Church Growth: The Heart of Music

Posted: December 19, 2011 in Church Praise and Worship
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Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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The Heart of Music

To many pastors and church attendees today style seems to matter the most. As a result, musical tastes seem to be at the bottom of every discussion about worship forms these days and no one seems to agree on what it should be. “The Bible says,” wrote Frank Pooler, “’Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ (Matt12:34) If the heart is God-centered & God focused, it matters little what the ‘songs’ are. You enter into the Spirit of the music, not the music itself. Therefore, the musicians and the congregation must be taught to express that Spirit; not their own and not that of the music as a style.”

“Art is a demanding taskmaster and on occasion has been known to replace God as the object of worship,” Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror assured in Worship: Rediscovering the Missin Jewel. “. . . The lesson that seems to require constant discovery is the fact that worship is not primarily a state of the art but rather a state of the heart. . . When the heart is set upon God, true worship will not depend upon outward stimulus, it will be in constant progress. . . This means that all life becomes a worship service.” (Duet 6:6; Ps 73:26; Prov4:23; Rom10:10; Heb 10:22)

The Bible does not declare that we should love God with our music. But rather we are commanded to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. (Duet 6:5) Out of this love dynamic tremendous art expression will flow from the worshipper. For example, consider Bach’s trio sonatas for organ whose artistic excellence has been marveled throughout the centuries. Bach created these trios to depict the trinity as three separate melodies played in the left hand, the right and on the pedals retained their own identity while molding together as one beautiful harmony. “You see,” Allen and Borror contended in that regard, “this great art did not lead Bach to true worship, but true worship gave rise to this tremendous artistic expression. The order is not reversed today.”

Now this does not mean that art is not important. “Heart worship does not defy art worship,” Allen and Borror continued, “for heart worship will give rise to new levels of art which will have tremendous significance. . . Art with the proper attitude can be a great expression; but it must begin with a heart in fellowship with God.”

The fact that people fail to worship in church is not the result of the music on the platform. Rather it is the result of misguided worship values. Hence the writers continue, “The real factor in worship is a heart desire for God; the reason it fails to occur in the pew is because it fails to occur in the daily routine of living.”

“God uses art to reflect his beauty and creativity;” the writers conclude, “so ought His redeemed children to worship Him.”

Therefore, what most people on the inside and outside don’t seem to get is that worship is not about the musical form but the object of worship. In the case of Christianity it is God who is being worshipped and He accepts all biblical worship expressed by His followers regardless of the particular style. All biblically based music expressed unto Him honors Him.

Worship is all about the heart. So if the artist is truly expressing himself from a pure heart that exalts God in a true and biblical way, contrary to what many believe today, it shouldn’t matter what style is being used. It is praiseworthy to sing in a popular commercial style to the beat of drums just as it is a blessing to God to sing a time honored hymn to the sound of an organ. If it is worship of the true and living God, then it’s worship indeed and God receives it all.

With that in mind, it would be beneficial for all of us to understand several things with regard to the use of popular music in the church. The great reformer Martin Luther used melodies that were sung in pubs as the musical base for many of the hymns in the emerging Lutheran Church. Hence it is the motivation behind the singing that counts. If the intent is to water down musical and lyrical content for the sake of entertainment, then the critic has made a valid point. However, if the goal is biblical worship then I have to ask: “What is so unreal or dishonest about playing commercial music that Middle America enjoys? What if honest is exactly what you are doing?” And I cannot think of anything more honest than opening one’s heart to God. This fact ought to stand out as a lesson to those who believe that hymn singing is the only way to worship God just as it should for the contemporary artist who believes new music is the only way to go. It is all about the heart, not the art.

The important thing is honesty and passion within the context of uncompromised truth and biblical literacy. We want to be sure to have something articulate to say in order to lead people to the truths of the Scriptures. We also need to provide music that is well written and original. If that happens to be within the context of popular music, then so be it. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!” (Ps 95:1a MKJV) Let’s be first true to our Christian faith to sing to the Lord with heart.

Worship and praise music does tend to be middle of the road. Also there are times when there is scant musicianship displayed during contemporary song leading. However, the main point is to encourage people to sing with sincerity. Hence, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with middle of the road or simple music. There are three main reasons why:

First of all, middle of the road music tends to be that which is most acceptable to so many congregations who are not used to contemporary styles in church. It is the artist’s responsibility to present himself in a manner that encourages the congregation that he is leading to joyously sing to the Lord. Tearing congregations in half over musical extremes is just not worth it. And usually those who impose their personal delights on others though they are offended by it are the ones who have agendas rather than a heart to minister.

For example a particular praise band, when playing before a mixed congregation of various ages and musical tastes, declared that they didn’t care what anybody thought. They even took pride in the fact that they were not liked by many in the congregation because they believed they were the only ones who really knew how to worship. And true worship to them could only be that which conveyed their musical tastes. To do middle of the road music that would please everyone would have been deplorable to these antagonists. They would rather serve their own desires than meet the needs of the flock, and the church was divided in half as a result. Yet heart worship is about bringing people together rather than tearing them apart.

Secondly, when we discuss contemporary music in the church many times we are talking about large churches, churches packed with excellent musicians. No doubt many of these folks could play a wide variety of musical styles that could impress their critics, but that may not be what they are doing with their music. They are not trying to dazzle their audience.

Instead many sincere musicians in the Modern Church concentrate on the spiritual results of their music ministries rather than flaunting their musicianship before the crowd. They are in the business of resting daily in that special intimate place of blessing that those who choose to praise the Lord inherit. This is a spiritual venue where everyone involved is submitted to the Lord with hearts only set to minister. It is a dwelling place wrapped in tender prayer where the mind of God and man meet. It bathes in worship that ushers from the heart of believers proclaiming who He is and what He does. The goal of heart worship is not to impress men but to honor God.

Thirdly, in the church today worship and praise music is geared towards what people can read from a screen and sing. We are leading people in song – people who cannot read music. There are fewer trained singers in congregations these days, so the melodies have become simpler and more mid-range. In addition these days you need to lower a hymn about a step from the hymnal key when leading a congregation in song.

In their expressions of simplicity many worship and praise leaders are attempting to minister to non-musicians who possess limited musical abilities and simple tastes. [1] Hence, in order to reach their congregations with this new music they are meeting the younger members of their churches exactly where they are. From a practical standpoint John Dewey has left our youthful parishioners more musically uneducated than past generations and we need to ease them into church traditions and the finer points of music such as hymn singing. And it is this ultimate aim of musical maturity, excellence and refinement that heart worshippers in the church must set as their goal.


[1] There’s also nothing out of kilter with easing young musicians into the complexities of finer music in a step-by-step way. Many times in the realm of contemporary music in the Church we are looking at high school and college age kids both developing in their musical abilities and skills in leading people in praise. In the learning process emphasizing things like simplicity can be important. When a band is put together it is best to reduce everything to the bass, drums and piano/rhythm guitar and make the musicians simplify their stuff in order to create a solid bottom for everything else that will be laid over this foundation. Once the musicians get the hang of it, then they can be cut loose to really play. And as they develop in their musical skills more intricate music can be thrown at them as well. And they will be able to play it.

 

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

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