Worship: Does Music Matter?

I am not musical. I have told my husband before that I think I could do just fine without the music portion of a worship service. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy music. It’s just that trying to focus on singing something close to the right note and singing it at the right  time can be very distracting. You know that person who gets excited and belts out an awkward, squeaky note completely solo at the wrong time because they have no sense of rhythm? That’s me.

Just give me that twenty minutes to reflect quietly on God’s goodness and pray silently—I could probably offer Him just as much of my heart that way as I could singing the words to a song that someone else wrote.

Well, this week I had an experience that forced me to revisit my attitude about the power of music in worship. We do our morning run at a middle school track near our home. Lately, a college marching band has been using the corresponding field to practice for an upcoming international competition.

A couple of days ago, a young lady was alone near one end of the field, trying to master what seemed to be a difficult part on her French horn. It sounded ghastly, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the nature of the tune. It felt like something struggling, faltering and spiraling downward, ending in a low, emphatic whomp tone. I’m sure Eeyore must have composed it.

I was on my last couple of laps and exhausted, needing motivation to push through. I noticed that when we came near enough to hear the French horn, I felt mocked and discouraged and wondered if I could  make it.

So, I concede—music is powerful and it does move people. In this particular case it was rather de-motivational. I can see, however, that song can be a means of inspiring and inviting people to experience and express their love for God. Plus, He seems to like it. Music obviously predates human history—creatures in heaven have instruments and know how to play them (Rev 5:8-9). What are the harps of God anyway (Rev 15:2-3)?

Music is associated with praise, worship, and celebration throughout the Bible. We can’t forget David (a man after God’s own heart), who was an accomplished musician and composed many worship songs. And to tell you the truth, the reason I accidentally display my lack of musical skill in a worship service is because I am moved by the lyrics, pouring my heart out to God, and I forget to attend to the painful task of getting the technical end right. In spite of the fact that it is not my gift, music inspires and invites me to worship God.

Perhaps that’s what music has always been—a beautiful way to declare adoration for God. Maybe that’s why such a large percentage of secular songs are love songs. Our natural inclination is to use music to exalt, praise, and adore. Singing about romantic love might just be the closest substitute for someone who hasn’t experienced the love of God.

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