WORSHIP MUSIC IN THE CHURCH – Part 9 by Jim Mell
In John MacArthur’s book Fool’s Gold: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, the author outlines ten questions for the music ministry and congregation of a church to answer regarding the worship music presented at services. It is important to note that we are speaking of church service music and not that of concerts, plays, or other church fellowship activities. The first eight of these questions were answered in previous articles in the Knowlton Presbyterian Church Newsletter. They asked: Is your church music God-focused? Does your church music promote a high view of God? Is your church music orderly? Is the content of your church music biblically sound? Does your church music promote unity in your church? Is your church music performed with excellence? Does your church music prepare your people for the preaching of God’s Word? Does your church music adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ? Today’s article focuses on question #9: Does your church music promote passionate worship? MacArthur describes what he means by “passionate worship” when he says “…it [church service music] should never be boring, dry or stale. After all, God is not boring. And heaven (where the primary occupation is worship) is also not boring (cf. Rev 4-5).” He goes on to write, “While maintaining a proper respect for God, biblical worship is always brimming with personal passion and Christ-exalting emotion (cf. 1 Chron 15:29; 16:4-6)….This passion must be expressed in an orderly, Spirit-controlled manner. Nonetheless, passionless worship – sounding more like a lullaby than a glorious anthem – is not really worship at all (John 4:23)”.
At Knowlton Presbyterian Church we encourage spirited musical worship for the congregational singing as well as the special music provided by the choir and various vocal and instrumental ensembles. A wide range of styles is chosen to encourage such expression, from the heartland melodies of bluegrass and contemporary gospel to the excitement and majesty of the more formal classical styles. It should be noted that MacArthur’s reference to lullabies being less passionate than a glorious anthem would be taken out of context. Certainly the Christmas classic Coventry Carol (“Lully-Lullay”) is a passionate lullaby that, in its way, soulfully carries the drama of the Savior’s birth every bit as passionately as the majestic grandeur of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from his Messiah expresses the joy of Christ’s Resurrection. Let us not confuse “slow and soft” with “dull and boring”! The congregational hymn singing, accompanied at the present time by organ, violin, oboe, French horn and at times, clarinet, flute and trumpet, is some of the most enthusiastic and Spirit-filled church music this writer has been privileged to hear. Also, of late, several offertories have been presented by the youth of the church, which brings a special flavor of spiritual purity with it. As for MacArthur’s statement that passionate worship music should be expressed “…in an orderly, Spirit-controlled manner”, the worship committee, choir, instrumentalists and other participants in the music of the church are conscious of this on a weekly basis, through the review of hymn selections, offertories, preludes and postludes as well as welcoming and taking to heart comments and criticisms from individual congregants. Every effort is made to make the service music proactive and passionate rather than passive. Soli Deo Gloria!
(MacArthur, John, Fool’s Gold: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, Crossway Books, 2005, Wheaton, ILL, pg.128)