One of my favorite bible verses is Psalm 34:3, Glorify the Lord with me: let us exalt His name together. For me, music is essential in the worship of our God.
We are blessed to have two different worship service styles at our church. Our two very different styles of worship are actually very similar in nature, despite the robing or de-robing of our pastor. Speaking of the music, we start out with our songs of praise. After prayer, we sing our song of preparation for the message. By the way, Pastor Charles’ message is amazingly identical at all three services. Then our service usually ends with a song that sends us out into the world as equipped disciples of Christ. Sometimes this format varies, depending on the message or the season. In all cases, our songs have both a tune and a message. Our hope is that the message in our music supports the message Charles provides us.
We have a contemporary service that is more casual (Charles is robe-less), includes mostly contemporary music, and has fewer worship rituals. The praise music brings us together as a faith community, tends to be celebratory, and includes tunes that are familiar if you listen to contemporary Christian radio. The praise band, with the electric guitar and bass, voices on mics, percussion, and occasionally other instruments, supports a more physical engagement (yep, even an occasional clapping with the tunes). Communion is still contemplative with quiet background music which promotes a time for reflection, thankfulness, and prayer.
We also have a couple traditional services that are more contemplative, with more formal attire (come see Charles perspire in his robe), mostly hymns, and more rituals. For this service style, the music is focused around singing hymns that you may have grown up with or heard on traditional Christian radio. (Many early hymns that the founders of Methodism, Charles & John Wesley, wrote started out as pub tunes that were familiar to the community in the 1700’s!) The choir will present an occasional anthem. The liturgies and hymns create a ritual that is practiced every week. The components of the service are reliably sequential, and they provide a comfort-level for those that are familiar with a traditional service. No surprises here.
With all this considered, how do we use church music? We use it to engage in our worship, to engage in our faith community, and to engage in our study of the bible. Church is one of the few places in this world where people sing together. What a blessing! So, next time you’re sitting in our congregation, elbow to elbow with your neighbor, enjoy singing your heart out to your favorite praise song or hymn. Where else can we make a joyful noise to the glory of God?