If a skillful worship leader skillfully combines biblical truth and music, what part does music play? Why is God so concerned that we use music to worship Him?
One response comes from Martin Luther. This is a portion of his Forward to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae iucundae, a collection of chorale motets published in 1538:
“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits…This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God. However, when man’s natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.”
Not exactly conciliatory, but he makes his point that music matters to God. However, there are a number of details God seems to have left out of Scripture when it comes to music in worship. For instance: * How much music is too much? * Should music be universal or localized? * Should music support elements of the liturgy (e.g., the Gloria) or consist of stand-alone songs? * What is the best instrumental accompaniment (if there should be any at all)? * What do we mean by the BEST music? Are we speaking theologically, emotionally, pragmatically, aesthetically, or historically? * Should songs be grouped together in one portion of the meeting, or interspersed with other elements? * What is the place of choirs? Of soloists? There have been numerous people throughout history who were convinced God had answered these questions. I don’t think God has been clear as we’d like Him to be. There’s a good reason the canon was completed before recording was invented.Understanding His will in these areas requires wisdom, discernment, patience, and a continual dependence on His Spirit to lead us. What God has been clear on is the primacy of congregational song. The few references to instrumental worship (Ps. 33:2-3, Ps. 150) are far outweighed by the number of Scriptures inviting us to sing God’s praises.
But why do we sing? Let me suggest three reasons. We sing to remember God’s word. We sing to respond to God’s grace. We sing to reflect God’s glory. In the next few days, I want to spend some time developing each of these thoughts. If we understand why we sing, we’ll be able to lead others more effectively.