About five years ago I found myself deeply challenged by some questions that a friend raised about the way we did church. “Why do we have to have a sermon? And why does there have to be music? Why are we doing church like this and is there a better way to do it?” I had been leading worship for almost ten years at that point and found this question both disturbing and exciting. Why were we doing congregational worship the way we were doing it? Do we even need music in our gatherings? Are we just giving people a concert and a TED talk and merely throwing our flavor of religion on it? These questions led me to think much more deeply about why we do what we do than I ever had before. After researching scripture, history, and some other relevant fields, my discomfort slowly gave way to a much deeper appreciation for our corporate worship gatherings.
Worship combines music with the Word of God
Worship (or at least the musical portion of our gathering) is framed around two seemingly unconnected elements: music and the Word of God. Let’s look at these in depth before we draw some conclusions.
Music transcends linguistic and cultural boundaries. Melodies are more than just art; they are an expression and reflection of the soul. Music is the universal language. Have you ever heard a song that excited you in a moment of triumph, calmed you in a moment of anxiety, or brought you to tears in a moment of pain? Melodies are a gift from God to man, to express the heart and resonate with the emotions. Music has the power to bypass our brains and get right to our hearts. You might not be musically inclined, or you might not even be in touch with your emotions, but the evidence is overwhelming, even biblical. David’s skills on the harp were often the only thing that could soothe the torment of King Saul once God’s Spirit had left him. Music communicates what language sometimes fails to articulate. Music doesn’t just express the soul; music has the power to MOVE the soul.
The Word of God is eternal. Before all things were, there was the Word of God. All things came to exist by God’s Word and are sustained by God’s Word. What we know about God has been revealed to us by Him, by His Word. God’s Word is Truth, and we live our lives in light of the grace that is revealed to us by the Word of God. The book of John tells us that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among men in the person of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’ sacrifice (and His sacrifice alone) that cleanses us and reconciles us to God, makes us sons and daughters of the High King of the Universe, and gives us access to the great and precious promises of our Father. We would do well to STOP underestimating the Word of God.
A perfect pairing
The point is this: we are emotional beings, for better or for worse. What feels natural is to be led by our emotions and allow them to dictate our existence, but there is a deeper reality that we as believers are called to live in. We sing and play the worship songs that we play as a means of pairing the universal language of music with the eternal reality of God’s Word. When we come together to worship, our emotions might be crazy, but our hope is not in an emotional response. Our hope is in Christ alone, revealed through the unchanging Word of God. We gather together to worship to express God’s greatness, remember His love and move our souls to the place of obedience. Even Jesus, when He was tempted in the wilderness, came back at the devil with the Word. In a moment of trial or wandering, you might not remember the full text of John 1, but you might catch yourself singing “You were the Word at the beginning.” This is why we worship.
We live in a chaotic world that is constantly changing and our emotions are even more fickle than the circumstances we find ourselves in. We choose to gather and respond to God via music to remind ourselves of the eternal reality of God’s Word. Our world trains us to let our emotions modify our worship. We do what we do to train ourselves to let our worship modify our emotions.
Ryan Galloway is the Worship Director at New Covenant Church in Pompano Beach. If you’re a worship leader interested in getting involved with Village Hymns, please email [email protected] or visit our website at villagehymns.com. Read more articles about Village Hymns at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/