I am a pastor who is also a musician. I have been a musical worship leader in a church for many years and now am in the lead pastor role. This duality or experience has given me eyes to see a trend that troubles me in our churches. I have witnessed the power music has. Music embeds things in our minds. No one has ever told me that they got one of my sermons "stuck in their heads," but people get SONGS "stuck in their heads" all the time. This reality should call all church musicians to remember this truth about people: you are what you sing.
I have lived in the land of creating the "worship set." Planning the 20-30 minutes of music that would engage the people of the church to worship on Sunday mornings. Let me ask this question to all you church musicians out there: "What drives your music selection for Sunday services?" Is it 1) Preference (we sing what we like to sing)... 2) Style (old vs. new / high vs. low / etc.)... 3) Popularity (what's on the CCLI top 10) ... or something else?
Look at the picture above. In this picture, what do you suppose is going on that is unseen and unheard? Likely it is the band. There is likely a band on the platform singing and playing. There's likely drums, keyboards, guitars, bass, amps, in-ear monitors, lights, etc. I've been pastoring a while now. No one rises to their feet with their hands raised when we open our Bibles and delve into the Word. When the singing stops, the "worship" stops? Really?
True worship transcends music. Worship is living sacrifice ... offering ... presence ... awe ... ascribing honor and glory to God ... cleansing ... adoration ... praise ... repentance ... worship doesn't need music. In fact, I encourage all church musicians who are given the title of worship leader to learn what it means to worship God with no song coming from their voice and, when they've figured that out, add a little music back in.
You see, we are what we sing in that music gets stuck in our heads. But we are only transformed by the renewing of our mind that comes through the washing of the Word. Merge the Word with Music and you have power. But if music is there for music's sake, then we've lost worship. In churches, people vote with their feet... if they attend it's because they like what is going on and if they don't attend, it's usually protest of some kind.... and there are many protests still going on over music. I wish we could be so passionate about injustice, the lost, the poor, the broken and so-on.
Jesus unites ... music styles divide ...
The division of traditional vs contemporary vs acoustic vs choir vs band vs a cappella music is evidence enough that music divides. Remember, I'm a musician so I've got a little experience with this. I've watched styles divide.
Jesus is High and Lifted Up ... but the band has been elevated in church ...
Remember when the pulpit was higher than the music? People don't want an aloof impersonal pastor who preaches from on high, but we have no trouble with a man-bun-sporting guitarist elevated to the place where the pulpit once was. Band on the stage and pastors on the floor... what does that really say?
Jesus is the Truth ... some of our lyrics are not...
Church musicians ... please give careful thought to the content of what is sung. It makes a difference. Just because a song is popular doesn't make it scripturally accurate. Remember the power of music to be embedded in the minds of people, and then choose carefully what you are feeding the sheep.
Because we are sheep we need good musical shepherds.
Musical talent is not enough to be a worship leader.
Worship services without music can still be worship services.
O be careful little voice what you sing ... because you are what you sing.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.