Reforming Our Worship Musicby Leonard R. Payton
Twenty years ago, there was only one musical style within a worship service and therefore no debate! Now congregations are deeply divided over whether a "traditional" or a more "contemporary" approach is right
Culture-watcher Allan Bloom has said that in today's world almost nothing matters as much as music. What is true for our culture is also true for the church.
Twenty years ago, there was only one musical style within a worship service and therefore no debate! Now congregations are deeply divided over whether a "traditional" or a more "contemporary" approach is right. And yet, Christians on both sides of the issue truly love the Lord and want to see people come to Christ. So how does a church, or any member of a congregation, resolve this?
Though the Bible offers little specific instruction, it presents several examples and principles to guide Christians in establishing a biblical approach to worship music. Leonard Payton reviews some of these and gives an overview of the historical course of worship music. He then concludes with eight ideas for making music in the church meaningful and Godcentered, so that the music wars may end and we may be unified in our praise and worship.
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Evangelical worship has fallen on hard times, doctrinally and aesthetically speaking, according to author, Payton, and others; and they're right. What was once intended by God to be an integral part of the teaching and edification function of the Church--its music ministry--has become, in the hands of late-twentieth-century American Christian music 'specialists,' with their penchant for instant entertainment and sensually-saturated cultural expression, a watered-down, faintly biblical knock-off of true, historic Christian worship that is hearty, rich, full-orbed and, yes, 'masculine' like God himself (see Leon Podles' book, The Church Impotent, for an in-depth treatment of modern, feminized Christianity). Payton suggests a remedy--not a caseload of WWJD bracelets for the congregation to wear, but a carefully thought out, systematic and theologically-sound approach to the music of our formal worship of God, which he elaborates on in his book. With his extensive academic background, Payton provides an excellent if brief summary analysis of sacred music throughout history including Old and New Testament periods and the Church age to the present. He points out, effectively, that right there in the center of our Bibles, in the book of Psalms, we have all the necessary raw material for reconstructing a full-featured program of congregational worship in song and instrumental beauty, with a rich vein of aesthetically pleasing forms of prose and musical dialogue that is, as he calls it, 'doctrinally dense,' sufficient to edify the body of Christ and inspire even the most discriminating of Christian composers and musicians to produce competent, theologically-correct pieces for believers to enjoy and God to be honored aright. Rather than leaving the reader to fend for himself for detailed solutions, he provides an eight-step plan of action that is eminently realistic and practical for even the smallest congregations to implement, and can be appreciated by the non-musically inclined. I especially like his recommendation (#6) to 'get the peddlers out of the church.' As he puts it, 'the church is responsible for the ministry of the Word, not some entrepreneurs in Nashville or Orange County or suburban Chicago.' Amen. This book is a short read--well-written and obviously designed to be a 'quick-start' guide to reforming church music. And, like all other calls to corporate repentance, will be received by some and rejected or ignored by many. 'Let him who has ears to hear,. . .' A good book for the library of pastors, music leaders and laypeople alike. Paul J. Ramirez