The following brief summary of Paul Jones’ What is Worship Music? was written this week by Pastor Mark Hinkelman, my co-laborer here at Immanuel Bible Church. I appreciate the way Mark is working to apply some of Jones’ insights into our music ministries. My hope is that Mark’s prayer at the end of his summary not only rings true for Immanuel, but for churches all over the world!
The author begins the book by asking, “What is worship music?” Good question. I have spent the last year discussing song selection with various church members as we debate “Hymns vs. Choruses.” Jones rightly observes that worship music is “one of the most divisive issues in the church.” Jones argues that music fulfills three roles in the context of worship: Praise, Prayer, and Proclamation.
I enjoyed reading about the role music has played throughout church history. He references John Calvin, Martin Bucer, and The Strausbourg German Service Book. Calvin included singing the Psalms as “a worship element in their own right [and] . . . as a form of prayer.” I agree with Jones when he argues that the Psalms teach us how to worship. I think many church members want to pray and worship but they don’t know the words. We have the opportunity to teach them.
I was surprised to see the close relationship Jones makes between music and prayer. This is a new idea for many evangelical churches. Somehow we have disconnected the words we sing and the words we speak. Jones argues, “Any communication to God . . . is prayer.” If our prewritten worship songs are considered prayer, I am more sympathetic to those who pray prewritten prayers. He gives good advice on how to make songs singable for the congregation so more people can participate. I firmly believe that the “leading” part of “leading worship” requires people to participate. If people are not following, the leader isn’t leading.
Some movements downplay the teaching function of worship. I think that Immanuel should sing songs that are not only theologically accurate, but also theologically rich. Jones quotes Martin Luther’s statement, “music should be employed in the service of exegesis and the enlivening of the Word.” The sermon is not the only place biblical truth is communicated.
In conclusion, I am praying that Jones’ statement on page 7 rings true for Immanuel:
When worship music is properly fulfilling these roles [praise, prayer, and proclamation] according to biblical principles, discord dissipates, unity increases, and the Spirit utilizes music for its highest purpose, for man’s chief purpose–to glorify the triune God.