A decade of musical worship

We’ve recently celebrated ten years as a church. That means I have been coordinating our musical worship for a decade. (For those who don’t know, I am the music coordinator at our church. We purposefully don’t use the terms music minister, music pastor, worship leader, etc…). This has made me do a little introspection, and I wanted to share three things that I’ve learned in a decade of musical worship.

The Focus on God

When I first started, my pastors asked me, “What is the point of corporate worship?” I’ll be honest, my on-the-fly answer was, “To teach and admonish one another through songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Not a bad answer, since that was what Paul told the Colossians. So I was surprised when they corrected me. And really, the correction was merely that I hadn’t read the verse to the end: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16). I had captured the horizontal nature of corporate worship, but I had missed that the real focus of corporate singing was on God Himself. While that might seem obvious, it was a huge paradigm shift for me. And this is the focus of the whole Bible. Our created purpose is to worship God (Isa 43:7), and when singing is mentioned in the Bible, its focus is overwhelmingly “to the Lord.” So in our corporate singing, the focus is primarily on God.

The Importance of the Congregation

The second thing I’ve learned over the course of a decade is the congregation’s importance in corporate singing. What our culture tends to highlight is the importance of the musical excellence or stellar ambiance of the worship “experience”. But what God highlights in His word is the singing of the people! Back to Colossians 3:16: Singing “to God” is primary, but the congregation is key. One thing that is obvious about this text is that we are not encouraged to seek our own personal worship experience, but rather to join with the whole church and raise our voices together. This is teaching and admonishing “one another” in wisdom. Also, the verse begins with letting the word of Christ dwell in you, plural. A Mississippi translation would be, “Let the word of Christ dwell in y’all richly.” And if this is the focus of God in His word, then it should be our focus too. Everything we do with the musical worship is to facilitate the congregation singing. The songs we play, the keys we play them in, the style we choose: the goal of all these is to maximize the participation of the people. We join in with the saints of old saying, “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psa 34:3)!

The Importance of the Pastor

Finally, the musical worship of the church is intricately connected to the office of the pastor. To say it simply, the songs we sing shepherd the church. Music has a way of connecting theology to our affections. It unites our head to our heart. Therefore, it is crucial that those who have the oversight of the church are actively involved in the process of choosing the songs we sing. Disguised as catchy tunes, music can act as a Trojan horse, bringing in bad theology, self-centered attitudes, or introductions to bad churches. On the other hand, music can be a powerful way to bring the Word of God to the people of God. Often, biblical truths put to good music help the church to remember and love God’s promises. As Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.” So as a music coordinator, I have learned to love the pastors’ involvement in the musical worship of the church.

It has been such a pleasure to serve our church these last ten years, and by God’s grace, He has helped us to sing really well. I pray that the Lord continues to bless us with real affection, sincere faith, and love from a pure heart as we sing the glorious praise of our Savior!

© Jacob Crouch 2023

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