Let me begin by saying I am young in the pastorate, and some would quickly point out that I have no business attempting to share counsel about music in the church. I am somewhat of an enigma because I am soon to be fifty years old, but I have only been a pastor for less than seven years. So I am an older guy with very little experience in the pastorate! My goal is to be biblical in these thoughts!
With that in mind, here are five truths that have been helpful in our ministry.
1. The Purity of the Vessel Is Primary
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
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:—Isaiah 29:13
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.—Matthew 15:8
Even while singing, the singer’s heart may be many miles away from the words on his lips! We would do well to ask the question, “Do they see Jesus in me?” When the vessel is pure, the song can then be pleasing to our holy God!
2. The Date of the Selection Is Not a Disqualifier
Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.—Psalm 33:3
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.—Psalm 40:3
O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.—Psalm 96:1
O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.—Psalm 98:1
I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.—Psalm 144:9
Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.—Psalm 149:1
Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.—Isaiah 42:10
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;—Revelation 5:9
And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.—Revelation 14:3
There seems to be some validity to singing new songs! There may be some (I say this “tongue-in-cheek”) who will be in a corner with arms crossed and a scowl on their faces as Revelation 14:3 becomes reality!
It is certainly true that every song was once new! On the other hand, older songs that are in hymnbooks have arrived there through longevity associated with quality. They have survived because of their brilliance!
3. The Excellence of the Delivery Is Essential
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.—2 Chronicles 5:11–14
From appearance to performance, excellence was on display! “Winging it” may sound real, but it can be lacking in excellence. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might!” Interestingly, the glory of God arrived after the excellence was on display!
4. The Critique of the Writer Is Not Compulsory
Although I do not advocate for completely disregarding the source of our music, it is worth observing that some of our favorite hymns were written by those who would never be asked to speak in our churches. Their songs have been preferred because of the beauty of the words, but the writer and his or her doctrinal beliefs are not always identical to ours! It has been said and bears repeating that the greatest songwriter of all time (David) was an adulterer, liar, murderer, and polygamist!
5. The Direction of the Praise is a Distinguisher
Colossians 3:16 indicates that we are to sing “to the Lord.” When our singing is to bring praise to our name, we have lost our purpose! The goal is to draw people closer to God with prepared hearts for the preaching of God’s Word.
We should pray more often than we criticize! It is not easy to prepare and sing publicly! Pray that every service is marked by songs that lift the name of Jesus and glorify His great name!
To God be the glory!
Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.—Ephesians 3:21