Music has always been and will always be a major component of the Christian faith. The styles of that music, and even the way it is used has changed dramatically over the years, but nevertheless there has always been music. When Jesus and his disciples left the upper room after the Last Supper they sang a hymn together; Paul charges the Ephesian church to sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs; and even in the Old Testament we have the vast collection of Psalms, some of which were written for the choirmaster. The Jewish religious system had an entire office devoted to music. Our modern churches do the same thing, the second hire every church makes after the pastor is a minister of music, song director, worship pastor, or whatever you want to call it. The point is, that music is VERY important!
Over the next several weeks I am going to be writing on the issue of church music. I am going to cover the practice of church music and the theology/philosophy that is behind it. First, I want to just point out some of the reasons why music is so important to the faith.
- Music teaches the theology
The first reason music is so important to our faith is that it teaches theology. I am an analytical person, which at times makes me a little less than artistic, so this first point comes from that perspective. Most people think of music in strictly artistic or even emotional terms, but we cannot limit it to just those realities. Music speaks to multiple aspects of our persons. Music is artistic, but it is also didactic.
I am not naive, I know that most people don’t learn their theology from my sermons, they learn it from the songs we sing. The lyrics, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, ” forever shape our doctrine of grace. It teaches us that our salvation comes to us not because we deserve it, but because we are wretched without His grace. Also reflect on the lyrics of this classic children’s song, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” That song has been used for many years to teach children the story in Luke 19, and you may think it is cheesy, but I come back to it every time I read teach that section of scripture. Whoever is picking the songs, must recognize that he or she is actually informing the theology of the church, whether he knows it or not.
2. Music stirs emotions
Teaching and preaching are my passion, but music does something words cannot do–it stirs emotions. A song, with or without words, can make you stop whatever it is your doing and just think, reflect, or even cry. I know it isn’t manly to talk about such things, but it is true. Only a song can take you back to “that moment” whatever it may be, only a song can make your mind be silent to hear your heart think. Think about just how different it would be to watch Rocky run up those stairs without the music in the background, or how boring Star Wars would be to watch with out the genius work of John Williams. As a communicator I am almost envious of the power that can be communicated with even the most simple song.
For this reason, music is of the upmost importance. We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and music helps us do that. Even the most intellectual, heady type person needs music to help him or her relate to God. If not, we are leaving out a vital part of our worship, and neglecting a large part of God’s design for humanity. We are emotional beings, and there are some things that can only be communicated through song.
3. Music is memorable
Thirdly, music is memorable. Think about all the songs we can quote word for word, even the ones that we haven’t heard for many years. For some reason, the lyrics to songs just stick with us forever. I can flawlessly quote almost all the worship songs from the 90’s and early 2000’s because that is the music we sang week after week in the church a grew up in. I know the words of almost all the hymns because those are the songs we sang at the first church I pastored. I will always be able to know those songs, and know them well. Church music is important because when the people leave, they may forget the words to the sermon, but they cannot forget the words to the songs. They may be able to quote the pastor on Sunday afternoon for their twitter accounts, but people can sing the songs for the rest of their lives. If we can remember the songs so well, we must be more intentional about the music of the church.