Why Church Music Matters
A couple days ago my friend Dan posted this question on Facebook: Theologically speaking, why do we praise God through song / hymn? He then messaged me and specifically asked me to comment on his status. What ensued was a 30 minute process that produced the first thing I wrote (and liked) in months. It also got me thinking about the music we do in church, why it matters, and how it is directly effecting the education and theology of the people in our church bodies.
There are many reasons that we praise God through music. I like to tell my church that we sing to remind ourselves of who God is and what He has done – specifically through salvation history. When we sing to tell the Story of our saving God, we join with generations upon generations that have gone before us doing the same. David composed songs of his God in the Psalms. Moses had the nation of Israel sing to God when they had crossed the red sea specifically to commemorate that moment. Even Paul urges us in Ephesian 5 to “be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” It’s an amazing happening that music can be both a gift from and to God. Even more amazing is that He would choose to enter into the process and meet with His creation there.
We were created in a way that makes music intrinsically special to us. It uses different parts of the brain than regular speech does. This is why people who stutter when they talk can sing without one. This is why we feel music. Whether we’re somewhere sacred or secular, we were created to be this way. God ordained that music would matter, so it is any wonder that cultures have used music (prose, verse, chant, etc.) to teach their young for centuries? This is how the Jews learned the Torah after all. The music we do in church should always point back to who God is and what He has done because it stays with us in ways sermons just can’t. If our music doesn’t re-orient us back to community with the Trinity, it has failed and missed the mark. When we engage in this process of remembering, we move beyond our moment in time – whatever that may be looking like – and embrace the eternal glory and presence of our loving Savior. It was, is, and always will be about Him, but in His rich love and mercy He receives our offering and reminds us that while it really is for Him, He did it for us. Re-orientation is a natural byproduct of this interaction. Community between humanity and Trinity should always be offered and reinforced. To bring anything less to those we serve (our congregations and our Lord) would be to completely miss the point, and when that happens, everyone loses.
What are your favorite songs you’re singing in church, and what are they teaching you about who God is and/or what He has done for the world?