Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughts on worship music

One of the topics that seems to get people going is music in the church.  Some churches sing only hymns, some only modern choruses, some only the Psalms.  Really, it matters not to me what a church sings, as long as the people enter in to true worship.  We sing a mixture of choruses and hymns, and are small enough that individuals request songs during the meeting. Many times, the Spirit of the Lord seems to pick the music, as someone will testify that all the songs spoke to his/her needs of the moment.

Anyway, I have been reading a biography of John MacArthur lately, written by Iain Murray.  In it, the Murray has a chapter dedicated to several objections to MacArthur’s ministry.  There is even a section on music in the church.  I find it refreshing that John MacArthur has a balanced view, not proclaiming that either form of music is best, only that the song leader must remember that many people will remember the words to the songs after they have forgotten the sermon.  The author quotes from O Worship the King, written by MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada and others. They write,
Like it or not, today’s songwriters are teachers, too.  Many of the lyrics they are writing will soon be far more deeply and permanently ingrained in the minds of Christians than anything they hear their pastors teach from the pulpit. How many songwriters are skilled enough in theology and Scripture to qualify for such a vital role in the catechesis of the people? (1)
Earlier in the biography, Murray quotes MacArthur saying, “I am convinced that the downgrading of worship, Scripture, and theology will ultimately usher in serious doctrinal compromise.” (2)  To me, that means that if all we sing are Scripture choruses, we miss out on the depths of theology in the older hymns. But by the same token, if we only sing the hymns in a dry, staid manor, we miss out on the emotional aspect of worship the great God and Creator.  Try singing “My Jesus, I love Thee” without any emotion.  Or, my favorite “And Can it Be” by Charles Wesley in a monotonic way.  It cannot be done by one who is in tune with God.

(1) John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth, O Worship the King (Wheaton, IL, Crossway, 2000) pp. 12-13
(2) Quoted in Iain H. Murray, John MacArthur, Servant of the Word and Flock (Edinburgh, Scotland, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011) p.188

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