I’ve recently read several articles that have placed a negative spin on the use of music during worship services. One article claimed that using music to move us and bring us closer to God is more pagan than Christian. It goes on to say the use of music has marginalized God’s Word because faith doesn’t come from music. The article does acknowledge that Scripture is filled with examples of God’s people using music, but it claims that many churches have granted music “sacramental power” and replaced the teaching of God’s Word with song. Another article states that what is done on stage on Sunday morning is nothing more than a “rock show” and has no impact on our daily lives. It claims that this is one reason people are leaving the church.
Now, I’ll admit that there are churches who have put more emphasis on the music than on the teaching of God’s Word. I’m certain there are people leaving some churches because they don’t feel impacted. However, the articles I’ve read seem to be labeling every church the same and condemning the use of music. I just think that is wrong. Music can be a powerful part of the worship service and, in my opinion, should always be included. No, it should not take place of the teaching of the Bible – that must be first if the church is going to survive. But, there is power in music that can move the worshipper closer to God. I’ll explain.
Nearly every church I’ve attended has the same basic service outline. The service typically begins with music, has a sermon in the middle, and ends with music. The purpose of music at the start of the worship service should be to prepare the worshipper’s heart for the hearing of the Word. I know I’ve walked into the service not really ready to meet God. I’m sure we’ve all been there – we would really rather be sleeping in, maybe we were arguing with kids on the way in, the drive to church was stressful – and when we arrive and walk into the building we aren’t ready to worship. But then, the music starts. For me, everything changes when the music begins. My mind focuses on the words of the songs, and my heart is opened to the message. (The church I attend does an amazing job of selecting songs that point directly to Scripture). On most Sundays, no matter how I felt coming in, I’m ready to hear the Word after the opening worship time. That is what the music should do – prepare your heart to receive the Word.
Then, when the sermon ends, there is more music. That is a time of reflection and response. Many churches select songs for this time of worship that are responses to the message. I grew up in a small southern Baptist church that used hymnals (for those of you under the age of 30 you may have to Google hymnal to see what that looks like). We often used songs like Just As I Am or Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus during that part of the service. Old hymns like these give words of response for us.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Scripture recognizes the use of music in worship. Just look at Psalm 150.
Praise the Lord
Praise God in His sanctuary.
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
2 Praise Him for His powerful acts;
praise Him for His abundant greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet blast;
praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with tambourine and dance;
praise Him with flute and strings.
5 Praise Him with resounding cymbals;
praise Him with clashing cymbals.
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.
Trumpet blasts, harp and lyre, flute and strings, resounding cymbals – now add guitars, piano, drums and you have modern worship services.
For me, music is an important part of my worship. Some of my most meaningful times in worship have come while playing or singing during a service. Music has power! No, it doesn’t replace the teaching of the Bible, but it has the power to move you in such a way that your heart is in tune with the Word the pastor brings. A church shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about using music in the worship service, and they certainly don’t need to get rid of the music. As for claims that Sunday morning is a “rock show” that has no impact on our daily lives, I can tell you that certainly isn’t true for me. Much of the music I hear on Sunday morning (or Wednesday night) ends up in my iTunes, and I listen to it throughout the week. The right song, at the right time, has the power to touch your heart and give you the push you need to make it through. Don’t discount the power of music, and don’t allow negative articles to influence your feelings. Listen on my friends!