Theme: God-Centered and Mind-Engaging
In this week’s lessons, we learn how this last psalm teaches and exhorts everyone, everywhere to praise the LORD.
Scripture: Psalm 150:1-6
In yesterday’s study we looked at those churches that forbid the use of instruments in worship. But there is another side to this controversy as well. We look at that side in today’s study.
2. Those who would employ everything in worship. There are Christians who would use the arguments I have just used to justify putting anything and everything into a worship service, and not everything should be used in this way.
Here is where the cautions come in. First, there are pragmatic matters. Not all music promotes worship for most people. Hard rock suggests a nightclub or disco setting for most people and ought to be rejected for that reason. On the other side of the musical spectrum, orchestral instruments are intrinsically secular for other people since they conjure up images of a concert hall or an opera house. They will not work as worship instruments for these people.
The other important matter is how the instruments are used and for what purpose. Are they effective in directing thoughts to God? Or do they focus our thoughts on the one who is playing them instead? One measure of whether they contribute to worship or direct our praise to the performer is whether or not the congregation applauds when the music is finished. If people applaud, chances are that they are praising the performer and not thinking about God at all. This is one reason why the use of instruments in worship is best linked to singing. Instruments improve our singing and move us by enhancing the thoughts we are expressing. It is hard to conceive of a congregation applauding itself for a well-sung hymn.
Roy Clements, the English Baptist pastor, endorses variety in worship, and he knows there are times when worship should be enthusiastic. But he also knows that if worship is to be true worship, it must be God-centered and must engage the mind. “It simply won’t do to come and do my own musical thing in church and call that praise,” Clements says. He offers these thoughtful cautions:
All too often the pop singer, the beat guitarist and the jazz drummer of today are idols. And Christian groups can be infected with the same kind of worldly pride. The applause and admiration of others can quickly become an intoxicating drug that mars those who want to stand up and sing for Jesus. Worship in music has to begin and end with Alleluia, Praise the Lord. And for that reason, it is not the professionalism of the performance that counts, though it is right to do our best; it is not the genius of the composition or the profundity of the words that matter, because if that was the case the tambourine player would be a bit limited, wouldn’t he? No, it is the intended audience that counts. It is the One whom we are intending to see glorified in what we are doing that determines whether the music is real music in praise of God or not.1
1Roy Clements, Songs of Experience: Midnight & Dawn through the Eyes of the Psalmists (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1993), pp. 204, 205.
Discuss what guidelines should be considered in using instruments in worship.
What can be wrong with “performing” worship music for an audience? Is there a place for applause in worship?
Application: Are there any principles seen thus far in this study that could be used to evaluate your own church’s worship practices, or your own personal views on worship?