These points are gathered from the following text:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Col 3:16-17
Church music is to teach and admonish. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—show me what a church is singing and I’ll show you what it believes. I’m amazed at the dichotomy that all-too-often exists between the pulpit and the song service in a particular church. In cases where the pulpit is correctly preaching the whole counsel of God the music of that church should echo that preaching. (The opposite may also be true—a shallow pulpit and a MusMin wanting to sing biblical music. That is an entirely different blog entry!)
A song service is a fantastic teaching tool for a congregation. It is one of the most immediate times for a congregation to affirm the gospel—to give the message of the cross a hearty “amen”. Here at GLC, if a song cannot be preached from the pulpit, then we will not sing it. We strive to hold song lyrics to the same exegetical standards as any sermon that is preached.
Any song that a church sings should be held to the following tests:
*Does this song center on the Gospel (“Christ and Him crucified”)?
*What does this song teach on the Doctrine of Man?
*Are there lyrics in this song that give an unbiblical understanding of the Gospel?
*If a song doesn’t specifically deal with particular grace, what attribute of God is correctly taught?
*Will this song be a good song for any father to incorporate into their family worship time (whether structured or unstructured)?
*Does this song generate rich, affectionate understanding of the Gospel?
*Does the overall repertoire that our congregation sings speak adequately to man’s depraved nature, to God impending wrath upon sinners, to the redemptive work of Christ on the behalf of those who are saved, and to the righteous standing those who are saved now enjoy?
As I have said before, most hymns written from the Reformation to the 19th Century were written by theologians and pastors in order to teach doctrine in a more easily remembered form. Unfortunately, today songs are written in order to sell product and generate income. It takes a discerning heart to know what new songs are good ones to integrate into a church’s repertoire and which sentimental ones need to be dropped.
Church music is to be done with wisdom. Notice that Paul doesn’t just say “teaching and admonishing one another”. He says “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another”. Many a worship war has been started by a well-meaning pastor and/or music minister who wanted to lead or integrate changes and reforms without wisdom.
As a church leader leads he must have much self-inspection and inter-accountability (hence one strong argument for the plurality of Elders). A church leader must also understand that leading a church is a marathon and not a sprint. As my pastor says “You have to have a twenty-year vision to lead a church”. But even with those disciplines in place the word “wisdom” can become nebulous.
To give clarity, let’s look at the follow verses as a cross-reference:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18
As a church leader it is your responsibility to teach and admonish in the spirit of these verses in James. Leading a church and not making changes is almost a contradiction in terms. By leading a Music Department you WILL make changes. Many times it’s the way that you lead in those changes that teaches and admonishes more than the actual music that is supposed to be teaching.
Is your teaching and admonishing through music pure? Is it peaceable? Is it gentle? Can you be reasoned with? Are you full of mercy and good fruits? Are you unwavering in regards to the gospel? (This element guards us from thinking that compromise to truth is actually mercy!) Are you consistent in these areas?
One other point—Brother Pastor, don’t think for a minute that the Music Minister position at your church isn’t a teaching position. I’ve heard Paul Washer say “the Music Minister should be one of the leading theologians in that church”. He speaks well. Brother Music Minister, don’t make the same mistake. You are a teacher. You may not be preaching sermons, but by the music you select and by the way you lead, you teach your church volumes!