"… And It Was Good! …" On Diversity in Music Ministry

I never cease to be amazed at the rich diversity we see in the ministry of music. This is true not only between different denominations, but even within the same. While our biblical foundations remain consistent and uniform (notwithstanding the numerous different translations and versions of early biblical text), our approaches to music and worship are remarkably varied.

While our emphasis at Christian Sound & Song embraces blended and traditional forms, our editorial topics will frequently address special issues and challenges in implementing contemporary musical forms. Many of the technical, musical, and leadership challenges in ministry and church growth today impinge on questions of music - and often around music "with a beat." This could also be stated, "music that most of the population responds to." Rare is the true musician who doesn’t appreciate many different styles - from classical to folk music (of many cultures) - to well-produced rock.

Due to particular interest in contemporary worship forms, I recently found myself in conversation with another person of faith in my own community. They happened to belong to a church that is very conservative musically - to the point where their singing is mostly a cappella - without even piano or organ accompaniment. As a singer, I fully and truly appreciate the welcome contrast that unaccompanied portions of a song or service can bring. But I was surprised upon further query to hear that they based this view on New Testament reference to singing at the Last Supper as interpreted to be unaccompanied. Immediately, it came to mind that David (both as a shepherd boy and as a king) sang his praises boldly for the Lord - as he played the lyre or harp. Psalm 150 celebrates praising the Lord "…with the clash of cymbals..." among other instruments of celebration. This point of scripture was to no avail, as far as my friend was concerned. The Last Supper model said it all. (Oh, to have been witness to the singing of Jesus and His Disciples!)

Having sung and played guitar since adolescence, I know how even a single acoustic instrument can augment and improve a group’s songs - for melody, framework and chord structure (so singers can harmonize intelligently), and rhythm texture (so they know the tempo and feel of the song). I don’t mean to sound frivolous, but I’m inclined to believe that if Peter had been a guitar player instead of a fisherman, he’d probably have had his axe along with him in the Upper Room. As most "pickers" know, one big advantage of the guitar is its portability. Peter was called to leave his nets and his family, but perhaps could have brought a six-string along. Anybody who’s ever sung songs around a campfire knows what I mean.

The point here is that diversity in the music of worship is wonderfully enriching. And no single repertoire or approach is forever correct for any particular church - let alone for any particular denomination. Music - and especially singing - is something we share when our hearts and spirits are moved to deep expressions of emotion - especially joy. As we seek to strengthen our ministries, and breathe vitality into our worship, music is a critical piece of the puzzle. It demands a special balance of responsibility in preparation and presentation, and boldness in stretching our tastes - even as we retain the best of forms that have been with us for many, many years.

Remember, time flies faster than any of us are likely to realize. And today’s innovations are soon to become tomorrow’s traditions - the better innovations, at least.

Tom LeFevre, Editor tlefevre@soundandsong.com