A Biblical Philosophy of Christian Music

by

Dr. Thomas Cassidy

Published by:

First Baptist Church Publications 8758 Troy Street Spring Valley, CA 91977

COPYRIGHT 1995 BY THE AUTHOR

(All quotations are from the Authorized Version)


Introduction

There is much controversy today surrounding the subject of music in our Independent Baptist Churches. The average pastor today will often admit that he knows very little about music, and generally leaves decisions regarding the music ministry to the song leader/choir director. The primary reason most pastors know very little about music is that they have never been taught a Biblical philosophy of Christian music. Most Bible Colleges today do not teach much in the way of Biblical music standards, and often leave such decisions up to the students themselves as to what they listen to and perform. There are 749 references to music in the Bible, and every one of those references is in the context of worship. Music is worship. Worship is always directed upward to God, never outward to the people. Music is not entertainment, or to be used to draw a crowd, or even for evangelism, but is always worship! I have heard pastors say, after special music, "I could skip the preaching, and give the invitation." That is a sad commentary on that pastor's understanding of what brings about Christian decisions. My Bible says, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!" One very important fact that we must understand is that Satan is the worlds greatest expert in music! Ezekiel 28:13 tells us that Lucifer was created to be the song leader in heaven. God built into him the greatest knowledge in the universe concerning music. When Satan attacks the churches of Jesus Christ today, he uses his best and sharpest weapon, the one that he is most expert in, music. There are very few subjects that cause more anger in churches today than that of music. I have seen a song leader walk out of a service, and out of the church, because the pastor had not gushed with gratitude over a special that had just been performed (not ministered, performed). That which we love the most, we defend the most. We should stop defending our music, and start defending our churches from the onslaught of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must learn to love the Lord, and His church more than we love our music, and our preferences, and our entertainment. We must put Christ first on our list, and His church must be honored as He would honor it. We must learn to "love not the world." We must learn to identify the things of the world, and avoid them. I propose the following principles for the use of music in our churches.

Seven Reasons For Including Music as a Major Part of Church Services.

1. Music is a means of worship and praise. The psalmist states: "Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp." (Psalms 150:1-3). The Apostle John, in his vision of heaven, witnessed the angelic host praising God with music and song, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:8-10).

2. Music is an effective channel of Biblical instruction. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord". (Colossians 3:16). We have children in our junior church who are so young they do not even know how to read, but they can quote scripture because they have been singing scripture songs right out of the book of Psalms! When I was a kid I learned the books of the Bible by singing them, and that song comes back to me today, almost fifty years later, when I am going over the order of the books of the Bible in my head!

3. Music is an evidence of Spirit-filled lives. "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" (Ephesians 5:18-19). A person who refuses to participate in the singing of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs is a person who is publicly demonstrating the fact that he is not filled with the Holy Spirit! I didn't say you had to sing well, or even on key. The Lord, and all my congregation, knows that I don't. But that doesn't stop me from singing at the top of my lungs at every service. I used to have a piano player that stopped playing in the middle of a song one Sunday evening and just stared at me. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, "Pastor, there are 88 keys on this piano, and you keep singing in the cracks!" About a month later I was practicing for a special when I asked her to play the song in my key, she replied "No problem, Pastor, your key is the key of "off". I was teasing her one Wednesday evening when I asked her to play my favorite song in the key of E-flat, she said, "how 'bout I just play it in E and let you flatten it yourself!" It is not the quality of our voice that makes singing a great joy, it is the filling of the Holy Spirit!

4. Music is a vehicle of Christian service. "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. (Psalms 100:1-2). Everyone can't be a preacher. Everyone can't be a deacon. Everyone isn't qualified to be a Sunday School teacher, but everybody can lift up his heart and voice in songs of praise to God during the congregational singing.

5. Music is an appropriate way to testify and express faith in Christ. "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:25-30). By the way, it wasn't the singing, but the testimony of Paul's and Silas's faith in the power of God that convicted the heart of the keeper of the prison. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" (1 Peter 2:9). My wife has a beautiful voice. Nothing touches my heart more than to hear her singing old gospel hymns when she thinks she is alone. One day last year I was helping a plumber who is a member of our church install a new hot water heater in the missionary apartment. I looked around and he was gone. I looked outside and saw him sitting under the window to our living room. He was sitting there in the shade listening to my wife singing in the house. I sat down beside him and enjoyed the beautiful music coming from that parsonage window.

6. Music is an indication of joyfulness. "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." (James 5:13). I fear that we as a people have lost our joy. We are much more likely to be heard griping and complaining then singing songs of joy.

7. Music is a source of comfort and encouragement. "And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." (1 Samuel 16:23). When the heart is heavy with the cares of this world, what a joy it is to sing one of those old gospel songs telling of another one who went through trials and testing, but emerged victorious through faith in the Lord.

Specific Purposes of Music in the Church Service

1. It relaxes visitors who may be tense and/or nervous. Nothing is better at making visitors feel relaxed and comfortable than to hear the old gospel hymns that they recall from childhood. They recognize the music and recall the simple things of childhood, and are placed in a much more receptive frame of mind to hear the message being preached.

2. It prepares the hearts of God's people for the ministry of the Word. God's people are just like everyone else when it comes to being pressured by the work-a-day world. They got up late, had trouble getting the kids dressed, fought traffic on the freeway to get to church, and are feeling anything but spiritual and close to the Lord as they pull into the parking lot on Sunday morning. But when they come in and open the hymnbook, and lift their hearts and voices in songs of praise unto the Lord, their thoughts are focused on the Lord and all that He has done for them, putting them in the right frame of mind for the preaching of the Word of God.

3. It prepares the heart of God's preacher for the preaching and/or teaching of the Word. Music is worship. Preachers need to worship God just like everyone else. I had a guest preacher in not long ago to hold special meetings for our church folk, and while the rest of the congregation was singing, I looked over and saw that the guest preacher didn't have his song book open, but instead was studying his sermon notes. After the song was over I leaned over and asked him why he hadn't been singing. He said that he needed some last minute study of his message. I told him the time to study (and pray) was before he got up on the platform, and if he wasn't ready to preach, just let me know and I would call on someone who was ready!

4. It encourages the congregation to make necessary spiritual decisions. The congregational singing can be as important in preparing God's people for making necessary decisions as the invitation is in encouraging them to do so publicly.

Guidelines for Music Selection and Use.

"And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?" (1 Corinthians 14:7).

1. Words - The words of the songs we sing are very important. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8). It is so very important today to be careful in selecting songs that have good Bible doctrines in them. Many so-called Baptists today are abandoning the old fashioned hymns of the faith in favor of the theological mush of the modern day ecumenical movement. I even heard of one baptist church that quit singing "The Old Rugged Cross", because the third verse says, "In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see;" and that church and its heathen pastor no longer believe in the literal blood of Christ!

What does the song say? What is the message? Is this a song of praise unto the Lord, or a song of pride and bragging about self. Count the number of times the words "I", and "me", are used, and the number of references to God, Father, Christ, and Lord. Who is being magnified in this song, the Lord, or the singer?

Are the words a force for God (righteousness) or Self (sin)? "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." (Proverbs 14:34). More about the words of our songs later.

2. Life-style and testimony of writers and/or performers. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." (Proverbs 13:20). "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matthew 12:34). "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1-2). "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Is the life-style and testimony of the writers and/or performers in agreement with God's Word? I recently attended a Preachers conference where a fine Christian lady with a beautiful voice got up to sing a special. The song she sang was written and recorded by a well know charismatic new-evangelical with a questionable life style. After the meeting I approached her pastor husband and asked him if he knew who wrote and recorded the song his wife had just sung. He said yes, so I asked him if he would ever invite that man to sing in his church. He replied that he would not. I then told him that the man had just been in his church, by proxy! We must guard our churches against invasion by the world, the flesh, and the Devil, whether in person or by proxy!

What do the writers and/or performers think of Jesus Christ? "Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David." (Matthew 22:42). "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 John 7-11). Many churches that were once "fundamental" have lost their separatist distinctive and as a result, will not receive a "full reward" at the judgment seat of Christ. Many of the songs today are written for profit, and the performers "cross over" into secular music as a means to earn more of the world's mammon. When we use their music in our churches, we become "partaker(s) of (their) evil deeds."

3. Effect on listeners. Does this song cause listeners to give glory to God or to the performer? "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." (1 Corinthians 15:33).

What does this song motivate one to do or to be? Does this song cause the hearers to want to grow closer to the Lord, and to be more Christ like, or is it merely entertaining them?

Can this selection be used as a vehicle of Christian growth and blessing? "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18). Are the hearers going to be better Christians after hearing the song?

4. Appropriateness. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:" (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Is this musical selection appropriate for this service or occasion? It is very important that church music be appropriate for the service in which it is being sung. Sunday morning is when we have the most visitors present. Our goal is to win them to Christ so we emphasize music which relates well to the unsaved and unchurched. The special music shares a simple Gospel testimony or a message of Christ's love and saving power. We limit congregational singing to more familiar, fast-tempoed songs. In our evening services we have mostly our own church crowd so our musical emphasis ministers to the needs and hearts of believers. Congregational singing of choruses and joyful hymns and Gospel songs is emphasized. Special music emphasizes praise and encouragement.

Does this song agree with the church's "Philosophy of Ministry" in the area of church services? "Let all things be done decently and in order." (1 Corinthians 14:40). One of the problems I often encounter with preachers regarding their philosophy of ministry is that they don't have one. If we are to have "all things be(ing) done decently and in order", we better get organized and put our basic principles and philosophy down on paper so as to help us organize our ministries, and to have a document on hand for that visitor who asks "What is your church all about, anyway? What do you believe, and how do you intend to put your beliefs into practice?" Your written philosophy of ministry will go a long way toward answering these questions as well as providing staff members with written guidelines to follow, and in the event of your death or resignation, your deacons or pulpit committee will have a set of guidelines to follow in interviewing and selecting a new pastor. (If you don't have a written Philosophy of Ministry, and would like to see a copy of mine, click here .)

Basic Music Guidelines

The following guidelines will provide a starting point from which to build a separated music ministry in your church.

1. Music solos, duets, etc. ought to come from the hymnal; Singspiration's "Favorites" Volumes 1-6 but not Volumes 7-10 which require more discernment both doctrinally and musically; also Praises I and II from Majesty Music in Greenville, South Carolina.

2. As a general rule, avoid using taped accompaniments. Their weaknesses are as follows:

3. Plan special music about a month in advance so musicians have time to practice. This will improve the quality immensely. Under normal circumstances it is too late to give or get notice on the Saturday preceding the Sunday services.

4. Criteria for Evaluating Music:

5. Performance Guidelines: 6. Many of the techniques and songs used by contemporary gospel musicians evolve from the philosophy that there are no absolutes in life and this includes music. We must not be influenced by the patterns and examples of gospel musicians who copy the world's performance techniques and song-forms. Music is not intended to entertain, but rather to speak to the heart in preparation for the message from God's Word, to bring people to the place of decision. Ephesians 5, verses 10 through 17 gives us five Biblical principles for developing our philosophy of music: "Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:10-17) Summary of our Philosophy of Music.

1. The MESSENGER of our music is important (he or she must be Spirit filled) verse 18.

2. The MOVEMENT of our music is important (verse 19). NOTE: I have noticed in several good churches that I have been in over the past years a growing tendency to clap at the end of a special music number. Websters dictionary defines applause as "to acclaim, to approve, to honor, or to praise by the clapping of the hands." Revelation 5:12 says, "...Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive... honour, and glory...." If we give such honor and glory to a person, we must first take it away from Him that is Worthy. We must always direct our honor and glory and praise upward to the Lord and not to people. The great danger of teaching God's people to express themselves in this way leads to even greater dangers. I was in a preachers conference in a church that expressed appreciation of special music by clapping. It became such a habit to clap (rather than say "Amen", or "Glory", or Hallelujah") that when a young preacher finished his message, the people clapped! They applauded as if they had been entertained by a clever poet or interesting story teller! Such things ought never occur in the House of God. How soon before people will be thinking of the preaching of the Word of God as mere entertainment, interrupting the preaching with clapping instead of saying "Amen."

3. The MOTIVE of our music is important (verse 20).

4. The MANNER of our music is important (verse 21). 5. The METICULOUSNESS of our music is important (verse 20). Conclusion

We must lift up our standard, which is the Word of God. "Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders." (Isaiah 49:22).

We must maintain a difference between the world and the church. "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them." (Ezekiel 22:26). "And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?" (1 Corinthians 14:7). "And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;" (Leviticus 10:10). "To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten." (Leviticus 11:47).

There is so much good music available today for use in our churches. Why is it that we so often go to the world, the world's artists, and the world's philosophy of music for the music that is used in otherwise good, solid, fundamental, Baptist churches? I believe it is because we have been so inundated by the world's music that we no longer notice how truly bad it really is. We watch television, and virtually every commercial is accompanied by rock music. We listen to the radio while driving, and almost every program is accompanied by rock music. Even the most popular secular radio program among Christians in America, Rush Limbaugh, is accompanied by loud, blaring, rock music. We have lost our sensitivity to the world's music, and because of that loss of sensitivity, we have failed to keep that influence out of our churches. I pastor a church that is about half active duty Navy personnel. Two of my Associate Pastors are former Navy men. My Academy Principal is ex-Navy. Three of my deacons are current career Navy men. These Navy men understand a very important principle. Ships are designed to operate in the water, but the water is not supposed to get into the ship. God help the ship that lets the water get inside. Our churches are "in the world, but not of it", our churches are supposed to function in the world, but God help us if we let the world into our churches. Think about it.


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