WORSHIP MUSIC IN THE CHURCH – Part 7 By Jim Mell
Once again we will take a look at the question “What should worship music in the church be like?” in the framework of John MacArthur’s views on this subject as expressed in his book Fool’s Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. To date we have looked at the first six of his ten guidelines for music as part of a worship service and how Knowlton Presbyterian Church in America (KPCA) reflects these guidelines. In summary that first six included that the music be God-focused, promote a high view of God, be orderly, biblically sound, promote unity and be performed with excellence. This article will deal with MacArthur’s seventh guideline that music in the worship service should prepare people for the preaching of God’s Word.
MacArthur shares with us that 2 Timothy 4:2 commands that the Word be preached. He also cites that just a few verses prior (2 Timothy 3: 16-17), “…Paul [speaks] of the sufficiency of Scripture and its importance in our lives; that it is only through God’s Word that we learn about Him; it is only through the Bible that God reveals Himself to us”. Consequently, MacArthur believes that worship music should complement the “proclamation of the truth”, and not “overshadow or eclipse the preaching of the word”. He writes that the music prior to the sermon should “…prepare the congregation for what the Holy Spirit wants them to hear”. Also, that music following the sermon should be “an appropriate response to what has just been received (cf. Colossians 3: 16-17)”.
At KPCA the Pastor informs the worship committee weekly regarding the Biblical passage on which the sermon will be preached and the theme or themes that will be presented, regarding the passage. The committee members are asked to consider the hymn selections, particularly of an appropriate hymn of preparation that will precede the sermon as well as a closing hymn that will support what has been preached. Our hymnal has a section in the back that indicates possible hymn texts for each book of the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, referring specifically to the chapter and verse for which the hymn would be supportive. Additionally, members of the committee are experienced with the hymn literature from other hymnals as well that might be included for consideration. The KPC Songbook is also a resource for this selection process. On occasion an insert is provided of a song from an independent source. Since the sermon topic is usually not known more than a week ahead of the service, prelude, postlude, offertories and other special music presented for worship cannot be selected with a specific sermon text in mind. However, such music is always selected to prepare the congregation for worship, glorify God, petition Him and celebrate Him as we leave the Sanctuary, in keeping with the aforementioned six guidelines and three left for discussion in future issues of our newsletter!
Fool’s Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. Mac Arthur, John, Crossway Books, 2005, pages 127, 128.