Sing Unto the Lord


Music and gospel growth
November 2, 2007, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Thinking Music


Does music effect whether people will come to your church?
There are lots of differing opinions on this. Most people would say that they think the music should be as good as it can be, but what this means in practice varies dramatically.
Ideally I would say that people come to church because they want to find forgiveness and reconciliation with their maker, but in reality is this the reason people come or is it something that they find once they get to church?
Music has two attractional values that it can be judged by.
1) To what extent it engages culturally with the world
2) To what extent it engages emotionally with the heart

The world is a music saturated place. We now have the ability to carry around in our pocket more songs than previous generations heard in their lifetime. This means that more and more people have opinions on music. Through saturation it means that the standard is lifted. For churches that want to engage with culture, music is essential. Not only that, but good music is essential. Music that is done in church needs to avoid being a distraction for those who come in from the world and in fact can work as an attraction. Now how you attract people is a different topic altogether. You could attract them by doing the world’s music really well and using it to worship the God of all music… or, you could provide a counter point to the world’s music and attract people to a different style to what they are used to (R.C Sproul is an exponent of this thinking). I think that music for centuries has been used to attract. Isaac Watts put theological gold to popular bar tunes to get people to church and thinking about Jesus. It is not a new thing to match the world’s music with our own. I believe that music should be accepting to the outsider musically but challenging spiritually. Which means you have great music that matches cultural trends and you don’t fill up the lyrics with fluff but rather use the lyrics to present the gospel to hearts that need to sing it.

The second way that music is attractional is that it has the ability to engage the heart. We live in a culture that craves real feeling. It is a symptom of Post Modernity that people struggle to feel strongly about anything. That’s why we have ’emo’ culture – because those Post Modernists can only feel strongly when they despair. Music takes the truths that we know should shape us and it makes them emotionally engaging. It charges truth with feeling. No Post Modernist would come to a school hall hear a lecture and go home and feel as if they had been to something worthwhile. The Spirit works through the word so that people’s hearts are changed and one tool of the Spirit is music. Music gives emotional legs to what can seem like abstract truths. It can turn an idea like Propitiation and give it personal implication.

Many will say that people don’t come to church now for the music so why would things change. I’d say have a look at who your church is reaching. Perhaps your music matches their age bracket. Perhaps you r church has lots of people who in their minds know that what is important in church is for the Word to be preached faithfully from the pulpit, yet they can’t explain why they aren’t overflowing with thankfulness and joy. It will only be a matter of time before they leave and they won’t point the finger at the music, they just won’t feel like coming any more. Lets throw ourselves into making sure this tragedy never happens. Let’s write and play music that engages culturally and emotionally and results in growth from people coming from outside and in growth from people owning the truths they already know.

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7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great post!
Its worth reflecting on this: There was a time when the organ was new!

Comment by hayesy

dan..
paragraphs!

Comment by Anonymous

hows that?

Comment by Dan

Not only that, but good music is essential. Music that is done in church needs to avoid being a distraction for those who come in from the world and in fact can work as an attraction.

So what do you do in a small country town where your church has maybe two people who have any musical ability, which may not be especially developed?

Perhaps your church has lots of people who in their minds know that what is important in church is for the Word to be preached faithfully from the pulpit, yet they can’t explain why they aren’t overflowing with thankfulness and joy. It will only be a matter of time before they leave and they won’t point the finger at the music, they just won’t feel like coming any more. Lets throw ourselves into making sure this tragedy never happens. Let’s write and play music that engages culturally and emotionally and results in growth from people coming from outside and in growth from people owning the truths they already know.

That’s a big call, and it makes me feel uneasy. I don’t think I agree with you here, but I shall have to think about it some more.

Do you think you can engage everyone with music?

Comment by michelle

Good points Michelle.

Not that I’m qualified really to make anykind of statement here, but I would perhaps say that in todays culture, I agree that music can be a big factor, especially with youth, where music is such a big part of popular culture.

Having said that, as michelle said, not everyone is going to be attracted by music, itself one factor of a church.

IMO, the biggest lurers of a church (and John Dickson preached somethng like this at TWIST a couple of years ago, I think) are the

1. the people, and how welcoming they are to newcomers

2.how said people go about worshipping God at church (especially sincerity)and

3. How well God is explained in said Church.

All 3 of these can and should be evident, regardless of where your churhc is located, and how big it is. And if music perhaps tries to encorporate some of those elements, you’re on the right track.

Just my 2 cents 😛

Comment by Nick

Michelle,
I have more to say but here’s two quick things:
1) re the little church: Why do you need good musicians to do good music? Music that is valued and good does not have to be expertly played or accompanied by a ten piece band. Good music could be a piano and a song leader who through their enthusiasm encourages the congregation in affection.
2) re the second paragraph you quoted: I have some idea but I’m not sure what you think the big call is. Can you clarify so that I can be clear? Thanks for the response.

Comment by Dan

My issue is with what is implied by the way you’ve written. You’ve implied that a lack of ‘good’ (however you want to define that) music is why people aren’t overflowing with thankfulness, and is why people who apparently are Word-focused ‘won’t feel like coming’. Now, that might not be what you meant, but it’s the way your paragraph reads.

Re: smallness, do you really think some bloke who can’t sing and a old lady on the piano, no matter how enthusiastic, are going to ‘attract’ people (especially young people) into a church? I’m not so sure. I also don’t think that should be their aim.

Comment by michelle




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