Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for - Selecting, Suitable pSalms, Spiritual Songs, and other aSSorted, Scripturally Sound Sacred Strains that Support the Shepherd’s Sermons for the Singing Saints in their Sycophancy of the Sovereign Savior on Sundays is my Service.

 (Title Translation:  I’m the Song Leader In My Church.)

I’m not skilled or trained in the art of choral directing.  This ministry has fallen on me, not because I can; but only because I was available and willing when there was no one else to do it.  So on Sundays, I simply stand in front of the congregation, announce the song selections, and then we sing together.

But that’s really the easy part.  Selecting the music each week takes much more time and effort. On Mondays, I receive the scripture reference and outline of my pastor's sermon for the next Sunday. After I read the text and his outline, I attempt to identify key words or teachings and then I search through the hymnbook to find appropriate music that supports and augments the message.  
If the church has a biblical mandate with clear instructions from God about what we are to do in our worship services(which it has) then, certainly, those instructions must also apply to what we do with our music. 

What instructions do we get for assembling ourselves together?  We come together primarily to be built up in the faith and equipped to do the work of the ministry.  And that comes by way of hearing the Word of God through the vehicle of preaching and teaching.  So then music, being an integral part of our worship service, is not to be performed for our enjoyment or our entertainment.

The use of music in worship was instituted and is ordained by God and He has given much instruction in His Word regarding its use.  Among others, music should glorify God, edify (or build up) God’s people in the faith, and point others to Christ.  Hmmm, seems like those objectives are pretty much the same as those given for the ministry of pastor/teacher.   The Apostle Paul gives this instruction on how the church should conduct itself in wisdom; “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…”Ephesians 5:19-20
The first interesting thing to note is that he tells us that we are to “speak to each other” with our music.  That implies that there is something important and substantial to communicate to each other and we do that with words.  The words are important.  Words mean things.  So, just like the words from the mouth of the preacher, the words we sing and hear in our music are important in our worship. 

The Apostle then goes on to identify three kinds of written music that we must use in our worship.  It is not our prerogative to insist that we only like hymns or that we will only use contemporary “praise and worship” choruses.  We have God’s written word of instruction; we are to speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Psalms are the actual words of scripture set to music.  With psalms, God is glorified with His own words sung back to Him; words that speak of His character and nature and all His superlative attributes.  And His words are higher and greater than the very best we could ever compose ourselves so they are the highest and greatest compositions that we can set to music that will focus our attention on Him for His glory. 
Then there are hymns which, by definition, are songs composed by men and primarily used to praise God.  One of the secondary benefits of the use of hymns is that much of our doctrine is written into poetic text.  That’s a good thing if the doctrine is correct.  But there is a lot of false doctrine in Christian music too, and that is where pastors/shepherds need to be on guard so that the flock is not deceived.  But when the doctrine is correct, much of what we know and believe about our faith can be learned or caught through our music.

Spiritual songs are what we usually think of as choruses and songs that speak of our personal relationship to Christ.  Spiritual songs contain elements of personal testimony as we share, through music, who Jesus is and what He has done for us.

Therein are the elements.  With psalms we glorify God; with hymns, we build each other up in the faith, and with spiritual songs, we point others to Christ.

Someone has said, "If the music doesn't preach to you, then there is no sense in having it."

Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.
Psalm 100:2

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