I'll admit doing this part has been a toe stepper for me. This one wasn't an easy one to research and write. We all have strong opinions on music, it's not easy to sit down and really take a look at what God says, as it may just contradict with what we feel. But...God's Word comes before feelings....
OOOOOoh boy this is one part that can sure cause a ruckus.
Music can bring together sweet fellowship or cause a church to split. It can bring a sweet savor to the Lord, or be spewn from His lips. It is a form of worship, a form of entertainment, and is not a neutral area by any means.
Music has been used in worship for centuries. The very first mention of music in the bible was not worship related (or at least not worship to God), but began the use of instruments.
"And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." (Genesis 4:21)
The first mention of music in the form of worship comes in Exodus 15:1-21.
"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. (2) The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. (3)The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name. (4) Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. (5) The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. (6) Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power; thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. (7) And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee; thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. (8) And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as a heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. (9) The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. (10) Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. (11) Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (12) Thou stretchedst ou thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. (13) Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. (14) The people shall hear, and be afraid; sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. (15) Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. (16) Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. (17) Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. (18) The Lord shall reign for ever and ever. (19) For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. (20) And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. (21) And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."
The above scripture shows how Moses, Miriam, and others worshipped God after the parting of the Red Sea. Notice in Moses' song how the words glorify God, repeat the good things God had done for the Hebrews, and goes over the many virtues and attributes of God.
It's all about HIM!
King David was well known for creating and singing the Psalms, as well as inventing musical instruments to go along side the Psalms.
"And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musi9c of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood." (II Chronicles 7:6)
"King David chose the Levites to supply musicians for the Holy Temple. Out of the 30,000 who were employed at this time, the impressive number of 4,000 was selected for the musical service.
Years later, when King Solomon had finished all work for the temple and brought in all the things David his father had dedicated, the priest and the congregation of Israel assembled before the ark, and the musical service was begun by the Levites. (I Chronicles 25:6-7; II Chronicles 5:12-14). When the king and the people offered their sacrifices, the Levites began to play, 'and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.'( II Chronicles 7:61)" (1)
Continue to notice how the music and singing was pointed upward, to God, rather than horizontal toward men. The music and singing was not done for entertainment purposes, but to glorify God and worship Him.
Moving on to the New Testament era, Ephesians and Colossians speaks of singing and speaking in psalms.
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:19)
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16)
Move forward a few more years, and we get to the music of the church today. Some churches have stayed by the landmark of their music in worship, with the psalms and hymns singing towards the Lord. Others have moved away from the psalms and hymns, moving toward the ways of the world. Some churches stay with the simple hymns and psalms found in the old hymnals and the bible itself set to a melody. Others have chosen to play hard rock, rap, use vain repeats in the lyrics, and entertain each other.
"Congregational singing, next to Bible Teaching, is the best feature of a religious service, the most effective way to preach the Gospel. A singing church is always well attended. People love it. A singing church and a teaching pulpit...It was the public singing of Luther's hymns that bore his preaching over central Europe, and shook the world into the Reformation. It was singing that made the great Welsh revival. Was there ever a revival without it? The very best way now to rejuvenate dead churches would be to sing them into life. Its death of singing is the greatest lack in the average Sunday Morning Church Service. There ought to be ten times as much as there is...Sing the same hymns often. Only as they are sung often can the people become familiar with them. It is the hymns that we know that are the ones we love. And we never tire of the hymns that we love. Never. Sing the old hymns. Sing them over and over. A church that would do this would not have to beg people to come to church... A congregation should be taught to memorize the hymns they sing most often, at least some of the verses. They will sing better, and feel deeper the spirit and power of what they sing. It will give power to the service. Train children to sing hymns, and to memorize them. It is the best religious education. It will develop their spiritual growth, and tend to tie them to the church for life." (2)
Music sways emotions. There's no denying that. When a congregation sings the old hymns and psalms, there is a mood of reverence and worship, singing praises and biblical doctrinal songs to the Lord. Change the hymns and psalms and doctrinal songs to something more contemporary, such as singing "I will sing of your love forever" 18 times in a row, and the mood changes. One pastor in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area went so far as to play AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" for their Resurrection Sunday service! If you are familiar at all with AC/DC, the song glorifies going to hell. Is this what God would want for His church--glorifying going to hell?
There is nothing wrong with enjoying contemporary music. There is nothing wrong with entertainment. Music comes in all types of styles, from blue grass gospel, southern, swing, jazz, contemporary, Latino, you name it. We can glorify the Lord with our music, keeping the heart in worship going upward rather than horizontal for entertaining. There IS a line that must be drawn when it comes to worship and music, where it separates the reverencing psalms and hymns from the heart from the entertaining, the house bands, the rock concerts on stage inside the church. Worship goes up to the Lord. Entertainment feeds the flesh, draws the crowds in to the church, and goes horizontal-man to man-instead of upward to Him. One could do a bluegrass gospel concert on the same platform as a big name contemporary band, and neither one would be giving worship upward if the goal is entertaining the crowd instead of giving glory to God. The same works on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night when we meet to worship--regardless of the style we sing, if it's feeding our flesh and not showing reverence to God, it's not what God wants.
We need to be more reverent in how we worship our Lord. He doesn't want the top 40 songs off the radio entertaining and rocking out the church to attract in the world. He doesn't want HIS church acting like the world. He wants us to abide by His Word, regardless of our feelings. If it means we must set aside our own desires and submit to His Word, then so be it.
Many of the churches now don't bother to use the hymnals. In times past, each family purchased their own and took it to worship services each week. There are a few churches left that use the hymnals, and they are a blessing. So many people today don't even know what a hymn is, have never heard them, have not had opportunity to hear the upward praises, the passion, the doctrinal lessons, all within the songs. They never grow old, just as God's word never grows old. Maybe that's why the bible tells us to sing hymns and psalms. They never wax old.
Has your church moved the landmark in music during worship?
Scripture from KJV
(1) Compact Bible Dictionary: Regency: Zondervan 1967
(2) Halley's Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 1927, 1965.