What Church Music Should Look Like

Church music should exalt, edify, and educate.

Exalt God. Edify saints. Educate believers.

How that’s done differs, but the following aspects should be present:

1) Substance
Music teaches; it’s memorable; therefore, we should take care of what our songs teach. Are saints better served to remember the words,

“Breathe on us
Holy fire fall
Come and fill this place with
Your presence
Like a rushing wind
Send Your Spirit here
Breath of Heaven breathe on us
Breath of Heaven breathe on us”1

or better served to memorize,

“Finish, then, thy new creation
True and spotless let us be
Let us see thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee
Changed from glory into glory
Till in heav’n we take our place
Till we cast our crowns before thee
Lost in wonder, love and praise”?2

One of those examples teaches of regeneration, sanctification, glorification, reigning with Christ, and eternal fellowship with God. The other asks God to redo something done in the New Testament without stating why we should ask for it or why God might do as we ask.

2) Sing-ability
Can the congregation sing this song? Is the range too great? It is too complicated? Is it too fast? Musical styles aren’t prescribed in scripture, but some genres tend to be better suited for the assembly. And Christians are gathered to sing, not to be a passive audience.

That’s why hymns are so useful in corporate worship: the meter rarely changes; in hymnals singers can “see” where the notes are going and how long to hold them; the structures and tunes are typically simple. Many can pick up a hymn and start participating after only one stanza and refrain (if the hymn even has one).

3) Simple beauty
Take away all the lights, sound equipment, and musical instruments. If those and all our polished performers were suddenly unavailable, then would the songs still stand on their own as lovely, memorable, and inspiring? Would they point us to God? Or would we simply miss the former things that moved us emotionally because those were what we sought?

Believers should certainly be moved emotionally by our worship through song, however it must be by the content of the element and not the manner of the form. Truth (the content; knowledge) in song (the element) is what should make us feel our faith. The manner (the talent) of the form (the genre) is important only insofar as it encourages and aids worship.

Once you seek to exalt God by singing of who He is in a way that edifies your congregation and educates yourself and fellow believers on the truths of God’s Word, you’ll find no greater feeling.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:16-17

1 “Breathe on Us” by Kari Jobe
2 “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley

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