4. Music in Christian worship has two functions.
Music needs both to serve the text, expressing its truth appropriately, and also enable corporate worship.
Words on their own can be "prosody" with intonation, rhythm and emphasis conveying emotions, by gestures and movement. But when music combines with words, its rhythm, melody and harmony powerfully reinforce their impact. Earlier we noted in Col 3:16 and Eph. 5:19 how music expresses both "gratitude in your hearts to God", but also "speaking to one another."
Steve Guthrie (in Worship Leader Jan/Feb 2009) comments how music can help "instruct one another" in three ways:
First, individual texts - words set to music convey much more expression. "As we sing Holy, holy, holy we express hushed reverence before God, but we also explain something about holiness....the music ends up being a kind of exegesis of the text."
Second, "music can provide the interpretive frame for an entire service - or an entire church. Music can help the congregation make sense of what the minister says. Or more tremblingly- it can make nonsense out of what the minister says - ( 'The pastor said that the church lives and values each of us, but the world band acted like the rest of us weren't even here')! Such 'felt elements' contribute to an understanding of what is said.
Third, music of congregational hymns and songs offer oppportunities not only to hear the Word but to do it. For example, in responding by congregational song to "A new comandment I give you: Love one another" (John 13:34), "we have the ....opportunity to do this truth - to enact it. As we sing, we don't just imagine one church composed of many individuals; we actually hear the many voices of the body of Christ, joined into one voice.
Of course music can also be abused. Dawn suggests many further question, such as: Does the chosen style disrupt worship in anyway? Does it prevent community singing or promote it? Is this piece of music characterized by excellence and greatness to a satisfactory extent? That last one is more difficult to define!
Always there's clear danger when music becomes self-indulgent. As David Fitch warns: "Music either presents God's revelation or leads the congregation into faithful response to it. Self-expression is not worship." This may seem overharsh, but the quality of words and music in congregational worship should be about God and his purpose with his community.
How much more could be added here! Of course, your comments are welcome