Guest Blogger: Dennis Arriaga
It does not matter what type of Christian church you go to; in most every case, music is an integral part of the corporate worship service. The musical styles and song selections may vary (hymns, praise choruses, using a Psalter, etc.), but most churches have some amount of congregational singing. It has become the norm; and, as is the case with things that are there “because we’ve always done them that way”; we can easily forget why we even do them.
A quick search of a few music-related terms on biblegateway.com shows that in both the Old and New Testament, God’s people used music in their worship of Him. One could say, “It’s in the Bible, so we should do it also.” That sounds reasonable and is even a sound biblical-based practice; but it still leaves the “why” question unsatisfactorily answered.
So why? Why should we have music as part of our corporate worship services? If there is a purpose for every aspect of our corporate worship services (and I believe there must be), what is the purpose or mission of music?
In a word: Proclamation.
In practice, what do we proclaim? We proclaim the Gospel – the powerful, life-saving, and life-changing truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
In Psalm 96:2, the psalmist charges “all the earth” (us) to “Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.” [NIV] In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter calls his readers (and us) to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” [ESV] As we gather as Christ Followers, we are to proclaim this Gospel in all aspects of our services – not the least of which is our music. Moreover, not just any music, but music that proclaims the power and truth of the Gospel.
In his book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, Bob Kauflin writes:
“Biblical worship involves proclamation and leads to proclaiming God’s truth with our lives. We’re doing more than emoting or having a “worship experience.” We’re declaring why God is so great, what He has accomplished, and all that He has promised. We all need to be reminded, and proclamation helps us remember.” [p129]
With this description, our corporate worship service music transforms from simply “singing” to proclaiming. With this description, we find mission and purpose for what has become a key component of our corporate worship service. I dare say this description must actually define every aspect of our corporate worship service, as well as our daily lives.
Consider the lyrical content of the songs you sang at the last corporate worship service you attended. Did the songs tell of the greatness of God? Did they shout of the amazing love of a humble yet powerful Savior? Did they declare how you were “blind, but now [through the unmerited grace given by Jesus] I see”? Did they longingly look toward the time when you will stand in awestruck wonder before God and cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy”? If they did (and, as a worship leader, I pray they did), you completed the mission of music in our corporate worship service:
Proclaiming to yourself,
to those standing around you,
and to God the reality of the Gospel.