In this section you will find a series of articles written by Pastor Balthrop discussing some particular distinctives of corporate worship at Redeemer Reformed Church. Popular humanism defines man as homo sapiens, thinking man, but we believe that God created man primarily as a worshipper: homo adorans. As such, Redeemer places a high premium on worship of the Triune God. It is our hope that these articles will assist you in becoming better acquainted with who we are and why we do what we do.
Music in Worship
Before plunging into the topic of music in church, we need to start with a firm idea of what church is (and, by extension, what it isn’t). I’d like to go on the record for stating that the church is not a vendor of religious goods and services. We should not think of all the churches in our town as so many stores at the mall where you can choose which one will cater to your needs. Church is exactly the opposite! Church is where you go to find satisfaction in denying yourself. You shouldn’t come to church to have your preferences met but to have your preferences changed. Church is where you should assume that your natural inclinations are wrong but will be set right.
I don’t tell you this to step on your toes (well, not entirely!), but to help you understand that when we think of the music used in worship the defining rule is not what you like or prefer. When you buy CDs, choose your radio station, or organize your Ipod playlist, your preference is the guiding force because these are all consumer products whose function is to please. Music in worship has an altogether different purpose.
From childhood on, we simmer in this consumer-geared world such that our whole worldview is molded to make us good consumers. If we don’t like what we buy, we return it. If we want to be wise consumers, we read the reviews of the product. If the product doesn’t live up to what was advertised, we complain. Sadly, this has shaped our expectations for church as well. Perhaps worse is that there is no shortage of consumers who have started churches that are out there vying for your business. They foster this unbiblical state of affairs.
Whenever a church sets out to accommodate to personal preferences instead of desiring to amend personal preferences, the church will be compromised. No doubt it is an extraordinary challenge to convince people that worship music is not the same as consumer music, but to simply be carried along on the current of popular opinion is not the church’s place.
Our philosophy on worship music is fourfold. We believe that corporate music should be:
- Doctrinally dense (God cares about content.)
2. Aesthetically rich (God cares about beauty.)
3. Communally held (In order for worship to be corporate, we want people to know a lot of it by heart).
4. Historically representative (Older and newer songs will need to pass the first three criteria).
This works out to be fewer hymns and Psalms overall (probably 150-200) which means that we (and our children) can sing without a great deal of new material every week. These are selected by trained people who are qualified to evaluate (1) if the tune is accessible to both older and younger people, (2) if it fits the attitude of the text, and (3) whether it is representative of Protestant history.
We find that this gives us the opportunity to practice denying ourselves while promoting unity in the church. There will be times when we will sing a song that you don’t enjoy, but we hope that you can happily stand next to your brothers and sisters in Christ and help them sing a song they enjoy (just like they’ll do for you with a song you enjoy but they don’t). This won’t make us a big church of consumers, but we’re okay with that. We’d rather be a church described as the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God.
The next article in this series is Liturgy in Worship (Why We Have a Formal Worship Service).