledging His supremacy in all things.
Prayer is communication addressed to God (did you realize that the vast majority of the songs you sing in church are actually prayers?)
Proclamation encompasses any activity that proclaims the Word of God – quotation, explanation, teaching, and preaching.
The author of these definitions concludes:
“I contend that when worship music is properly fulfilling these roles according to biblical principles, discord dissipates, unity increases, and the Spirit utilizes music for it’s highest purpose...”
And I fully agree!
Here is our solution – whatever genre of worship music we choose, let’s evaluate its usefulness and propriety based on the principles of the Bible. Let’s ensure that our choice of worship music is not rooted in the world, in pop culture, in pragmatism, or in mistaken notions of success... Instead let’s seek, by God’s grace, to conduct our worship music in such a way that every Christian under our care will be better enabled to fulfill their chief purpose – namely, to enjoy and glorify the triune God.