019: Music in the Church (Luke Miller)
When it comes to people and car cleanliness, there are two extremes: Those who care way too much about their cars, and those who don’t care nearly enough. I’m really not sure which type of person I would rather ride with. On the one hand, my friendship with the guy who won’t let me drink my milk-shake in his spotless sedan is probably never going real far. On the other hand, no one wants to gingerly push a pile of papers, wrappers, and various clothing items off of the passenger seat only to still end up sitting on a chicken taco. (Yes, I once uncovered an old chicken taco in my buddy’s SUV...He proceeded to eat it in front of me.)
In a way, this varying care for the car can be seen as a parable for worship music in the church today. On the one hand, you have the church that sees worship music as everything. Thus, it desperately strives to sound, look, and feel as good as a Hillsong concert (and probably comes nowhere close). On the other hand, you have the church where music is barely taken seriously at all. A quality time of worshipping God through song is looked on as a nice but very unnecessary luxury.
I would propose that both types of churches miss the mark: One makes too much of worship music, and the other not nearly enough; one makes music its savior, and the other neglects an important means of worshiping the Savior. The reality is that music is one crucial piece of the church’s worship. Not more, and not less. Allow me to explain.
Music is one crucial piece of church worship, because the Bible commands us to sing.
Scripture commands believers many, many times to sing to God (Just plug the word sing into your Bible search-engine sometime). Both the Old and New Testaments depict God’s people worshiping Him through song, and there’s an entire book of the Bible made up of worship songs (Psalms...you may have heard of it). Furthermore, the Bible even commands Christians to sing to each other (Eph. 5:19)!
If the Bible commands and exemplifies these things, then it’s obvious our churches should take singing seriously. If I’m a church member, then I need to be coming to church ready to sing (whether I’m good at music or not). And if I’m a church member who also happens to be a church musician, then I need to be striving to play or sing in a manner that helps God’s people worship him more readily. We must not make too little of worship music.
Music is one crucial piece of church worship, not the most important piece.
For most churches (including my own), the word worship is often synonymous with “singing worship songs.” While I’m glad that people often associate worship with this important aspect, the big mistake here is in thinking that we only worship God while we are singing. But if we understand worship to be giving God praise and valuing him above everything else, then our entire lives should be worship
And when it comes to our weekly worship gathering, our entire church service should be about worship. Yes, you read that correctly: The entire thing. The preaching, the praying, the giving, the communion-taking, the greeting, and, last but not least, the singing, should all be seen as essential elements of worshiping Christ. That being the case, we shouldn’t give music a ridiculous amount of time in our services to the detriment of the other important aspects of worship the Bible commands.
I think one big reason our worship slides out of balance is because we often believe the music somehow brings the presence of God to us: If I worship good enough or long enough with these songs, I can convince the Holy Spirit to come down here. But as imperfect people who still have sin natures, our worship of a perfect God will always fall short, even on our best Sundays. And yet, praise God, because the perfect work of Jesus never fell short, the Holy Spirit is living inside every weak Christian worshiper. Thus, we don’t have to convince God to show up by worshiping well enough, because the gospel guarantees his Spirit is already among us, eager to show us the transforming glory of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). And in the hands of the Holy Spirit, singing is one of several wonderful means of refocusing ourselves on that glory.
May we not make too much of our worship music, and may we not make too little of it.