Then Sings My Soul!
I LOVE music – all kinds of music (but not every kind of music). If you were to look at my Spotify account, you would probably be shocked at the kinds of music I listen to depending upon the mood that I am in.
Some of my music is associated with my childhood, and in my melancholy moments I might go back and immerse my mind in memories of days gone by.
I have always loved marches, big bands, and with my West Virginia roots, many old country western songs that didn’t drown people’s troubles in drinkin’ and cheatin’.
I like the old classic hymns, as well as the music from great musicals, elevator music, easy listening music, popular songs from my childhood, and the list goes on.
But I separate what I might listen to during the week from what I want to sing on Sunday as I join my heart and my head with God’s people and focus upon the magnificence and majesty of God and His Word.
God’s people have always been a singing people. Other religions of the world don't sing. But Judaism and Christianity are replete with songs.
From Israel of old, to the church of antiquity, to the church of the present day, the joyous prospect of the present and coming redemption not only of man, but of all creation that will someday end with a new creation, has caused the heart of soul of every believer to well up in songs of praise, adoration, and worship.
Neither the lyrics nor the music of the songs of God’s children have been about themselves, but rather about the goodness, greatness, majesty, love, glory, and power of God in both the redemptive process and His divine enablement for daily living in the lives of the redeemed.
That is why when we gather together as a congregation and sing we need to bear in mind several important truths.
Firstly, music in and of itself is not worship. There is all kinds of music in the world, and most of it is not religious in nature.
We classify music by genres, and every genre is characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. Each genre has had its own acceptable forum for performance.
For example, classical music is associated with grand auditoriums and concert halls; country western music is at home on the Grand Old Opry stage, bars, and venues conducive to its message; big band music is associated with the dance floor, rock music is identified with elaborate stages, outdoor venues (Woodstock), and auditoriums.
But Christian music is associated with the gatherings of God’s people wherever they might meet, and especially in church sanctuaries today.
The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of God’s people are vastly different from the music of the world when it comes to its subject matter, purpose, and place of performance. Genuine Christian music sung in the pew can never be separated from the message in the pulpit.
In Christian music the most important element is the message. Good Christian music is the transmission of solid Biblical truth in a musical form that captivates the thoughts of the mind, elevates the emotions, and carries the mind into praise and adoration of God for who He is, and what He has, is, and will do in the life of the believer throughout eternity.
But there is great confusion in many churches today when it comes to congregational worship in song.
In their desire to be new, creative, different, and appealing to those outside the church in the name of evangelistic appeal, much of Christendom has lost its distinction from the world when it comes to music.
The people of God have forgotten that music in the church is not for the person on the street – it is for sanctuary of the heart in the people of God. God’s people sing about things the world knows nothing about, and which the world is not really interested in.
But many erroneously believe that if we put the sheep in wolf’s clothing, it will draw the attention of the world and cause the world to want to buy into what we are trying to sell.
And quite frankly, many who name the name of Christ today have developed an appetite for the things of the world in the process. They have muddied the waters by not being willing to separate the sacred the from secular resulting in the incorporation of genres of music within the church that are totally foreign to spirit of the church.
The purpose of the people of God is to extol and exalt God, not pamper and please their personal flesh by singing what makes them feel good and fulfilled. Even in the singing of the spiritual songs (songs of personal testimony) of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, the end goal is not to magnify man but magnify God.
So just because music takes place in a religious assembly does NOT mean that the worship of God is truly taking place in the hearts of those present.
Music in and of itself is not worship even if it takes place in a church. For many, music is the worship of self and the titillation and satisfaction of personal preferences.
Secondly, not only is music itself not worship, but a second false assumption is that music causes or stimulates worship to take place.
Some mistakenly believe that we can use music to motivate people to worship. Even many good Baptists abuse congregational singing in an attempt to “prepare” the hearts of the people for worship.
But contrary to popular belief, it is exactly the opposite. Music does not produce worship in one’s heart, rather a heart already in tune with God results in expressing worship through music that expresses the truth that the heart is enthralled with God and the truths of God at the moment.
Christian music is timeless. It is exciting to see today’s Millennials (those in their 20’s) discovering hymns from the 17th and 18th centuries and falling in love with their message and music.
And good Christian hymnody did not stop with antiquity. It continues on with many excellent Christian hymns and songs being written today.
We need to be careful not to be caught in the trap of traditionalism when it comes to music as we grow older.
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louiseville, KY and one of America’s most influential evangelicals, quotes historical theologian, Jaroslav Pelikan, as saying:
Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.
I love tradition, but I loathe traditionalism. I want to live in the present, not just in the past. I don’t want a dead, lifeless faith that just goes through the motions of worship. I want to sing the songs that dead saints sang for generations and look forward to singing them with them before God in heaven.
So while I cherish the faith of the past, I also want to be a part of the living faith both today and tomorrow.
As your pastor, my heartfelt desire for Crossroads is to be a church of tradition when it comes to singing, not a church of traditionalism.
I want our congregational singing to be sung from the hearts and souls of God’s people whose faith is grounded in the Word of God and founded upon Biblical truths passed down from the people of God in every generation including our present generation.
I am so thankful to be a part of a church that this past Sunday night united with me in that desire by unanimously voting to adopt a new hymnal that incorporates the doctrinally best hymns of both the past and the present.
Our goal is not to abandon our rich hymnody heritage, but to further our repertoire of doctrinally sound hymns that magnify, exalt, praise, and give glory to God for all that He has, is, and will continue to do for us throughout eternity future.
To that end, we will continue to sing the old songs of Zion, but will slowly introduce new hymns of praise worthy to collated together with the best of the old standards. And as we steadily incorporate the new songs, we will discover that the new hymns and songs will quickly become a part of the old standards we so dearly love.
Now to help us learn these new hymns and songs, we plan on doing a couple of things.
First, our choir will often open the service with a stanza of the song so that you can hear what the hymn/song sounds like before joining together congregationally.
Secondly, we will be producing a list of YouTube video links where you may listen to the hymn or song during the week so that when you come to church on Sunday, you will have the tune in your head before you ever come to church.
Thirdly, we will encourage everyone to pick up a hymnal and “follow the bouncing ball” on the staff as they sing the lyrics beneath the staff.
Finally, we will make a personal hymnal available to everyone who wants to buy one for $16 per hymnal so that you may take the hymnal home, read the text of the hymns, listen to the hymn, and even sing along with the uTube video to learn the song.
I am so excited about the prospect of looking out from the platform and seeing God’s people uniting as one with hymnal in hand as they from hearts full of worship, express that worship in song together as a congregation. And all the while, I will be thinking about the smile that will come to God’s face as His children sing of Him as one.
Thank you Crossroads Baptist Church for your desire to express your worship and praise through the medium of music.