Had to write a paper for Church History Class, so thought I'd share it. You are dealing with one lazy blogger!
The Importance of Music in Church Services
If you are going to make the case for the importance of a thing, it is customary to be able to express how the particular thing has value or serves a purpose. So in regarding the importance of music in the church, we have to ask the questions:
· Does music serve a purpose in church services?
· Is music valuable to church services?
If these two questions are examined and answered, we will truly know the importance of music in church.
Taking Care of Business
My earliest recollection of the role that music played in church services was one of structure. The Catholic Church service was divided in parts and the music would tell the parish what was happening next. The service would open and end with songs of praise and worship and at certain intervals parts of the mass where sung. So music played the utilitarian role of time keeper; my family was particularly fond of the closing hymn that marked the end of service.
Beyond the basic divisions of time, church music played the more important role of teaching and giving praise. The hymns that were sung in church reinforced the lessons about Christian doctrine I learned in Sunday school. My fondest memories of church music in my youth was giving praise and honor to God in song, particularly with Christmas themed hymns like “Come All Ye Faithful”, “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World!”. These moments of my youth in church proclaiming praise in song had me deeply rooted in belief in Christ and proud to be one of his followers.
Purpose? The purpose of music is to Rock!
It is commonly thought that the purpose of music is to entertain. The criticism of the use of music in the church has primarily been aimed at the entertainment value of the music performed. When the focus of music in church is solely for the entertainment of the audience, these criticisms are warranted. While music is a form of entertainment and entertainment could be listed as one of the purposes of music in church, the main purpose of the gathering of the church service is to give glory, honor, and praise to God so this should be the purpose of the music in the church service as well.
The argument against music in church could take aim at the content of the music, the style, or both. Throughout the ages of church history, critics have claimed that certain forms of church music was dishonoring God, making light of the gospel, or was too worldly. The use of particular musical instruments, hymns, or certain arrangements was deemed an unholy form of praise, unbiblical, or drew the attention from God to individuals. For example, the Lutherans used organs, choirs, and traditional catholic congregational songs that reinforced the meaning of the gospel where as other branches of Protestantism rejected these forms, insisting that the only acceptable music was music that came directly from scripture. So who’s right?
Music appreciation is truly subjective. Our grandparents’ standard of acceptable church music is different from our standards. The Lutherans and the Calvinists had different standards. Styles and standards might change but we must remember that our purpose is to glorify God, and if that is the case, I feel that the music in church must:
· Give respectful and reverent praise towards God
· Be in accordance with biblically moral standards of conduct and decency
· Be biblically and doctrinally accurate.
This might be a short list of requirements but as long as they are met, who am I or anyone else to say that the way that someone chooses to honor and praise the Lord is wrong. So be it rap, country western, or didgeridoo church music, as long as God is being praised respectfully, genuinely, and accurately the true purpose of church music is fulfilled.
Value: Beyond Purpose
The purpose of church music has been shown to be:
· Utilitarian – Division and structure, keeping time.
· Educational – Teaching and reinforcing gospel doctrine.
· Entertainment – Some list church music as the reason for going to church!
· Devotional – Praise and Honor to God.
Church music fits the bill in terms of purpose. Something meeting four purposes would automatically be considered valuable. Four purposes shows music in church has a quantifiable value. However, sometimes it’s not the quantity that matters; it’s the quality that really determines value. Sometimes the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. There are two qualitative aspects to music in church that go beyond purpose and surpass the use of music in any other setting. These two aspects are: the sense of community and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
It is true that music brings people together but the sense of community that is established when believers of the one true God come together and give praise, honor and glory to Him is more than the good vibes of a rock concert. It is the united proclamation of truth and devotion that builds bonds between believers corporately while also connecting believers to God Himself. A small glimpse of heaven is gained when believers rise up joined in song. You can imagine the scene in Revelation 4 where the living creatures “do not rest day or night, saying “Holy , holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” This sense of community is the result of the fully appropriate and righteous praise of the Lord.
The sense of community that we feel in church through music is amplified through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This anointing is understood by believers when the quality of the worship is elevated in a sense where the presence of God seems to flow through you and wash over you. The experience is marked by incredible joy and an overwhelming flow of emotion and timelessness that is difficult to articulate but is understood experientially as something super natural. The first time I experienced this anointing at Rock Solid Church I was visible shaken and taken aback by the power I experienced. I was new to the church and I remember a member of the congregation greeting me. I remember saying “Yeah” or “Wow!” and He just sort of laughed because he could see I was really moved by the worship. It was okay because I didn’t have much more to say, having been rendered speechless.
This is what is special about music in church or church music anywhere; it connects us to God. It takes that intellectual knowledge and ties it to our hearts and the Holy Spirit is confirming that it is real and it is all true. These realizations and experiences of abiding with the Holy Spirit I have known have come through prayer, studying the word, praying in tongues, and praising Him through music. So if you ask me if it is important to have music in church, I would have to say “Yeah” or “Wow!”