Worship and Music
God is Great! Certainly one of the greatest joys of my life is serving you, and serving with you, in Christ’s church here at Scofield. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragements. Your expressions of appreciation for the ministry efforts are always cherished. Thank you for the opportunity to serve in some unexpected and unique ways too! It is always a privilege. Amy and I consider it a great honor to be here with you. The days grow more precious as the years pass by. We cannot imagine our lives without our wonderful church family. My heart’s greatest desire is that God’s grace and mercy will be so profound and so deeply imbedded in our hearts that His love pours from us as a never ending stream of joy. God indeed is good!
You know, music is my primary area of ministry. However, we really don’t talk much about music in the life of our church. We are a singing church and we engage in a lot of music! What a blessing! It is never a challenge to get us to participate in music! But, because we don’t talk much about music it means that I have never really shared my conviction and heart for music ministry and what that means for the church. Though I could probably write volumes on the subject of music in the church let me share just a snippet about music ministry at Scofield.
I believe that one unique thing about Scofield is that our approach to music is really a bit different than what is found in the typical American evangelical church. Perhaps we’re not so different in the songs that we sing or the instruments that we use. But, I believe that we possess a different way of thinking; perhaps a different posture toward music. Today church models saturate the evangelical church culture. But, at Scofield our music is not driven by a church model philosophy. Also, today “style” dominates the conversation about music in the evangelical church culture. But, at Scofield our music is not driven in pursuit of a particular style. In addition, today demographic targeting is a major practice in the evangelical church culture. However, at Scofield our music is not crafted toward, or to draw, a particular demographic. What’s more, today many evangelical churches work to craft a specific visual impact using theatrical staging and mood-lighting is as a major emphasis in the “worship experience.” At Scofield our music is not tailored with such things in mind.
Our conviction is that worship is about God and worship is for God. Therefore, worship is to be directed to Him – to glorify Him. We believe that music exists for this purpose. So, to that end we sing songs that iterate and echo biblical truths. Also, we sing songs that provide opportunities for expressions from the heart. We desire to demonstrate joy, hope, gratitude, dependence and humility before our saving Lord. We strive to direct our hearts to God as we lay our lives before Him. Our passion is to lift high the name of the Lord and to sew His truth, love and grace into the very fabric of our hearts as we worship.
Consider the request of the hymn writer who states, “tune my heart to sing Your grace.” Wow! What a word picture. Imagine a guitar or piano that is out of tune and sounds awful. Then is tuned and straightened where it makes pleasing and agreeable tones in harmony with itself and other instruments. Imagine our hearts being tuned like a piano to resonate beautifully with the truth of God and with His heart. You see, I believe that the true value of music in the church is found in its declarations of God, in the heart of the worshipper, in a posture of humility, in exuberant celebration and joy – all focused on God! So to that end, here at Scofield many musical methods are embraced which, can render a somewhat eclectic time of music on Sunday mornings. For example, some Sundays are filled with songs of praise and hymns accompanied by the praise band. Yet, others Sundays we have organ and piano and resounding old and new hymns of the faith. Some Sundays we actually sing A cappella – with no accompaniment. Yet, while musical variety abounds in the life of our church there is consistency; consistency of motivation and purpose of heart. The conviction and direction always remains the same – to glorify God and tune our hearts to Him.
To borrow a word from our evangelical culture, many church-goers this is called “blended.” This term can conjure many images in the mind of the modern day Christian. Some might think when the term “blended” is used that it conveys a sense of, well… attempting to be politically correct in the life of a multi-generational church. That blended is a philosophy of appeasement – perhaps where compromise is being sought. For others when the term “blended” is used it communicates staleness and rigidity. An unwillingness to let go of what has always been done – perhaps communicating a sense of “quid pro quo.”
But, there is a flaw in this way of thinking. Why? Because it is man centered. Let me ask you join me in departing from these ways of thinking. Let’s set aside thinking in terms of how music appeals to man’s desires. Let’s stop asking questions that may sound like this, “How does our music meet or satisfy the perceived needs, wants and desires of people,” or “What role does music play in the attraction and attendance-growth agenda of church?” Instead, let’s consider the mission of the gospel and what role music plays in cultivating a heart for God. Let’s focus on the God content of the songs that we sing.
A friend once shared a quote with me, “music is the handmaid of the gospel.” What a beautiful statement. In today’s evangelical culture music is sometimes viewed as an event or an autonomous program within the church. However, music is not a stand-alone ministry in the framework of the gospel, or the church. Music in the church is under the authority of the Bible and works to serve the purposes of the gospel of Christ. Music in the life of the church is not art for the sake of art. Rather, it is art that depicts the beauty, majesty and grace of Almighty God. Music is not a gimmick to be exploited to attract a particular age group or crowd of people. Music in the church is for all people to join together heart-to-heart to worship the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Music is a gift from God and it has been given for our use to honor Him and to train our thoughts upon Him. In His mercy God gives us music so that we can lift our love to Him. Dr. Ron Allen, Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Seminary, in his book “The Wonders of Worship” states, “The question we need to ask at the end of every worship service is not, Did I enjoy it? Instead the question should be, Was God honored by my worship?”
When our life vision is oriented toward God’s priorities then all of our desires begin to fall in line with His heart. It is here, when our lives are focused on Him, that we then become participants in the work of the gospel and we are no longer mere consumers of a church product. It is only here, when we seek to bend our lives to His purposes, when we truly seek Him first, that the work of the gospel in us – and the gospel work through us truly takes root.
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.”
“ May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works –
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
May God reign supreme in our hearts and lives. May our eyes focus upon Him and our ears tune to His glories.