Recently, I shared some thoughts with one of our church’s ensembles in order to refocus our attention on some important truths about church music. When consciously put into practice, these truths can help to develop a spirit of excellence in an ensemble or in a small group. The Lord deserves our very best, but if we do not challenge the status quo, we often default to a more lethargic and disengaged attitude toward rehearsal. Here are some thoughts I shared with the ensemble about our approach to rehearsal.
1. Our Spiritual Approach
There are biblical purposes for church music. In my opinion, there are two purposes that stand out as the most important purposes for church music. Each singer must keep these in the forefront of his mind in order to keep the right perspective toward the preparation process.
To Offer Spiritual Sacrifice to God
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 2:5
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.—Hebrews 13:15
Church music is, first and foremost, an offering we give to the Lord. If we do not understand and consciously think about that, we can be guilty of offering the Lord a vain sacrifice void of the love and devotion He deserves.
When I prepare to give a gift to my wife, I can hardly wait to see her response. I plan. I prepare. I present the gift with love and anticipation. That is the right spirit to have when preparing our special music for the Lord.
Music that honors Christ and glorifies the Lord will cost. Any worthy offering to God must cost us something. The Bible is full of examples: the offering of Abel, the sacrificing of the spotless lamb on Atonement Day, and so many more. An offering to God requires preparation and costs something that we may hold dear to ourselves.
I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.—2 Samuel 24:24
One gift we should offer our Lord is the sacrifice of our time. Each singer will give of his time to rehearse, to memorize, and to grow and sharpen his abilities.
To Encourage and Edify the Church Family
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
The second purpose of music in the Bible is to encourage and edify the believers. While this has many implications, it is certainly true that the pastor and the congregation are greatly blessed and encouraged by well-prepared music. Sometimes the words communicate exactly the right message to a hurting heart. Sometimes the beauty of the music causes one individual to ponder the greatness and beauty of Christ. Sometimes the faithfulness of the musicians encourages a weary servant of God to press on. God has worked and certainly can work through the music to edify His church.
Ill-prepared music has the potential to have the opposite effect on those listening. Would the music we offer God cause someone to view our God as not being worthy of excellence? As Howard B. Grose penned so insightfully, “Give of your best to the Master; nought else is worthy His love.”
2. Our Professional Approach
If the previous truths are kept in the forefront of the ensemble member’s mind, it will most often result in a more excellent attitude toward rehearsal and preparation. There is also a certain level of professionalism that is required of the singer. Below are some practical personal standards of excellence for each ensemble member:
In a world where the word of man means less and less, I will be a man/woman of my word.
- If I commit to sing in the group, I will be
If practice starts at 5:30 pm, arrive a few minutes early, pick up your music, and be ready to start on time. Punctuality is a sign of professionalism. When a singer is tardy, it suggests that the task at hand is of little importance.
- If I must miss rehearsal or be late, I will
communicate with the group leader before rehearsal.
Here is an example of an unprofessional approach: the singer does not show up to practice at all and does not respond to calls from the leader. After the practice, the singer sends a text message saying, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t make it tonight.”
The right approach to missing practice should be this: before rehearsal starts, call or text the ensemble leader and ask permission to be absent or tardy and give him the reason. Don’t be vague about why you must miss or be late. This helps the leader know that the reason is legitimate.
In a world where every man is out for himself, I will be a team player.
- I will not be disrespectful of my fellow singers’ time or of the leader’s preparation.
- I will be in my place. If I miss, the entire group suffers.
- I will invest time in the music outside of practice so that I can give my very best in every rehearsal.
- I will not disrespect the leader or the preparation process by texting or talking out of line during rehearsal.
It truly is astounding that God would receive any offering from us at all. Too often, we all fall so short of giving Him what He deserves (Malachi 1:7-8). Yet God has chosen to inhabit the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3). So let’s not be guilty of offering less than we should.