It Isn’t Music Theory
The purpose of our worship isn’t to teach musicianship or make great music. Learning to sing parts, follow a melodic line, and internalize rhythms are all skills that can enhance our worship. But those skills are a means to the end, not the end.
The theoretical study of the elements of music including sound, pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony, time and notation can enrich our worship. But understanding those elements isn’t necessary for worship to occur. So worship service music that focuses on theory alone without moving to the application may be great music, but not worship.
It Isn’t Necessary
The sole emphasis on music as our only worship offering may have actually hindered our worship understanding and exacerbated our worship conflicts. Music and worship aren’t exclusively synonymous. One is mandatory, the other isn’t.
Music is an artistic expression given to us so that we might offer it as a gift to God. But it isn’t the expression. So considering additional artistic options could alleviate the pressure on music to serve as the primary driver of worship renewal and consequently diminish its solitary blame for worship conflict.
It Isn’t a Substitute
Kairos or God moments might occur in our song selections but they’ve already occurred in Scripture, Prayer, and the Table. So why are we reading, petitioning, and gathering at the Table less in order to sing more?
Biblical text must be the foundation from which our songs spring forth. Prayer is not just a song connector; it is a divine conversation that gives us a reason to sing in the first place. And two relationships we try to create with our song sets are available at the Table: The vertical communion with Christ and the horizontal communion with each other. So music is an addition to, not a substitute for these Kairos moments.
It Isn’t an Inviter
He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light that we may declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9). If God is calling and we are declaring, then the invitation to show up is from Him not us.
Our music can acknowledge His presence, but it can’t generate it. It can respond to His presence, but it can’t initiate it. It can celebrate His presence, but it can’t create it.
It Isn’t a Starter or Stopper
If our worship starts when we sing the first song and stops when we sing the last one, then what are we doing the other 167 hours of the week? Loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength and also loving our neighbors as we love ourselves means worship must be continuous.
Worship can’t be contained in a song set, single location, context, culture, style, artistic expression, or vehicle of communication. So it doesn’t matter how good our worship is when we gather, it is incomplete until it continues when we scatter.
This article was originally posted on May 15, 2017 on David W. Manner’s blog here.
Dr. David Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. His convention responsibilities include worship consultation and leadership development. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for 20 years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. David writes for various online and print publications and can be followed on Twitter @DWManner or on his Worship Evaluation Blog: http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner.