Friday, July 20, 2012

Extras and Applications on Songs

What about instruments and choirs?
            The seminary I attended did not allow instruments in worship. There is a long history in the Church of not allowing instruments. The argument against instruments is long and rather complicated and not entirely devoid of merit.  However, God puts his stamp of approval on instruments in the Psalms. There we find various instruments played. (See Psalm 150)  There is no biblical reason to exclude them. If you would like to know more about this particular issue you can talk to me.
            I would add that instruments should support congregational singing, not overwhelm it. Musical instruments should be added to the people’s voices, but the voices should be central.  We hope to continue to add more acapella singing so that we can hear our own voices. 
            Playing of instruments during worship should never become a performance. This can happen with worship bands who look conspicuously like a collection of really lame pop stars. Or with Mrs. So and So at the piano who thinks it is her job to show the world how great she is. The instruments play a supporting role. The congregation and her voice are to take center stage. This is why we do not do solos.  
            Everything I said about instruments applies to choirs as well. They are biblical. Choirs are not sinful. But they need to be used to support congregational worship. A choir concert is not wrong either. But Sunday morning is not for concerts. If we had a choir I would put it in the back or side during worship. That way it could support the congregation in her singing. A choir can also be used to introduce the congregation to new songs.

How Then Shall We Sing?
1. Our songs must be doctrinally (and musically) sound because they are performed before the face of our God and King. Since God is the primary audience we must please him by only offering what is true, righteous, and beautiful. This means our songs must be carefully rooted in God’s Word.

2. Our songs must be doctrinally sound because we are learning theology through them. Songs are catechisms that teach us truth.  If we are sloppy with the content of our songs we will find our heads filled with lies or fuzzy half-truths about God.  Music and song are powerful teachers. Our songs must teach the truth about God, His Son, the Spirit, the Church, sin, forgiveness, holiness, and creation. Song plays a crucial role in passing down the faith from one generation to the next.

3. This also means it would be great to have a music pastor. This man would teach us through the songs he writes and the songs he teaches us from other men. He would be theologically trained so he could discern the wheat from the chaff concerning content. He would be trained as a pastor so he would know how to shepherd the flock of God. But he would also be musically trained so he could discern appropriate music.

4. We should sing the Psalms and the other songs in Scripture.  We are still woefully inadequate in singing Scripture. We sing more psalms than most contemporary churches, but our fathers in the faith would consider us infants in singing Scripture. Wouldn’t it be great to sing Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) at Christmas time?  Or to sing Isaiah 26 or 12? Exodus 15 would be a wonderful song for Ascension Sunday as we celebrate Christ’s triumph over sin, death, and Satan. We should always be searching for more Scripture set to music.

5. Our hymns should be saturated with Scripture.  The best hymns are the ones that are built on biblical themes and/or language.  We do not have to sing only Scripture, but those songs that do not come directly from the Bible should still be biblical in content.

6. Our singing on Sunday should be vigorous.

7. We must learn to sing more outside of worship. We should sing at the table. We should sing during our chores. We should sing when we are grieved.  Singing should not be chained to Sunday morning worship. Let it break free. Use song in your life throughout the week.

8. Each church, including Christ Church, will have its core “sound.” We must work with the songs, instruments, and musicians that we have. However, as much as possible within our “sound,” our songs should consist of varying themes, lengths, instruments, and tunes. We cannot do everything nor should we try. But we should still be varied within our own abilities and resources.    

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8