Do We Really Need Musical Worship? (2022)

Audio Transcript

Jeremy writes in with today’s question: “Dear Pastor John, I have served for the past seven years as a ‘worship leader.’ Something I’ve had trouble reconciling is how worshiping God turned into singing trendy praise songs in a community setting. Does it derive from the Levites and appointed leaders in the Old Testament? I have a hard time finding something relatable in the New Testament. In fact, one of the Scriptures that I find most denotes what worship is comes from Romans 12 where Paul tells the church in Rome that worship is giving of one’s self completely to God. Long question short, what brings us the corporate musical worship that inhabits almost every church today?”

(Video) Do We Really Need Musical Worship?

Let’s just overlook the use of the word trendy, because I doubt that is really what he is asking. I don’t think he expects to find in the Bible a justification for trendy. I think his question really is: Why do we sing for a half an hour in worship services all over the world? Why do we do it that way?

“Look for prescribed patterns and emphases in the New Testament. Singing and preaching are central.”

So, let me try to go at that and see what I can do. I would define worship as anything we do which gives expression to the supreme, all-satisfying worth of God. That is worship, which would include both offering my body to be burned in martyrdom (1 Corinthians 13:3), because I am showing how precious Christ is to me, that I am willing to give up my life for him. And it would include my singing, my heartily offering up my voice and my heart in church as I sing, because I am giving expression to his worth as I sing a God-exalting song.

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What makes them both worship is the experience of the heart which treasures God above all things. That is the essence of worship: the experience of the heart. Jesus says your heart is far from you. You worship me with your lips (Matthew 15:8–9). This is a zero worship. So, the essence of worship is a heart that treasures God above all things. The universe was created so that human beings would do everything we do and use everything we have to display the supreme worth of God. And in an ideal world all is, thus, worship.

Now, how does it come about that today most evangelical services around the world, at least the parts I have been to and that I look at online, have an extended time of singing at the front-end and preaching at the back-end? Here is my best effort to give an account for this. When you compare — this is the most important thing I am going to say; this is a little observation here — when you compare the Old Testament and the New Testament, something startling emerges with regard to worship. In the Old Testament, there is an extremely detailed set of guidelines for how everything should be done in relationship to the tabernacle and the sacrifices and the way people come to God. In the New Testament, those details are almost completely lacking. I am tempted to say completely lacking. There is no way anybody could construct a normative worship service from what we have in the New Testament. Lots of people think they can, but I don’t think so. There is more tradition going on there than they realize.

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My opinion about why this is so is that the Old Testament was a “come see” religion with all of redemptive history focused on a culturally unified ethnic people called Israel, and the New Testament is a “go tell” religion with no ethnic center, no geographic center, no cultural center. And, therefore, the New Testament is written so as to be a manual of theology and life, useful in all cultures and all the peoples of the world, which is why it should be translated into all the languages of the world. If the New Testament had given detailed guidelines for what a worship service should be, it would have enshrined one first century culture to be imposed on all the cultures of the world. It would have been a colossal failure given what God designs for his church to look like all over the world as it becomes embedded in, incarnate in all the cultures of the world.

So, to explain why there is so much singing and why there is preaching, I don’t think you look for prescribed patterns in the New Testament. You look for emphases, trajectories, implications, the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of his mind, the nature of his emotions, the nature of salvation, the nature of gifts. And what you find is that there is an extraordinary centrality and emphasis to the word of God in the Christian life, and there is at least one example of preaching mandated in the context of worship: 2 Timothy 4:1–2. And as we would expect from the Old Testament legacy of singing, there is a good bit of singing in the New Testament and pictures of it in the age to come.

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“I expect we will always be singing new songs and old songs.”

There are a couple of texts, at least, that say it should be done corporately. Let me just give you a flavor of singing in the New Testament. Heaven in Revelation is full of song. “And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!’” (Revelation 15:3). And James says, “Is any one [among you] cheerful? Let him sing” (James 5:13).

Then Paul says, “I will sing with my spirit, and I will sing with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15). And, again, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). And then he says the same thing, almost, in Ephesians 5:18–19, only here he makes it clear that it is corporate. He says, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

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And you got this same Paul — bless his heart; I just love this guy — at midnight, feet in stocks, having been beaten with many blows, and he and Silas are singing (Acts 16:25). They are singing hymns to God, which means he knew some hymns by heart. Singing was so much a part of Paul’s life. You don’t usually think of Paul as a singer, but as a logician who pounds out Romans on an anvil of truth. You are like: No, no, no, no. He sang in tongues and he sang intelligible language and he sang in prison. He probably sang on the road and sang in the boats and sang while he was clinging to the shards of wood in the sea. This man was a singer big time. And where did he get that? Jesus sang. He sang. Mark 14:26, “When they had sung a hymn” — he and his apostles — “they went out to the Mount of Olives.” The last thing he does with his disciples, almost, is sing with them.

And, of course, the New Testament loves the Psalms, and the songs are full of commands to sing over and over. Five times I think it says: Sing a new song (Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1). And Jesus says that his new covenant scribes, the writers, are going to be “like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52). So, I expect we will always be singing new songs and old songs, and I don’t know if the word trendy is helpful. I think new is great. I hope we will, anyway.

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So, it doesn’t seem at all surprising to me that over the centuries Christians would come together to corporately express the infinite value of God by lifting their voices and lifting their hearts in song about his worth, and that they would crave to hear the voice of God heralded from his word. Of course, lots more could be said about why we do what we do in worship. But that is pretty much why I feel so at home today in worship services like this, provided — this is a huge provision — provided the preaching and the singing are radically God-centered, Christ-exalting, gospel-rich, Bible-saturated, singable, and authentic through and through.

FAQs

Why do we need music in worship? ›

Music has a way of piercing into the deep parts of our soul, that assists in our expression and response to God and to the church. Singing helps unites us to the church. The gospel alone unites believers to one another. However, music is a tool that allows us to do so.

How important is worship in your life? ›

Worship can shift your mindset and change your perspective on the world. Worship can push you into your destiny and cleanse you of your past. Worship heals wounds and breaks generational curses. Worship, lets you hear God and lets God hear you.

What the Bible says about musical worship? ›

Music is used to teach the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace …” (Col. 3:16), and “making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph.

Why is true worship important? ›

Worship refocuses our thinking and feelings. Worship is the route to fellowship with God. Worship shows that God reigns in our lives. And Worship reinforces the truth about yourself and about God.

Can you worship without music? ›

Worshiping without music can take many forms. It can be expressed in following the first and second commandments, dance, art, acts of service, generosity, fellowship, prayer, obedience, and the study of scripture. Worship without music is another way to express the contents of one's heart.

Is music a worship to God? ›

Christians worship with music because it is an expression of praise, glory, honor, and reverence to the Lord. The people of God have worshiped this way over the course of history, therefore, Christians today follow in this example.

What is worship and its importance? ›

Worship involves heart, mind, soul and strength, too. The fact that we believe God says something about his worthiness. The fact that we trust him and love him declares that he is worthy of love and trust. The fact that we obey him also says that he has worth.

What does worship mean to us? ›

To worship is to show a lot of love and adoration for something. Religious believers worship gods, and people can worship other people and things too. Worship is an extreme form of love — it's a type of unquestioning devotion. If you worship God, then you love God so much that you don't question him at all.

Why worship is so powerful? ›

Well, worship is a powerful tool. It is the means whereby we invite God's presence into our lives and into our world. Worship has a way of changing our lives and giving us different perspectives on how we see our circumstances. It is an incredible blessing to see life from God's point of view instead of our own.

Why worship is important according to the Bible? ›

First, we worship Jesus because of his divinity; next, we worship Jesus because of his supremacy; then we worship Jesus because of his humanity; and finally, we worship Jesus because of his humility. First, we worship Jesus because of his divinity. You see, Jesus' divinity was disclosed on the Mount of Transfiguration.

What is the power of God's music? ›

Singing together to the Lord embeds the message of His love in our minds and souls. It is a powerful ministry of teaching and encouragement that we share together. Whether our hearts cry out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10), or joyfully shout, “And he will reign forever and ever” (Rev.

What is the importance of worship in the Bible? ›

To worship in truth is to ground our life in God's truth, in His eternal Word, the Bible. We cannot worship however we want and do whatever we feel like. To worship is to bow before God and to delightfully follow His orders. We get to do what God says and not follow after the sin that used to enslave us.

What God says about worship? ›

Worship is a spiritual act that happens when your spirit connects with God's Spirit. Notice what Jesus says in John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." Because of this requirement, worship is reserved for those who are in fellowship with God.

What are three reasons we worship God? ›

7 Reasons Why We Worship
  • We worship God because of who He is. ...
  • We worship God because of what He has done for us. ...
  • We worship God because He commands us to. ...
  • We worship God to bless and honor Him. ...
  • We worship God because we love Him. ...
  • We worship God because of what He is doing on the earth.
16 Dec 2016

How can I praise God without music? ›

' For many, that's a real challenge, because they can no longer sing their heart out and praise God as they desire.
...
10 ways to worship without singing
  1. Use your mind & heart. ...
  2. Use your breath. ...
  3. Use your legs. ...
  4. Use your hands. ...
  5. Use your feet. ...
  6. Use your fingers. ...
  7. Use your ears. ...
  8. Use your eyes.
30 Sept 2020

Does all religion use music in their worship? ›

The relationship between music and religion can be found across many different religions such as Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Since ancient times, religious ceremonies and worship have always involved music and this has been evidenced by traditions across different cultures and geographic regions.

Can you imagine living without music? ›

It is impossible to imagine our life without music. It accompanies us throughout our lives. Music has the ability to lift someone's spirits and rest them. Music also allows us to feel nearly or potentially all of the emotions we experience in our life, which is crucial.

What worship music means? ›

Contemporary worship music (CWM), also known as praise and worship music, is a defined genre of Christian music used in contemporary worship. It has developed over the past 60 years and is stylistically similar to pop music.

What is the power of music? ›

Research findings have demonstrated that music supports our physical, mental and emotional health. It can help in regulating our emotions, improving our mood, and enhancing productivity and concentration, and it can even help us sleep better.

Is worship music a form of prayer? ›

Worship music is a type of gospel music that brings together elements of worship, devotion and prayer but through it, people experience different feelings such as bitterness, sadness, despair, remorse, shame or guilt as they grieve over sin.

What happens when we worship God? ›

Newberg explains that faith placed in a loving God can prolong our lives, lower feelings of depression, anxiety or grief and give greater meaning to life. Worship music is deeply beneficial to the worshipper because it aligns us with the Holy Spirit and the heart of God, setting us free.

Is worship for us or God? ›

Worship Is Not About Us

And it's not about the pastor and the message. Worship Is About Our Father God. Worship is about the Lord. Its purpose is to honor and exalt Him.

How do we worship? ›

Here are some things to do throughout the day to spend your time more intentionally with God.
  1. Start Your Day With Him. ...
  2. Pray Intentionally. ...
  3. Write Down Things You Are Thankful For. ...
  4. Notice Your Complaints and Turn Them Into Praise. ...
  5. Enjoy God's Creation. ...
  6. Love Others. ...
  7. Love Yourself.

What is the benefit of worship to believers? ›

Worshipping God renews your heart. It opens you up to experience true joy through your trials and peace that passes all understanding. As you worship God more, you'll begin to cultivate a continual well of joy and peace in your life — no matter what circumstances you are going through.

Why did God create worship? ›

God brought the world into existence and as the capstone of this good work, he created people in his image so that they could share in his overflowing love, grace and goodness through their relationships with the Trinity. God did not need the world or need people because God has no lack.

What is the true purpose of music? ›

Music's purpose is to express and modulate emotion. Music's primary use is mood control. We sing lullabies to soothe babies – which works very well when language fails.

What is the main purpose of music? ›

Reasons for creating music include ceremonial purposes, recreational purposes, and artistic expression. A composer or musician may have more than one purpose in mind when composing/performing a piece of music.

Is music a gift of God? ›

Music is a gift of God and part of the created order.

5:13), creation is musical. “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.” Human music-making participates in the music of creation and reflects the order, beauty, and diversity of God's creation.

What is the most important purpose of a place of worship? ›

Having a place of worship is important for Christians as it provides the opportunity to feel closer to God, to meet other Christians with the same beliefs and to feel like a part of a community of believers who regularly come together to express their faith.

Why worship is important according to the Bible? ›

First, we worship Jesus because of his divinity; next, we worship Jesus because of his supremacy; then we worship Jesus because of his humanity; and finally, we worship Jesus because of his humility. First, we worship Jesus because of his divinity. You see, Jesus' divinity was disclosed on the Mount of Transfiguration.

What are three reasons we worship God? ›

7 Reasons Why We Worship
  • We worship God because of who He is. ...
  • We worship God because of what He has done for us. ...
  • We worship God because He commands us to. ...
  • We worship God to bless and honor Him. ...
  • We worship God because we love Him. ...
  • We worship God because of what He is doing on the earth.
16 Dec 2016

Do all religions need a place of worship? ›

People of all religions have their own physical places of worship. Such as mosques, churches, Buddhist temples, synagogues and even ancient Egyptian temples that were in use thousands and thousands of years ago.

What is the positive effect of place of worship? ›

Regular attendance at religious services is linked to healthy, stable family life, strong marriages, and well-behaved children. Religious worship also leads to a reduction in the incidence of domestic abuse, crime, substance abuse, and addiction.

What God says about worship? ›

Worship is a spiritual act that happens when your spirit connects with God's Spirit. Notice what Jesus says in John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." Because of this requirement, worship is reserved for those who are in fellowship with God.

Why did God create worship? ›

God brought the world into existence and as the capstone of this good work, he created people in his image so that they could share in his overflowing love, grace and goodness through their relationships with the Trinity. God did not need the world or need people because God has no lack.

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