Music is such a huge part of our daily lives, that it is nearly impossible to imagine a full day without it, in some form or another. Radio, television, movies, advertising, even elevators and doctors’ offices, are full of that wonderful combination of melody, harmony and rhythm that we know as “music!” And so it is for those who worship God. In his Word, music is mentioned in the very first book of Genesis, and in the last book of the Revelation. In Exodus, we are told that Moses wrote songs. The lyrics to a song of the Israelites in Exodus 15 are as relevant today, as they were so many thousands of years ago. “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him!” I believe God gave music to all mankind, just as he gave us speech, in order to glorify him and to share and enjoy with other people.
There are songs of rejoicing at a wedding. Songs of grief and of hope at a funeral. Songs of triumph after victory. Songs of remorse after sin. Songs of confidence in his promises. Songs that celebrate answered prayer. Songs of affirmation of God’s Word. Songs that praise his attributes.
In the church, music is also a huge part of our worship and teaching ministries. Our preschoolers learn the essentials of God’s nature through song. We memorize Scripture easier when we have a simple melody to accompany. Every time I’ve been around our IY teens, they’re singing. Each church gathering of adults and families, includes worship in song. Why?
While we have plenty of Old Testament examples of corporate and individual singing—in addition to the hundreds of Psalms of David—the New Testament church, as it was being established in the early years after Christ returned to heaven, received directives regarding the use of music. The apostle Paul instructed believers in churches to use psalms (songs of Scripture) and hymns (songs directed to God) and spiritual songs (songs of application), to enforce the Word in our hearts, to teach each other, and to give thanks. (Eph 5 and Col 3) Therefore, singing in church is obedience to his Word. Beyond this instruction, however, we don’t have detailed guidelines regarding the “How?”
The music of our church should always reflect the nature of the God we worship. Knowing him, understanding his nature, and believing on his name, are all integral to true worship music. Our music needs to be saturated in Truth, also. When it reflects him and his Word, he is greatly glorified.
I am often asked questions regarding musical preferences and styles and the use of different instruments. As I have objectively (I hope!) formulated my own personal music philosophy, I try to keep in mind that most of what we hear today, connects specifically to this particular time in history, stylistically speaking. And each generation of the church has had their own “sound.” For instance, the earliest church fathers rejected the use of any instrumentation whatsoever. Instruments were considered entirely sensual, secular and pagan (I’ve often wondered what their thoughts about David and his instruments were?!). It was about 1,000 years before the organ was accepted for congregational singing—and not until around 1930, that the piano was seen as a beneficial addition to that! God, his Word, and his attributes, will NEVER change, but it’s obvious that our expression of worship does indeed change with the generations. The church music your grandparents heard on Sunday mornings has a different sound than the music you hear today, and today’s worship sounds different from what your grandchildren will hear.
As we learn the many facets of God, we express worship in a variety of acceptable styles. God’s Word doesn’t prescribe any certain style of sound. I personally believe that worship music should sound distinctly “Christian.” But I understand that may even differ, according to your background, experience or culture. You’ll notice that I like to blend older hymns with newer songs of faith. You’ll also notice we use the keyboard instruments, along with strings, wind instruments and rhythm. Immanuel is blessed to have many skilled musicians who are excited to be exercising their gifts for his glory in the church, and a congregation that loves to sing! It is my hope, that the worship music at Immanuel encourages your own singing, reinforces the truth of the messages from the pulpit, and reminds us of the greatness of the three-in-one God we serve.
If you have musical experience and skill that could be used in our music ministry at IBC, please let me know!