by Rick Pidcock
In our discussion about excellent worship music so far, we have discussed both the basis and the goal of music. Part One explained how we are called to excellence in worship because God is primarily and passionately in love with Himself. Part Two explained that music communication can be used either to edify or to corrupt others.
Today we will be focusing on the decision process that we must go through in order to determine which music songs and styles are the best to edify the worshipers God has called us to minister to.
1. Internalize the biblical revelation of God’s nature, worship, music, and one anothering.
“Give unto the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”–Psalm 29:2
Worship always begins with the revelation of God. As He reveals His beautiful glory to us, we respond by breathing out His praise.
So what specifically should we look for in His revelation?
Since worship magnifies the nature of God, it only makes sense to begin by studying His nature. In Part One, we studied that the primary aspect of God’s nature is His own love for Himself. All that He does is out of love for Himself. And as such, we must study why He is so beautiful.
Second, we must internalize the biblical revelation of worship. Since worship glorifies our beautiful Creator, and since it encompasses every aspect of our lives, there is much about worship to explore. We should look not only for the explicit verses about worship, but also try to find the connection between God’s love for Himself, how He deals with His creation, and what our natural response to those specific acts should be.
Third, since our discussion here is on how all of this applies to music, we must also internalize the biblical revelation of music. Nowhere does the Bible prescribe specific styles of music. But there are plenty of principles of communication and examples of music effects that can give us a greater understanding of how to use the powerful gift of music in a way that edifies the listener and glorifies the Creator.
Finally, we must internalize the biblical revelation of one anothering. Corporate worship by its very name implies that there is more than one person involved. And wherever there is more than one person, there is more than one opinion, taste, or background. Therefore, it is important for us to internalize the truths of how the church relates to one another on a daily basis.
2. Realize where God has sovereignly placed you in time, location, and experience.
“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”–John 17:18
In M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, a group of families leave the modern day cities in order to pursue a life of solitude in the forest where everybody believes they are living in the 1800’s. They believe that by doing so, they will never experience evil again.
I think that many traditional Christians today almost despise where God has sovereignly placed them. If only it was like the good old days, then everything would be amazing. We forget that God has sovereignly determined where we are in every way.
First, we need to realize where God has placed us in time. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but we do live in the twenty-first century, rather than the seventeenth. As a result, we need to edify the people of the twenty-first century differently than the people in the seventeenth century did.
Second, we need to realize where God has placed us in location. I don’t live in India. I live in the United States. And I don’t live in New England. Instead, I minister in the Stapleton community of Denver, CO. Thus, certain music styles and songs will edify this group that God has called me to minister to in ways that other styles and songs cannot.
Third, we need to realize the experiences of the people God has called us to edify. Some members of your worship team may be more classically trained, while others may be more trained to play by ear or by chords. Some people in your church may prefer certain types of songs or styles based on what they have grown up with. Others may have been saved out of a certain background that they closely associate with the music that they listened to when they were in that lifestyle. With every person comes unique experiences.
3. Contextualize your music by using the songs and styles that best edify those in your context to become worshipers that are consistent with biblical revelation.
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as underthe law, that I might win those who are under the law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I by all means save some. Now I do this for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”–1 Corinthians 9:19-23
It always amazes me when I hear of mission agencies in the United States that dictate to their missionaries what they are allowed to do musically in a foreign country. Even in the United States, there are so many different mission fields. And yet, so many of our churches look and sound like cookie cutters copies of one another.
Every church in every city of every state is unique. Therefore, we need to apply this universal thought process to each unique situation. And when we do this, we need to understand that no two churches will end up looking exactly alike, just as no two individual people do.
Living out the unchanging gospel in an ever-changing culture is what incarnational life and ministry is all about. And since music is such a key part of our lives, we need to approach music within the context of this incarnational model of decision making.