Worship Music in the Church – Part 8 by Jim Mell
Continuing our thoughts on the question, “What should worship music in the church be like?” in the framework provided by John MacArthur in his book Fool’s Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, we will consider his eighth guideline that music in the worship service should “adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ”. This use of the word “adorn” in the guideline might strike some readers as peculiar, associating it with clothing and/or fashion accessories. However, as MacArthur points out, the Apostle Paul “…commands us to ‘adorn the doctrine of God our Savior…in everything’ (Titus 2:10) and Peter exhorts us to ‘proclaim the excellencies’ of God (1Peter 2:9)”. MacArthur goes on with the view that church [worship] music should be “…a wonderful witness to the greatness of our Lord and Savior. It should never tarnish His reputation or confuse unbelievers as to what the gospel teaches”.
The worship service music at Knowlton Presbyterian Church guards against projecting it as “entertainment”, though certainly it is hoped that the experience of proactively participating in it and/or listening to it will be pleasing as well as meaningful. Choir rehearsals always end with a time of praise and prayer, and more often than not we request that the Lord lead us in a way that will strengthen the listener’s understanding of God or lead unbelievers to a knowledge of Him. Instrumentally, as well as vocally, selections of hymns as well as other service music, including the Prelude, Postlude and Offertory, are chosen to be complementary to the preaching of Scripture and glorification of God.
There is other music performed in the church, independent of any worship service. These events would include concerts, recitals, hymn sings and a Messiah Sing-a-long. Such performances would not need to conform to MacArthur’s guidelines, though they would always present the gospel and the nature of the Lord in a positive and accurate manner compatible with Scripture. MacArthur’s final two guidelines will be discussed in future newsletters.
Fool’s Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. MacArthur, John, Crossway Books, 2005, p. 128.