What is the Role of Music in a Worship Service? September 17, 2016

Recently, a worship leader I’m connected with in San Francisco posted this on Facebook:

It’s impossible to lead people corporately where we haven’t been privately.

Worship leader: if there is no essence of private worship in your life, then you have diminished your calling to playing music.

I think he poses an interesting point here which raises an interesting question: what is the point in the music in a worship service? To be clear, I think he has a strong point. My goal here is not to argue against him but to agree with him. My response is more of a follow up the the question of what it means to lead people and where they are being lead. I also want to be clear that this is not a post focused on the attendee. I’m looking at this question from the perspective of the leader.

While there is much more I could say here and perhaps will in a further post, I thought I would provide my own response to this question from the perhaps unique perspective of the audio guy who is largely perceived as “just making things come through speakers”:

I think that the “where are we going?” question is focusing too much on strictly the music here. During the music, we are proclaiming truths to God, each other, and ourselves. There is a large component of the music that is actually teaching. The music should be a communication and expression of truths in the same way as the sermon– it’s just a different form of communication that engages people differently. Consider all the way back to The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 31). God’s command was to write his words in song and teach it to them, even to “put it in their mouths” (have them sing it) so that it would be a witness to the people of Israel.

So really, the music is a venue to teach Scripture in a way that is memorable and sticks with people. It is somewhat limited in its capacity to dig too deep into issues, but well written songs directly inspired by Scripture point us straight back to specific texts in the Bible to help us learn them.

So I argue that there is somewhere you are going and it is the learning, proclaiming and reinforcement of what is being taught in both song and lecture that morning. Perhaps the actual question we should be asking of music then is “what are we intending to communicate?”

From that, I then argue that every instrument’s part should be considered from the aspect of “how is what I’m playing helping communicate the emotion and feeling of the words” and the same question should be asked of the mix as the audio guy should also know the songs and arrangements.

Again, there is much more to dig in to here to both theologically and how I believe the audio guy can add to the process. If anything, this is just an introduction.

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