Last Post we discussed why we have music in our worship services in the first place. We concluded that music possess an uncanny ability to draw out and communicate deep human emotion. And by doing so yields the ability to teach and associate thoughts and feelings with the different characteristics of God.
So we have a good foundation. Now lets build our living areas.
What is the goal of worship music?
Questions to ponder as you read. What is the music trying to achieve? When you attend a worship service, what is the church trying to say/do/promote when they play the music they play? Are all churches striving for the same end? Are all the various styles of music any better than the others in trying to achieve they’re respective goals?
I can’t go further without showing you a fantastic answer I received the other day. I had asked an orthodox friend of mine how he would answer these questions, as I am not as familiar with their liturgies. He provided a statement that his church puts in one of their pamphlets:
“(Our) worship is based on Scripture and the traditions of the
church, and is driven by God’s saving activity through Jesus Christ
in the power of the Holy Spirit. First and foremost, the point of
liturgy is an encounter with God. Everything else, even good things
like learning the Bible, is secondary. Our liturgy is meant to involve
the whole church (not just the pastor or musicians) and to involve the
whole person (body, mind, spirit), because we believe that God saves
all of us (every aspect), and that he saves us together. So the goal
for worship is the full, active, and conscious participation of everyone
present. This can take some time. At times your prayerful participation
will be helped more by following along in this liturgy guide. However,
if you find yourself getting caught up in the performance and
forgetting that it’s prayer, you may find that it helps to put the book
aside and prayerfully listen. There’s no wrong way to engage, so long
as you come with an open heart and an open mind.”
At the forefront of this church is making sure that you are encountering God through their liturgy. The sermons, the reading and response, the music, all of it is there to ensure and encourage an encounter with God. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t all of creation here to revere God? Our worship is meant to be an offering of respect, reverence, and love for God. This is how we encounter him. Music at a worship service should attempt to encounter God.
It involves the whole church (!), and not just the musicians and pastors. This is a huge point! The congregation plays a huge part in the worship service. We are a body of believers, not merely individuals. So the music, and the worship service, strives to include everyone in the worship of God. Granted, successfully drawing everyone in and leading them to an encounter with God doesn’t always happen. And that’s okay, I don’t think God depends on us being perfect. But they should strive to. This isn’t about numbers, feelings, showcase, or artistry. First and foremost, we all need to see, hear, and experience God.
Now, think about how incredibly different and unique humankind is. Think about the cultures that differ so greatly from ours. There isn’t a single way to unify the experience of worship for the entirety of the human race. So trying to find a “one-size-fits-all” approach to worship is a hopeless task. Cultures, and people groups have different interests, talents, slants, and desires. They need to fit the needs of these peoples.
But even within these gatherings, there are so many unique individuals with different tastes. Some might find the contemporary worship service lackidasical and distracting, while others within the same congregation finds that this worship is inspiring and beautiful to their ears. Who’s to say they are wrong? How do we solve this problem?
I don’t have a giant solution, but I do think that pastors need to listen to their people. I think that churches should constantly evaluate what they are doing in terms of music and worship as a whole. Is this helping people encounter God? Does this style of music get too familiar? are we going through the motions? Has this become solely about the music?
I think worship leaders and pastors need to be creative in this regard. If the goal is to encounter God, then find what helps do that the best. I’m not one to judge the style of worship service of any particular church, but I can judge whether they have held on to their favorite style rather than what revere God through the music.
All this to say that really, God loves when we worship him, the music style is secondary. Revere him. Encounter him. Love him. Worship him, whatever that looks like. Just be mindful of others. That’s all.