Music is a powerful medium of communication. Today, the church is bombarded with all sorts of sights and sounds under the name of ‘Christian contemporary music’. Advocates of ‘pop-idiom’ evangelism claim that their music and songs can help propagate the gospel.
But are these claims true? The Christian church needs proper guidelines, standards or criteria for choosing biblical and God-honouring music and songs.
The Scriptures are our ultimate standard and guide on this matter, as on all others. Ephesians 5:19-20, for example, provides biblical criteria for a proper selection of ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ that are honouring, glorifying and pleasing to God.
The theology of worship
An individual’s attitude in worship is determined by his theology and concept of God. If he recognises the attributes of God – that he is an almighty and sovereign Creator, holy, just and righteous (Revelation 4:8; 5:4; Deuteronomy 32:4) – he will approach God with reverence and fear.
If, however, his knowledge of God is shallow and deficient, this will be reflected in the manner in which he worships. His choice of music will be self-centred, frivolous, superficial and even worldly.
A worship service should be characterised by reverence, sincerity, humility and dignity. Congregational singing should always be an expression of our worship, adoration and praise.
There should be a restful meditative atmosphere, where people can hear the Word of God and sing his praise without distraction.
Decently and in order
The New Testament gives no definitive instructions as to the proper format of worship. But there are general principles that can be gleaned from different portions of Scripture.
Firstly, Paul exhorts that all things should be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). This provides a good guide in the choice of music for worship.
Disorderly, chaotic and outlandish tunes, loud and jarring instruments, go against orderliness and should be rejected.
Secondly, Jesus told the Samaritan woman to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Hence, praise and worship must be a sincere, spiritual, personal and intelligent activity.
The mind, heart and will of the worshipper are to blend together in expressing praise, love, gratitude and obedience.
Worship must be ‘in truth’ as opposed to falsehood, and ‘in spirit’ as opposed to sensual or physical. Whatever assistance we may derive from music or instruments, these things cannot of themselves constitute a spiritual act of worship.
They should not be accorded such significance that they eclipse or interfere with worship.