Answering Musical Questions
I wrote the following for our church bulletin 10/24/04 as a preview to what we call “Seminar Sunday” — on those month’s with five Sunday’s, we have a soup and sandwiches lunch and an afternoon service instead of an evening service. We devote the whole day to teaching on one topic. This session was on Christian music and our philosophy in our ministry regarding its use in the church especially, with application to personal use also.
Our previously announced Seminar Sunday topic is “Christian Music”. As you know, one of the distinctive features of our ministry is a conservative worship music style. At one time our musical style was not so unusual, but now many Evangelical churches across the continent have abandoned it. In fact, most of the churches in our city seem to have abandoned it as well. The style of worship that we experience here is one thing that unites a fairly diverse group of people. Our theological convictions and backgrounds vary quite considerably, although I think we are in agreement on the essentials.
For those who come to our ministry from a previous association with another church, our conservative music style may be one of the major “drawing cards” of our ministry. You may not have been able to explain what it was you didn’t like about the changes other ministries made in their music, but there is something in what we are doing that appeals to you.
This Seminar Sunday, I want to offer you three messages that will attempt to aid your understanding of what we are trying to accomplish in our ministry and how the style of music fits in with our view of the ministry. There is a reason why independent Baptist churches tend to militantly hold to a conservative style of music ministry. Our music is not merely a preference of musical taste, but part and parcel of the strictly biblical preaching and teaching that we attempt to provide.
Of course we will not have time to cover everything that could be said about Christian music in three relatively ‘brief’ messages! But we will attempt to communicate as clearly as possible our philosophy. We want you to see that Christianity is not simply a choice about where to spend an hour or two on Sunday morning, but that it is a living relationship with Christ that dictates how you do everything in life, including how you interact with the culture of today’s world.
Message Preview: Is Music Evil?
The subject of this message goes to the heart of our decision-making concerning music. It is perhaps in this area where the greatest debate rages concerning music. Many Christians insist that music is absolutely amoral. That means that music of any kind is neither moral nor immoral, neither good nor bad, it simply has no moral quality. For people who believe this, no music is any more evil than a rock, a stick, or a tree. Of course, most Christians who hold this view will say that the words used with music can be evil, and should be guarded to some extent. In this way, they are able to condemn the vile lyrics of secular musicians while defending the similar musical sound of so-called Christian musicians.
The fact is that if music is amoral (has no moral content), then no musical style can be condemned. Music simply becomes a matter of personal taste, a preference. In many churches, the style of music characterized by traditional hymns was maintained for some time because it was simply a matter of “majority rules” — the preference of a majority of the church members dictated the style used. Some churches began to abandon the traditional style for the sake of a wider majority, the lost world, especially the lost world of young people. Over time, most churches appear to have drifted towards a style of music that resembles more or less the style of music you hear in the world. Traditional church music has gone by the wayside, resurrected for funerals and the occasional nostalgic “hymn sing.” If music has no moral value at all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with such changes.
But… of course, we think there is much more to the story than that! Music does have a moral quality. The first message on our seminar Sunday will be devoted to explaining why this is so and urging you to develop biblical discernment concerning the moral quality of the music that makes up your life. Is music evil? Some music surely is evil. Be sure to be here next Sunday to find out what makes some music evil.
Message Preview: The Spiritual Ministry of Music
What is Christian music for? What place does it play in the ministry of the church?
The answers you receive for these questions varies widely depending on the philosophy of music that one holds. Is Christian music primarily a tool for evangelism? (Should it be a tool for evangelism at all?) Is it primarily focused on edification and praise? Is it primarily about worshipping God?
Can the current fads in music actually accomplish all of these purposes? How should they go about it? What is the biblical rationale for our use and purposes in Christian music?
The purpose of this message is to outline a biblical philosophy for the use of music by Christians for Christian purposes.
Message Preview: Approving things Excellent
Our first message is aimed at identifying the need for spiritual discernment in the kind of music Christians use in their churches and listen to in their daily lives. Our second message is aimed at identifying a Christian purpose for the use of music. The third message focuses on a different question: Given that discernment must be made and a biblical purpose should be followed, where should we draw the line when it comes to the kind of music we use?
Some attempt to define the line very precisely. They approach the music of some musicians by picking and choosing among a whole body of work. It is like picking through the bones of a Thanksgiving turkey… there is a little meat at certain spots, but mostly bones and gristle. Inevitably, you are going to bite into something you shouldn’t swallow. When you attempt to precisely define exactly what is good and bad, you end up approving some music that will offend some spiritually minded people.
What should we do? Call the offended brethren narrow minded bigots and ignore them? No, that is not the way of Christ. In this message, I hope to show you a more excellent way: Approving Things Excellent.
The sermon notes for these messages are here.
A summary article from our bulletin for 11/7/04 is at the same location.