Music is powerful. It is used to set the mood for movies, express happiness, and commiserate with us when we are depressed. It can repulse us and excite us in just a matter of seconds. One psychologist puts it this way,
"Losing yourself in the right music is an immediate, unconscious and effortless way to reframe your situation. You can swiftly defeat the black and white thinking that’s leading you to catastrophize the magnitude of this break-up or other trauma (Mark Sichel, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-therapist-is-in/200807/music-soothes-the-soul)."
In the church music is used in the same way, it sets the mood for what is coming, it is played during prayers, it used to bring us in and to send us on our way. Music has also been the cause of dissension. Some have seen drums and guitars as instruments of the devil, rock and roll was an evil to be cast out, and who would have ever thought that rap would be considered music, let alone performed in a church. People have fought and divided churches over these things. Music is powerful.
At our church we have three services, all defined by the music. The announcements are the same, the message is the same, and the environment is the same, but we segregate the congregation by their musical taste. The first service is traditional where the music is rooted in the old hymns of the faith. The second service is aimed at the baby boomers and has a 90's feel. The third service is called the contemporary service. It is always in flux because contemporary is relative, but generally the songs and style are new and often changing.
Why does the church care so much abut music? Isn't the message the most important? Music touches our soul in ways that the written and spoken word can't. Even the most stoic person in church can be seen tapping his toe with the right song. Music expresses our emotions where preaching touches our intellect. Add words to a moving melody and our hearts can be lifted to the gates of heaven.
Singing was also a teaching method to convey theological content in a way that was memorable. Singing to one another was a way to identify one's belief and confess it together. Singing, when done thoughtfully, unites people by reminding them of their common relationship in Christ. When we are confessing through song our common faith and devotion it is difficult to be scheming against one another. When we hold hands and sing "these are the ties that bind" it is hard to hold animosity in our hearts.
For some singing is the part of the service they endure before the preaching, for others it is part of the service that makes the preaching worthwhile. Which ever it is we are commanded to address or speak to each other in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, and making melody. I find it interesting that Paul says the audience of our music is one another, though the content is about our Lord. When we address one another we are confessing our unity in Christ, and we do it with the most emotional means possible. Music is powerful.
This week when you go to church and the music begins, think about the words and what your voice is telling the person next to you. Do you really believe what you are confessing? Is the room full of people united at that moment around greatness of our God? Music is powerful, I'm just saying...
Ephesians 5:19 "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,"