Music

Psalm Singing: Why and How

PsalmsFirst appearance at SharperIron posted 2/12/09.

In many conservative gospel-preaching churches, the only thing rarer than drums is Psalms singing. This seems particularly odd in view of the fact that most of these churches insist on musical worship that is biblical, that is deeply rooted in history, and that has stood the test of time. What songs are more biblical, more historically rooted, and more timeless than the 150 songs that God Himself breathed out more than 2,000 years ago?

Why sing Psalms?

Every worship leader should serve with the conviction that the flock he leads needs to be singing the psalms regularly in corporate worship services. This conviction is rooted in three realities.

First, the psalms are songs. In other words, they were originally written as poetry to be sung. As songs, then, these compositions cannot be fully appreciated or experienced as God intended them to be apart from singing. Experiencing the psalms in a non-musical way would be like trying to experience Handel’s Messiah by simply reading the text. So while the psalms need to studied, prayed, and preached, we also need to experience them as worship songs.

Second, the psalms are God-breathed songs. The book of Psalms is the only God-breathed hymnal in existence. That fact should carry some weight when we make decisions about which songs to include in corporate worship!

Third, by example and command the New Testament urges believers in Jesus Christ to sing psalms. Apparently Jesus led His disciples in singing a psalm after the last supper (Matt. 26:30). Worship in the early church included Psalms singing (1 Cor. 14:26). Also, the Bible clearly urges New Testament believers to sing psalms as an evidence of Spirit-controlled living (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

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How a Worship Format is Destroying the Evangelical Church

During my lifetime, many evangelical churches in American have moved from Bible-oriented gatherings to music-dominated meetings. Interestingly, both sets of religious gatherings typically bore the title, “Worship Service.”

When the evangelical church was Bible-oriented, this “worship” paradigm was in place:

(1) Not all elements of the service were considered equally important; the exposition of Scripture was clearly the first and foremost priority. All other competitors vied for a distant second place.

(2) When the term “worship” was used, it was the equivalent of our modern casual expression, “doing church.” It is important to note that the preaching of the Word was considered part of worship, as were announcements, testimonies, communion, prayer, singing, the offering, and special music. This was the typical structure of a “worship service” before 1980.

(3) Many evangelicals viewed music as a “warm up for the sermon.” In this regard, many leaders did not seem to often respect music ministry as actual ministry but many others did.

The change

But the paradigm has changed in many churches. The most important change was what the word “worship” communicates. The word “worship” is now used by clergy and laity alike to refer to the religious feelings aroused by music.

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"In recent years, the commitment of the Free Church of Scotland to exclusive, unaccompanied psalm-singing in 'formal' worship services has wavered."

A music debate you probably didn’t know about.
Reformation21
More at What I would like the Plenary Assembly to decide

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