In my last post, I began speaking about the “interconnectedness” between the means and the end of a corporate worship service. In regards to church music, just about every song leader/music minister/worship leader/etc. I’ve ever spoken with seems to have a similar goal or end in mind. We virtually all want to see a congregation passionately engaged in enthusiastic singing/listening to and for Jesus.
However, it does matter how a congregation gets “there”. Not just any old road will take a congregation to that place. God gives us principles to follow while at the same time gives us freedoms to help us follow. It’s on that road where many (including myself over 20+ years of leading church music) can go astray. Here’s something to always think about:
God is the Initiator to worship. God is the End to worship. God gives us boundaries in worship. Within those boundaries God gives us freedom in worship. Because God initiates, guides, and empowers worship, He receives all the glory in worship. The means are worship. The end is worship.
Not only does worship directly glorify God but the means of worship glorify God. Being too loose or too strict here can get in the way of what we all (hopefully) want. Singing passionately glorifies God. But responding to a music style only or lighting only or visual images only doesn’t glorify God. Responding to the gospel does glorify God. Even responding to seeing the rest of your church family as they respond can glorify God (if all responses are to the truth of God’s word).
Again, here’s where I can see where RP and NP folks are a bit short-sighted. RP folks tend to allow no freedom within the clear boundaries. NP folks see few boundaries at all. (Keep in mind that there are more thorough RP and NP folks out there. I’m referring more to generalities and basic practices.)
For instance, God has given us the boundary of using only scriptural lyrics (Col. 3:16; Ps. 96:1-3; plus I’ve written extensively about this here). Within that boundary, we have the freedom to use most any song that does not violate scripture. However, RP folks want to further restrict corporate worship (beyond what God has done) in saying that we must sing literally only Psalm texts or scripture texts.
NP folks tend to push the envelope in the other direction. They tend to think that as long as nothing clearly unbiblical is sung then they can allow lyrics that are shallow, man-centered or vague. As long as the lyrics mention “Jesus” or “praise God” it’s all good. They tend to not see the clear boundaries given. (Not all NP folks are that way—I’m trying not to paint with a broad brush here.)
What BP folks are standing for is being uncompromisingly staunch (with love and humility) on boundaries and unwavering (again, with love and humility) on freedoms within boundaries. We do want scriptural texts but they do not have to be literal Psalm- or scripture-texts. They may be paraphrases or exegeses of scripture, more akin to what a sermon does—although church music is NOT the same as a sermon (please do not misunderstand my point).
Knowing when to be strict and when to allow freedom is crucial to church music as well as any issue.
Brother Music Minister—know the difference!