The Place of Music in the Church

Music. How do we use it and how does it affect us? Josh reminded us several weeks back that music is an integral part of our Christian faith. Trish then gave us six reasons why music is important in our personal lives. It is a great gift that, used properly, is a God-given blessing that bolsters us as we struggle and sing our way through this life.

Beyond the personal, music also affects those around us. As Gideon brought out on Monday, “The music we listen to in private will affect the people we relate to in public.” How we use music has repercussions – in our own lives and in the life of each person we rub shoulders with.

This is readily apparent in the church. How, then, are we as individuals to use music as we gather to worship as a Christian community? Before we can answer that, we must dig a little deeper – why do we sing in church in the first place?

Music is About Worship

Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:18-19)

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 in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

The primary reason (I believe) that we’re given music in the church is worship. This is the thrust in the parallel verses Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Both start with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and end with heart-worship to God. Notice the progression: the music (specifically the lyrics) stirs our minds and our hearts. As we are stirred, we worship. And, since worship is about ascribing worth to God, it is innately outward. That is, worship – specifically worship through music – is not about us. It is about God. When we sing together, the music moves our hearts to a greater love and a more meaningful worship.

Sadly, much of modern church music misses this progression and leaves us feeling worshipful without giving us any reasons why we should worship. It short-circuits the process, giving us emotional satisfaction without spiritual stimulation. This does not mean emotional worship is wrong. It does mean emotions detached from truth are misleading and dangerous (true in all aspects of Christianity). This also does not mean all modern worship music is wrong, but it does mean that any God-honoring worship music will guide us to worship by guiding us to truth. True worship – melody from the heart – can only flow from true knowledge of the One we are worshiping.

We Are Not Alone

Just as truth guides our individual worship experiences, so it also guides our worship as a church body. We speak (Ephesians 5), teach, and admonish (Colossians 3) through singing. The church is where we, as Christians, gather to hear truth and, together, worship. And these actions are directed at each other. We usually think of worship music as directed at God. It is, but not exclusively. According to Paul, we also sing truth to each other. We proclaim the reasons why we worship, reminding each other of God’s holiness, goodness, mercy, and grace.

Note also the means we use to speak, teach, and admonish. When we hear these words, we usually associate them with actions like preaching and teaching, but in these passages Paul says they happen through music. We can proclaim the gospel – and indeed, all truth about God – through singing.

Led to Worship

Music in the church is God-focused; it is primarily about worship. Though this may feel like a narrow approach (since music incorporates so many other things), I believe this understanding serves as the bedrock for every other aspect of church music. But, though music ultimately leads to worship, that process often involves other elements. When we are discouraged, music reminds us that God is still good. It moves us from a place of despair to a place of submission and trust. When we sin, it reminds us that we are broken creatures redeemed by a gracious God who is willing to pardon our sin. Those reminders produce true worship. And many more similar things could be discussed here (feel free to add more below). The main point is, music in the church meets us where we’re at, guides us to the truth, and prepares our hearts for worship.

Through God’s good providence, the unique combination of lyrics and music ministers to our hearts in ways mere words often cannot. Let us use this gift to grow personally and as a church so that we, together, can rightly and truly worship God.


julian Julian Stoltzfus currently resides in Elnora, IN with his lovely wife, Ruthie. He has had the privilege of attending several semesters at Elnora Bible Institute since 2014, has a Christian Ministries certificate from the same, and is currently part of a pastoral apprenticeship program under Truth and Grace Mennonite Church. When not working, he enjoys tinkering around his house, diving into a good read, or fortifying relationships with family and friends. The 5th of 6, he has greatly benefited from the wisdom and influence of his parents and siblings. He longs to see authentic Christianity thrive as God transforms hearts through the gospel.

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