There are four principles derived from worship in the New Testament, which, if used, will help to produce a god-worshiping music and worship service. These are found in Colossians 3: 16,17, and they include the note or message of the music; musical aids; medium or matrix of music and the motif of the musician.
MEMORANDUM OF MUSIC
The message of church or sacred music must be solidly based on God’s Word (Col. 3: 16a). Musicians should be filled with an understanding of the Word of God and then convey a biblical based text through their music. God’s Word must not only fill our hearts, but must permeate the lyrics of the songs we use to worship God as well. When we consider music for use in the church, we must therefore ask ourselves whether the lyrics of this song agree with biblical truth? The theology of suffering is reflected, for example, in song. In the 1970s, most choruses emphasized the personal confession of one’s faith in Christ and the willingness to take up the cross and identify in communion with his suffering. Today, many messages identify suffering and sin or lack of faith. Refrenget ‘I will not suffer, I will not be om brød;
Another important aspect of this principle involves the quality of God’s Word in the musician (‘dwell rich in you’). The Word of God must inhabit and become part of our being. It should be the controlling aspect of any Christian musician’s disposition. The world teaches musicians to do their thing (strive for acceptance) and to strive to be “great musicians”. For the Christian, however, the Word of God should be his regulation.
The message or memorandum of the music (‘Word of God) is also clear in our lives’ with all wisdom’. This refers to our ability to distinguish between right and wrong, right and inappropriate, ethical and unethical in our choice and use of music. The Christian musician needs the wisdom of God to know what song to use, how to serve (and not perform) it, and what innovations (if any) are appropriate in worship.
Music should focus on a two-part method of ‘teaching and admonishing one another’ (Col.3: 16b). To teach means to instruct, explain and lead. Music directed to God should therefore be far more than entertainment or personal enjoyment. It should be a tool for biblical teaching and instruction. A common song, ‘Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day If You Want to Grow,’ is a very clear biblical instruction. Many people have been able to remember the books of the Bible as a result of music being used on this list of sixty-six ‘titles’. This is one of the reasons why music is so important in Christian education. Music in the church should be more than the prelude to Bible lessons or sermons. The right kind of music can be used powerfully to teach the truth of God’s Word. Many of the great hymn writers such as Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, and Charles Wesley realized the power of music to teach, which is why they wrote hymns rich in doctrinal truths. Music can also be used to help people know the very words of the Bible, especially those that seem difficult to remember. Many choristers are familiar with the play, Always Rejoice in the Lord, even before they realized that the entire rendering is recorded in Philippians 4: 4-7. ‘Shape’ means to invite, encourage, shape and shape. A biblical music service gives musicians the opportunity to encourage, build, and nurture spiritual believers. Christian musicians have a responsibility to teach and train people to understand and perform God’s work. All believers should be involved in the music ministry regardless of their musical skills. God wants us to serve Him and each other with our music sacrifice. No one should just be a spectator in the music program of the local church.
MEDIUM OF MUSIC
Paul instructs us to use “hymns and hymns and spiritual songs.” This illustrates that there should be variation in church music. A church that sings only one set would not fulfill Scripture according to this passage. Loud singing and chorus could fall under hymns. A popular lyrics at wedding ceremonies are Beati Omnes or Psalm 128. All who fear God are seen as blessed, and such a person will eat the work of his or her hands. The wife is pronounced like a fertile vine and the children like olive plants around the table. Seeing their grandchildren is seen as a blessing. The chorus ‘I will praise the Lord at all times’ is taken from Psalm 34: 1-2. The psalmist proclaims that he will always bless God and boast of him. David thanks and praises God for deliverance from the Philistines. Other songs are classified as spiritual songs. Probably a factor as to why they’re doing so poorly. It is clear that God exhorts to use different types of Christian songs to praise the Lord.
THE MOTIVE FOR THE MUSICIAN
Musicians must have the right motives in their music – “Sing with thanksgiving in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, and thank God the Father through him” (v.17). Wild motives and selfish ambitions have prevented many gifted musicians from communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no place in God’s service for musicians with arrogant, self-righteous, condescending, or self-serving attitudes. For our music and worship to be acceptable to God, it must begin in our hearts. God is more concerned with the music in our hearts than it is on the lips. God is about to change hearts – shape, strengthen, develop and sanctify them to His glory. Music is a means of communicating externally what God is doing internally. The Christian musician should not only pay attention to his own gifts, but to bring praise to God. When we serve God through music, God will serve us. Many music ministers, music groups, soloists or instrumentalists have been tricked by Satan into believing that God is impressed by his abilities, talents, technology and ego, and that he will bless us according to the level of compliments we receive for our performance. An old saying goes: ‘The musical talents you possess are God’s gifts to you. How you develop and use these musical talents are your gifts to God. Do we use musical gifts to honor the name of the Lord or for personal gain? Do we concentrate on lifting the name of the Lord with a Christ-like lifestyle, or do we show lax moral standards and trust in our musical gifts. Am 6:
Oliver LT Harding, who achieved his GCE O&A levels from Sierra Leone Grammar School and Albert Academy, respectively, is currently a senior and acting librarian at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. He is a part-time lecturer at the Institute of Library, Information & Communication Studies (INSLICS), Fourah Bay College and the Extension Program at the Evangelical College of Theology (TECT) in Hall Street, Brookfields; Vice President of the Sierra Leone Association of Archivists, Librarians & Information Scientists (SLAALIS); member of the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and a member of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP). His certificates, secular and sacred, include: a certificate and diploma from the Freetown Bible Training Center; an upper second class BA Hons. Degree in Modern History (FBC); a post-graduate diploma from the Institute of Library Studies (INSLIBS, FBC), a master’s degree from the Institute of Library, Information & Communication Studies (INSLICS, FBC) and a master’s degree in biblical studies from West Africa Theological Seminary, affiliated with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he won the award for academic excellence as the best graduate student in 2005. Oliver, a writer, musician and theologian, is married (to Francess) and has two children (Olivia & Francis).