Some thoughts on Redeemer's worship music
May 26th, 2010
Often the first question we ask about a church is: "What is their worship like?" And by this, we usually mean "is it contemporary or traditional? Do they use guitars or an organ?" These are fine questions to ask, but there are more important ones too, like "What is worship really all about?" Before you read this post, let me encourage you to read the previous post entitled, "What is Worship Really All About?" because what we believe worship to be should influence our practice of it.
O.K., you read the other post, right?
Now, here are some thoughts on Redeemer's philosophy of worship music.
Our worship should be characterized by both reverence and great joy.
The primary function of our worship music is to assist the congregation as we together respond to God in various ways through singing. The goal of worship music is corporate singing. Therefore, our music must always enable, not detract from, corporate singing. Music should aid and facilitate God’s people singing to Him. It is not a show, but rather accompaniment. It should not be overpowering.
Our worship liturgy follows a cycle which takes us through the gospel week by week. Worship is dialogical, which means that it is a conversation, initiated by God, in which He speaks to His people and we respond. The people must always be given a voice to respond. Corporate singing, prayers, and readings give the people a voice to respond. When God calls us to worship, we respond by joyfully praising God for His excellence and worth. When God convicts us of our sin through His law, we respond in confession. When God assures us of His pardon, we respond in grateful and joyful thanksgiving. When God showers His grace upon us through the Word and sacraments, we respond to what He has given us.
The hymnbook which God originally gave to His people was the Psalter. (Since God has given us inspired psalms, we will work to incorporate them into our singing.) The psalms are filled with the whole range of human emotions. God does not expect us to turn off our emotions in worship, but rather to bring them to Him. The psalms, and so all music that we sing, give opportunity for expressing various emotions. Yet the primary function of the psalms is not expressive, but formative. God wants to spiritually shape us and mature us through what we sing. Often we may not feel the things we are singing and might think this is hypocritical. But God puts on our lips the very words He desires to actually shape our hearts and motives in the process of our worship.
While worship should be a place where we express our emotions, those emotions must flow from and be a response to various truths about God, His character, His law, our sin, and His grace and His redemption. We should not have to “work up” our emotions. Some tunes can manipulate our emotions and yet be void of any deep theological truths which drive those emotions.
Transcendence and Immanence
Worship must reflect the transcendence – “otherness”, holiness – of God. And it must also reflect the immanence of God – the fact of His nearness to us in Christ. God is wholly other, but He is also Immanuel – God with us. Since God is holy and awesome, loving, merciful, and kind, we worship Him with both reverence and great joy.
Ancient and Indigenous
Our worship must seek to be both ancient and indigenous. By ancient, we mean that our worship is rooted in the long history of God’s people. Through the ages, God has gifted His Church with wonderful hymns. We want to draw on the rich treasures God has given to His Church and find joy in being a part of a long, continuous stream of believers that has been flowing for thousands of years.
By indigenous, we mean that our worship must also take into account our particular context – our geographic location and our place in history. God has always contextualized His communication to His people. The Bible was written in the common language of its recipients and took into account the culture in which they lived. The Incarnation of Jesus is the ultimate example of contextualization. God became a man to live among men. He became a Jewish man amongst Jewish people and lived in their culture. The church’s worship must take into account the culture in which it finds itself. We must acknowledge our context, the time and place where God has put us to live, and embrace the fact that God is still at work through gifted writers and musicians.
Our worship music will be theologically rich and we will strive for excellence, realizing that our ultimate worth and acceptance is not based on our ability to perform for God, but on the fact that Jesus performed perfectly on our behalf.
-We will draw on rich hymns of the past, largely from the Trinity Hymnal.
-Redeemer will also seek to incorporate the psalms into our singing.
-We will seek to incorporate the best of the new hymnody being produced today that is both theologically accurate and musically excellent.
While we expect our worship music and instrumentation to develop over time, our basic core instrumentation will seek to include guitar(s), piano, violin, bass, and drums (djembe or congas, and possibly a “subdued and not overpowering” drum set).