Appropriate Music for Worship
“Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary:
praise Him in the firmament of His power.
Praise Him for His mighty acts:
praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
Psa 150:1-2 & 6
Before I start this article, I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Kristin Atwood. I attend the Verdugo Hills Ecclesia in California and I am excited to be the new Music Section Editor. Throughout my life in the Truth, I have been involved with music in a variety of ways. As a teen, I loved singing CYC songs around the campfire and participating in Youth Conference Choirs. I enjoy working with children at Sunday School and our Christadelphian Heritage School here in California on learning spiritual songs and songs to go with memory verses. I love helping put on Sunday School Programs and presentations. Music elevates our prayers and brings in our emotions and hopefully takes our praise to a different level.As an adult, I love playing piano and directing cantatas at Bible School. As a mother, I love teaching our three young boys hymns and other spiritual songs together around the piano, driving in the car, and going for walks. Music has and always will be a huge part of my personal and ecclesial spiritual walk. Personally, I feel most connected to God through music. In times of joy or in distress it is always my reaction to sing! “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” (Psa 104:33)
Music is powerful!
Music elevates our prayers and brings in our emotions and hopefully takes our praise to a different level. Many of you may have experienced moments in praise where your heart and mind are so focused on God that it might even bring you to tears. The concept of praising God in song can be found throughout scripture. The word “sing” appears 119 times in scripture in 102 verses. Psalms is one of the biggest books in the Bible and is all about singing praises. We can think of many people in scripture that came to God to praise Him through song. Moses and the children of Israel sang to praise God after the parting of the Red Sea. Hannah praised God in song after the birth of Samuel. Paul and Silas sang to God in prison. David has songs recorded throughout his life when he praised God and when he poured out his troubled heart in song. Yet even though scripture is filled with “songs,” God hasn’t given us the music to go with these songs. This leaves us in a difficult position as we try to figure out “appropriate” music to sing. As Christadelphians, we know that singing to God is an important part of our spiritual walk and most of us acknowledge the value and importance it has in our walk in the Truth.
As Christadelphians we don’t tend to all agree on the topic of music…
Yet as Christadelphians, let’s be honest, we don’t tend to all agree on the topic of music. One could even say that music is a bit of a “taboo” subject in Christadelphia. Many have strong beliefs that we should only use the green hymn book. Some think we should feel comfortable using mainstream Christian songs. Some feel that we should be using music only written by Christadelphians. Whatever your viewpoint on music, I encourage you to step back for a moment and honestly ask yourself, “How do we determine if music is appropriate for worship?” I encourage you to ask a lot of questions and look at scripture to guide thinking. The goal of this article is not to tell you what is or is not appropriate, but instead to see if we can all find some common ground by looking at questions we should all be asking when we look at spiritual music. The following are many of the questions that I personally ask myself when looking at spiritual music and my hope and prayer is that it moves you to do the same.
“Are the lyrics scripturally sound?”
I am starting with this question because, in my opinion, it is the most important. If we are trying to find music that is appropriate for worship, the very first thing we need to do is look at the words. Music is powerful and sometimes that distracts us from the words. Even if the music is beautiful, are the words appropriate? Are the words meaningful and deep in a way that brings scripture together and deepens our worship? Are the words doctrinally sound? Are the words straight from scripture? The more that we can have God’s word imprinted on our hearts the better! Music gets stuck in our heads easily so we need to make sure the lyrics are appropriate so that when we go through our busy days and a tune gets stuck in our head it helps us to focus on God’s words and principles.
“Is this the appropriate time and place for this song?”
When we gather together on a Sunday morning, mid-week Bible class, or some other larger ecclesial function, the purpose is for communal worship. We are all gathering as an ecclesial family to raise our voices collectively. So, the songs that are chosen should be ones in which anyone can join in. Is the Many times, songs are very “appropriate” but if they are used in the wrong time or place, they can take away from the service or event. music in a key that we can all sing? Is the music distracting or confusing? Is the music easy to pick up so that everyone can participate? Does everyone understand the lyrics so that they can focus spiritually? When we are gathering for Sunday School, are the lyrics simple enough for the children to learn? Is the music engaging so that the children are interested? When we have the opportunity to come together for Bible Schools or other longer events, we frequently get the opportunity to work on more difficult songs together. Are we taking advantage of this opportunity to work on perfecting well-known songs or learning more complicated songs? Many times, songs are very “appropriate” but if they are used in the wrong time or place, they can take away from the service or event.
“Why was this song chosen?”
Have you had a Sunday morning service where things line up beautifully and it really helps you focus your mind appropriately? Maybe the extra time was taken for those serving to make sure the readings, hymns, prayers, and exhortation are all on a similar topic so that way we can really focus on one thing and elevate our thoughts? Is the music that is being selected chosen because it brings the service together or highlights one aspect of the service? Was the song chosen because of some important event that has happened and the words are true to the occasion?
I am sure more questions could be asked as we examine pieces of music, but hopefully, some of these questions can help guide and direct us as we move forward. Over the next few months, Lord willing, there will be a collection of articles in this section from brothers and sisters around the world. Hopefully, these articles will allow us to see different ways music is being used to praise our Heavenly Father from different cultures and continents, but all in the same faith. There are so many talented brothers and sisters that have used their talents in service to God and it is my hope and prayer that we can all learn from each other and grow closer to God as we await Christ’s return.
(Verdugo Hills, CA)