Music in Worship from Heritage Presbyterian Church

I found the following at the Heritage Presbyterian Church, in Edmond, OK, website. It is one of the best philosophies of music I have ever seen. It cuts through the chatter found in the worship wars. We meet in worship to please God, not to be pleased by our musical fancies. The following captures that essence.

Before formulating a view of music in the church, rather than taking a harder look at music (the common method in these discussions), we need to take a better look at the church. As has been pointed out by authors such as David F. Wells, the church is not a vendor of religious goods and services. It is not just one more store among the stores at the mall where everyone can be catered to as consumers. It is exactly the opposite: a place where satisfaction is found in denying oneself, a place where you come not to have your personal preferences met, but your personal preferences changed. The church is a place where you ought to assume that most of your natural inclinations are wrong, but will be set aright.

This helps us understand that the church’s music must not be the defining factor in worship. It is the defining factor for your radio station choice, for your tapes and CDs and TV channels (all consumer products whose purpose is to please you), but music has an altogether different purpose in worship.

Any time the church sets out to accommodate, rather than amend, a variety of personal preferences, it will be damaged. We live in a culture that promises you a situation where, for a minimal charge, as Garrison Keillor describes Lake Woebegon , all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average–and with good customer service to boot. The motto of consumerism is “more of what I want is better.” We simmer in this philosophy from childhood having our affections molded and shaped to be good consumers. And sadly, this is what we begin to expect from the church. No doubt, it is an extraordinary challenge trying to convince people that music in worship is absolutely nothing like consumer music, which is most of the music in our lives.

Our music-in-worship philosophy is this: the corporate music should be doctrinally dense (as in the Psalms), aesthetically rich (the Lord cares about beauty), communally held (people know a lot of it by heart), and historically representative (both older songs and newer songs that pass the first three criteria). This means we have fewer hymns and Psalms overall (maybe 150-200 so that we and our children can sing without so much discovery every week), selected by trained people (those qualified to evaluate if the tune is accessible to both older and younger people and if it fits the attitude of the text), representing Protestant history proportionally (meaning we have more older than newer).

And in all of this, we are happy and glad to stand next to our brothers and sisters in Christ and help them sing a song they enjoy that we don’t necessarily like, knowing that next time they’ll help us sing a song we enjoy that they don’t necessarily like. In this way in worship, we are denying ourselves and making a bold attempt to bring unity to the church. This may not make for a big church of consumers, but at least it treats the church as the Bible does: as the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God.

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