on church music…

Before I write what I’ve been thinking about (yes there is a point to this post), let me lay down a few thoughts about Christian music discussions:

1) Anytime somebody brings up music, Christians will disagree — and not just disagree, but disagree with passion. Music is often very personal — criticizing someone’s music is like mocking a boyfriend or girlfriend — logic and reason take the back seat while raging emotions ride shot-gun.

2) Anytime somebody brings up music, labels start flying like, um flies or pigs or something. If I were to criticize a certain type of worship music, some would want to break out a roll of duct tape and stick a Dave is a legalist sign on my back (while I wasn’t looking of course). On the other hand entirely, if I were to condone the usage of certain songs in public worship, some would try to mark my forehead with 666 or even worse, a Dave is a liberal branding.

3) Music is an integral part of church life.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

If we are to be teaching one another with music — if we should be admonishing each other with music — if our music should be Word based — if the Lord is our primary audience | then it is time that the church takes her worship services very seriously.

Before I make my three suggestions to any worship service, allow me to preface. I like conservative music; I like hymns. However, if we fail to advance in how we do church — never re-evaluating or trying to improve — worship services have no hope for significance in the minds of our people.

Now for my suggestions.

1). If church music is, at least in part, about teaching one another, then we should sing songs with strong biblical lyrics.

Many hymns have very strong lyrical content. However, many are riddled with obscure biblical references to which the average church member is completely ignorant. In such cases, those particular songs should be eliminated from the service or time should be spent explaining the lyrics. Pause a song sometime — read a verse of Scripture upon which the song was based and tell the congregation to think about it — then keep singing.

I am almost screaming this through the screen: I long for significance in church worship services! This can only happen when God’s people know what they are singing and subsequently know God in a deeper, fuller and more passionate way.

Too often, even in good churches, whoever is in charge of music selects songs for musical reasons only. It’s in the right key. It’s a good opening tempo. I like the melody. Not altogether bad reasons; the goal should be larger, however — teaching!

2). Without getting into the differences between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (because I have heard the distinction between these words abused and beat into the ground — I mean seriously, a dead horse can only take so many beatings after the time of its death before it starts to stink really badly), I think it should be understood that church music should overflow with variety.

For some churches, this means more than rotating 30 hymns from week to week or more than simply singing hymns.

For other churches, this means more than singing choruses — your people need to hear some of the great hymns of the faith.

For other-other churches, this means that your music needs to actually be spiritual.

3). As we worship, we must remember that our ultimate audience is the Lord. We are to sing a variety of styles —- all of them to the Lord. After all, music is only about us — what we like. Since the Lord is our audience, there are some styles of worship that should be abandoned completely. Music/Worship is not primarily about what we like. It’s about pleasing God — after all, He hears it all.

Let me end by saying this: even if the worship service at your church seems insignificant, make sure that while you sing, that you allow your mind to concentrate on the lyrics and that your heart explodes with love and adoration for the risen Christ.

Sing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Try to see it all clearly_

  1. #1 by Phil on June 21, 2007 - 11:37 am

    I generally agree with most your comments here, although I’m not completely sure I know what you mean by this statement: “Not altogether bad reasons; the goal should be larger, however — teaching!”

    It seems that the goals should be proclaiming the greatness of God. I agree many modern worship songs seem more about us than God and are very shallow. I just don’t know how well people will absorb theology through hymns. Now if you mean teaching in another sense, like in teaching the congregation about worship, that may be possible.

    The most meaningful worship songs to me are the ones that are based on Scripture. It’s hard to go too wrong with that.

  2. #2 by clearly on June 21, 2007 - 11:55 am


    Thanks for the comment; I am in general agreement with you as well. I am talking about teaching Scripture through song — we can only know God’s greatness through the Scriptures — through teaching.

    Thanks for your interaction on this. I welcome more…

  3. #3 by clearly on June 21, 2007 - 12:09 pm

    One more thing, Phil. I believe the emphasis of music should be on teaching. However, the word νουθετουντες (which is translated “admonishing”) comes from a Greek word that can have a multitude of meanings, but in this instance I think it has more of the feel of confronting or challenging each other in a personal, face-to-face setting. So another purpose of church worship is stir each other up towards Christ-likeness — to encourage us to actuate in our lives what we know to be true about God. I think it’s kinda the Hebrews 10 idea of “provoking one another to love and good works.” Good stuff!

  4. #4 by Henry Frueh on June 21, 2007 - 1:58 pm

    The only thing about music that can be substantuated through Scripture is when the music overpowers the message. Other than that, the music bed is undefiled!

  5. #5 by teleia philia on June 23, 2007 - 12:26 pm

    How would you apply John 4:24 to this? Specifically, how a worshiper worships in spirit. The truth part is fairly straight forward. . . but how does one worship in spirit?

  6. #6 by clearly on June 23, 2007 - 12:54 pm


    Wow, that is the million dollar question, isn’t it?

    I have some initial thoughts, but I’d like to hear yours too — what do you think?

    I would like to do some research (that’s what were supposed to do when we are unsure 🙂 — a word study to discern the range of meaning for the word πνευμα, in the Johanine writings especially).

  7. #7 by teleia philia on June 23, 2007 - 2:02 pm

    I’d love to join in on the word search, although I suspect that John’s use of pneuma (sorry, I don’t have the cool Greek font) won’t surprise us. However, the last time i said that I was pleasantly surprised.

    I don’t have any well developed thoughts on the topic right now. I don’t think Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit (worship IN spirit, not by the power of… or with…) so I am fairly certain that the spirit he is referring to is our own… but in what way? I don’t know. But it has always puzzled me.

    When I get a few minutes I’ll look into John’s use of pneuma (again, lacks the cool effect of the Greek font) and re-read the story of the Samaritan at the well to see if the context lends any clues.

    What are your thoughts- even if primitive at this moment?

  8. #8 by clearly on June 23, 2007 - 2:25 pm

    Primitive thoughts…hmm.

    I completely agree that this is not a reference to the Holy Spirit. I think there are two possibilities here, both may be correct.

    1) Jesus is telling the woman that true worship of the Father is not tied to any specific locality as thought by many Jews and Samaratins alike.

    2) Jesus is telling the woman that true worship should encompass every part of us — kind of like we are instructed to love God with our heart, soul and mind.

    I don’t know if that helps at all, but it’s the best I have at the moment. Can you see either of those?

  9. #9 by Henry Frueh on June 23, 2007 - 2:40 pm

    Everything you have said is good and edifying. Jesus, in the context, was emphasizing that worship isn’t captured in any particular place (Jerusalem, etc.) but in the Covenant of the Spirit worship will be anywhere a surrendered heart bows in reverence before the Risen Christ.

    Hence in Spirit (a Spirit inhabited believer) and truth (the Risen Christ).

    That time has come.

  10. #10 by clearly on June 23, 2007 - 3:02 pm

    Henry, I will have to chew on your view for a while, although I agree it is good and edifying as well:)

    I am not sure that when Jesus says that God is spirit (in this context at least) that He is actually talking about the Holy Spirit. Your interpretation solves some problems in my mind, but brings up a whole host of others.

    The difference may appear semantical, but the first clause seems to be a subset proposition, not completely interchangeable: πνευμα ο θεος. I don’t think it means that God is the Spirit, but rather that God is spirit. If your understanding of πνευμα as referring to the Spirit in this verse were to hold up, then wouldn’t the first clause have to be taken as modalistic — God is the spirit? Whereas, we would all agree that the Spirit is God, but not vica versa.

    I think it has to be a subset proposition here. Meaning, that God is spirit in his composition; He is not human.

    Therefore, worship of Him cannot be relegated to mere buildings or walls or temples, etc.

  11. #11 by Henry Frueh on June 23, 2007 - 3:19 pm

    The Lord is simply taking worship out of the geographical realm and into the heart realm. The context is clear, he is teaching the Samaritan woman that there will come a time that geography will no longer separate believers, their worship will be in the unseen realm.

  12. #12 by clearly on June 23, 2007 - 3:20 pm

    Henry, I like that better than your original post:) I can go with that for sure!

    Teleia, did this help you?

  13. #13 by Henry Frueh on June 23, 2007 - 3:26 pm

    And of course the geographical realm represents the law, the spirit realm represents the New Covenant. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. No more approaching the ark with fear and trembling hoping God will accept the atonement offered by the high priest of Israel, we now have free access to the throne of grace by the blood of the eternal High Priest Himself, not by the weakness of the law.

    Halleluiah, we never deserved it, but He purchsed it!!

  14. #14 by Henry Frueh on June 23, 2007 - 3:30 pm

    One last application: Paul said all things were lawful but not all things were edifying. So if people demand one type of music as the way to worship God they are going back under the law. Some types of music may not be as edifying as others, but all types are lawful.

    The New Testament says nothing about types of music, it only teaches a “certain sound” in the message so people will understand.

  15. #15 by clearly on June 23, 2007 - 3:34 pm


    I don’t want the discussion to go there on this particular thread. But, for the record, I must say that I disagree. It’s a 2 Corinthians 6 issue in my opinion, not a law verse grace issue.

    That is, I don’t believe that every type of music is acceptible for communicating spiritual truth. That’s my view.

  16. #16 by teleia philia on June 23, 2007 - 3:40 pm

    Oh… uhm… primitive as in primordial or aboriginal… beginning stages. I didn’t intend to imply that your thoughts were crude or lacking depth. I hope it did not come across in that manner.

    I agree with both of the comments preceding this one that this has to do with locality. The context is clear about that.

    Spirit… non physical…not possessing locality or ‘whereness’ as a necessary condition, and yet contained within a body…communes with God…synonymous with soul (according to the dichotomists)… love the lord your God with all you soul..spirit? Possibly. I think I can see that if pneuma and psyche are synonymous and used interchangeably. If that is the case then we can catch a glimpse of this in Mary’s exclamation that her “soul doth magnify the Lord”.. or in Jesus’ statement that His “soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”… psyche at least seems to be referring to the seat of your emotion in these cases.

    But… the fact of the matter if that John uses pneuma and not psyche. I believe he uses both in his writings, but being in a place without a concordance or bible I can’t say that with certainty (unless he has Jesus saying that his psyche is troubled in john 12… I don’t remember now which word he uses). So if he uses both words we can assume that he chose pneuma in this context intentionally over his choice of pneuma. Maybe it just rolled off the tongue better than psyche 🙂

    I may have just changed direction in my thought. . . John defines the way in which we should understand pneuma in this verse. God is pneuma and those who worship God must worship Him in pneuma. . . I am going back to the idea of a non-physical locality. “The time is coming and has now come where those who worship will worship in spirit and in truth..God IS spirit and those who worship Him MUST worship him in spirit…” (very rough paraphrase). I think John is drawing a parallel between God being spirit and us worshiping in spirit. I think he is contrasting it with this idea that God is contained within a geographical location. He is saying, you must worship God wherever you find yourself ; not just in your temples.

    Truth? John speaks a lot about truth. Is this merely a statement about correct doctrine? I think (again… primitive thoughts) that this is the truth that is spoken of in John 3:19-21. That is, a broken and contrite heart that approaches the Father in full recognition of our sinful condition… and the willingness to bring our evil deeds into the light so they may be exposed.

    Well, again, I wish I were in an environment conducive to study right now, but it’s pretty loud here (lot’s of children playing) and I don’t have any study aids to support my anecdotal ideas. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I can get in front of a bible and concordance. That will also serve as my excuse for my spelling, grammr and sentence structure right now 🙂

  17. #17 by teleia philia on June 23, 2007 - 3:44 pm

    well, when i started writing at 2:45 there were only a couple of responses above mine! I have to catch up on the conversation.. I’m sure my response was outdated and may have repeated a lot of what was already said 🙂

  18. #18 by clearly on June 23, 2007 - 3:47 pm

    It’s ok, I didn’t think your word primitive was a slam. Good thoughts — seems like you think very exegetically. Where did you study?

    Do you have a blog besides your myspace?

  19. #19 by teleia philia on June 23, 2007 - 3:53 pm

    Good, I don’t like when discussions turn to name calling.. it isn’t the ‘teleia philia’ that Aristotle had in mind… not that he’s my source of truth, but I do appreciate his ethics to a certain degree.

    I studied philosophy at Biola University and theology/church history at Multnomah Bible College. I am on wordpress: http://teleiaphilia.wordpress.com/

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