Growing up in church, I took music for granted. Some of my earliest memories include my first visit to a Baptist church. It’s a secret, but I began life as a Methodist. My mom was Methodist and all of her family. My father was raised Baptist but didn’t attend church. He was also in the army, so we soon left our Mississippi hometown for other stations. We eventually settled at Ft. Campbell Kentucky, where we lived nearby in Clarksville Tennessee. In an effort to get my dad to attend with her, my mom decided to try out a local Baptist church.
I distinctly remember (at the age of 5) the loudness of the music. These people SANG. I was impressed, and my mom fit right in. She could sing. I always knew whether she was in the choir without even looking.
I grew up with music as part of the natural expression of worship. But why? What did my small Tennessee Baptist church gain from using so much music? Hymns, Songs, Offertories, Specials, Cantatas, Youth Musicals and more. Was it nothing more than ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it?’
Music connects us.
Music, unlike other activities, is something that we can all participate in at the same time. Of course, there are other group activities such as sports that provide a connection. The way a basketball team interacts on the court can be an amazing thing. Yet the number of players is always limited. Baseball, Football, Basketball - there are still players on the bench and many spectators in the stands. With music, the number of people doesn’t matter. All can add a voice. When we all share a song together, we unite our minds, our bodies, and our spirits and we engage the Spirit of God as He receives our worship. That’s powerful stuff!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” That is not entirely true. Yes, everyone on the planet can make music, but our musical languages aren’t necessarily universally understood. But music is a universal trait that all mankind can use to worship our Heavenly Father.
Music moves us.
Without us, art wouldn’t exist. Art can’t exist without someone to respond to it. Otherwise, it’s just tones in the air or paint on a canvas or a molded piece of rock. Music, Art, Sculpture, Design exist because we appreciate and respond to it. God created us that way. We have five senses and a brain that connects it all. We like and prefer certain colors, sounds, and textures. God gave us the gift of aesthetics or the appreciation of beauty. He created us to respond that way. You may think you’re not an ‘artsy’ person. However, the way you dress, the colors in your home, the pictures on your walls, the car you choose, the radio station you listen to — all these are defined by your personal aesthetics.
What does that have to do with music? Music has the sensory power to move beyond the mere meaning of the words to convey emotion. Music can make us feel sad or happy, energized or relaxed. Music is carefully chosen by marketers to accompany commercials so we will be more prompted to buy their stuff. Do you know any commercial jingles?
Music is used in worship so that we can worship with our hearts as well as our minds.
Music celebrates us.
There aren’t many special occasions that don’t involve music. Birthday parties, funerals, weddings, anniversary’s, Proms…the list goes on. Music accompanies and adds great significance to our special events. Wouldn’t a wedding without music be kind of weird? There isn’t a legal or religious reason to have music at a wedding, but most do because it adds significance and celebrates the event.
Our Sunday gatherings of worship are meant to be events that celebrate the Lord Jesus Christ. Music is a hallmark of our worship events that not only adds significance but tends to define who we are as a church. Are you a Baptist? Methodist? White? Black? North American? South American? Chinese? We can all worship the same God, but the musical-cultural stamps of our worship can look quite different.
God commands us.
Over and again, the Lord exhorts us to use music in our worship of him.
Col 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.”
Eph 5:17-19 “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 96:1-3 “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”
Our Eternal Joy
Revelation Chapter Five may be my favorite chapter about worship in the Bible. John the Apostle has a vision of the heavens and he sees the future of worship as the Lamb is celebrated, worshipped and adored by all those heavenly hosts. They begin by singing a new song, “You are worthy….” Soon the angels join in with “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain….” Then ALL of creation, “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them,” (which by the way, includes you and me!) all sang together. They were connected. They were moved. They were celebrating.
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”