Theology and the Place of Music in Worship

The power of music cannot be understated. From jingles used in commercials to theatrical productions, music catches people’s attention and draws them in. What is the role of music in church, though? Hymns are a central part of church services, but what purpose does it serve?

Grant Glas
January 12, 2022
Kids Ministry Leadership

Worshiping God through music is one of the most ancient worship customs. Enabling stories to be told, community bonds to be strengthened, and emotions to be processed, the mighty power of music is vital in churches for children and adults alike.

This article explores the different ways that music can positively affect practices of worship, both within ceremonies and the kids' ministry curriculum. Take a moment to consider the role that music plays within your church and how you can improve it.

Church concert

Story-telling through song

One of the most ancient, traditional purposes of music is storytelling of all kinds. From ancient fables and tales to important religious events, sharing events through songs is an incredible way to pass on valuable stories from one generation to another, solidifying their place in history and culture.

On top of sharing stories, songs can teach us biblical theology that we might miss otherwise. As the process of singing activates both sides of the brain, it not only spurs memory but encourages concentration, facilitating education and ultimately expressive worship.

As people tend to remember the songs they sing in church, more theology is shared through hymns than through preaching for the average churchgoer. Therefore, the hymns held in your church’s repertoire are of the utmost importance in shaping the faith of your congregation.

Worshiping through song

Singing as worship

Repeating hymns as mantras in church offers a wonderful way to worship collectively. While other instruments are incredibly beneficial in church orchestras, the human voice is prioritized as king. Singing is the highest form of expression, and so is the most appropriate way to express adoration for God.

Providing focus in prayer, singing offers a clear mind for God to enter the soul. So, praying through song is thought to be one of the most powerful methods of worship. To truly experience the benefits of singing, you must actively participate in its creation, not simply listen.

Encourage your congregation to stand up to boost engagement with the music. Displaying the words of each hymn on a screen can also help to improve concentration, so attendees won't have to worry about finding the right page in their hymnbook. 

Playing the piano

Important church instruments

While the voice is prioritized as the most valuable in Christian worship music, modern churches have found many ways to incorporate different instruments into the gospel. Instruments can add excitement to the music and have the power to bring worship songs alive.

Traditionally, the organ has been one of the most valuable instruments, offering a powerful backdrop for worshipers voices. If some (particularly younger) churchgoers find the organ to be a bit too intense, the piano is a beautiful alternative. The harp, too, has incredibly angelic qualities when played peacefully in a service.

Modern-day Christian music bands are an increasingly popular way of adding a youthful touch to worship music. Many young people feel especially connected to God when at a concert, listening to a Christian band. While this is certainly not the most traditional method of music and worship, it opens the door of Christianity to a much wider range of people.

Worship leaders singing

Gospel without instruments

The phrase "a capella" is one most of us are familiar with, and means music performed by an unaccompanied singer. But, fewer people know that its origins stem from the meaning "as in church," or "in the church style." As there are vastly more examples of Scripture that ask us to use our voices to praise God than there are encouraging the use of instruments, some churches choose to take this as a sign.

Arguably, the use of instruments and additional noises are a distraction from the beauty of the human voice. Instead of muddling play with prayer, some churches choose to separate the two and hold a separate, sacred time to be focused purely on worshiping God.

Outside of this time, songs about God may be openly embraced and enjoyed. But, this must not be confused with the time of voice, which some people believe is dedicated to pure prayer. Whether or not your church follows this stance is completely personal, as many enjoy reveling in the joy that comes with combining song and prayer.

Community singing as one

Singing as community

Helping to forge and strengthen community bonds, singing collectively has incredible power to bring people together. Singing has been shown to kick start social bonding through the release of endorphins, making us feel good as part of a team.

Getting your church members together to sing, whether in the choir or service, will create a tight-knit community feeling. Gospel unites people together and is one of the most ancient forms of community bonding that has been seen throughout history.

Not only with our immediate community and church, but singing also connects us to our forefathers, reinforcing the eternal nature of Christianity and God. Singing the same songs that were sung so many years ago connects us across time.

Feeling the music and emotion

Emotional processing through music

Why do humans love music so much? It’s because music makes us feel. If you are faced with a slow and wistful symphony, it may elicit strong feelings of sadness or melancholy. Whereas an upbeat, jovial tune can have everyone dancing and laughing in seconds.

The same can be said for music within the church. Some hymns are intended to be more thought-provoking, tugging at heartstrings and evoking powerful emotions. Whereas others are filled with happiness and gratitude, for living in this world created by God.

For this reason, the mood of the song must match the text that has been read during that ceremony. The emotional mood should be commensurate with the greater purpose of the service to add to the feeling and understanding of your congregation with genuine emotion.

Finding peace through music

Singing as meditation

Filling the air around us with melody paradoxically enables us to take a moment of internal peace. Facilitating an almost meditative state, singing from the heart equips us with the tools to pray in the purest form. 

So, whether it’s within a church setting or simply while doing chores around the home, many Christians love to fill the air around them with song. Choosing to harness this energy within the church setting gives believers a toolbox filled with religious songs to sing at all times of the day.

Kid worshiping

Religious music for children

Of course, music holds an especially valuable place in the context of kids worship music. In all elements of their youthful lives, kids are strongly drawn toward melody and music. So, make sure to incorporate an exciting mix of Christian songs into your children’s ministry curriculum.

Most of the praise and worship music that we know by heart was taught to us as children. Helping to instill dedication and commitment to God from a young age, music has a powerful impact on shaping children’s faith. Among songs, chants, dances, and stories to teach the principles of faith to little kids, none are as powerful a tool as a song.

Teaching children to pray through collective singing will help them hugely through their lives and on their spiritual journeys to God. The purpose of worship music is to connect with Christ through prayer and collective singing, so introduce kids to this early on with relevant songs throughout the children’s church curriculum.

Youth singing

God has instructed us to sing

The most important reason why we need to sing in church? We have been instructed to by God. We are all blessed with our individual, in-built instrument which can create incredibly sweet sounds and, especially when used in a group setting, it's hugely powerful.

Found in Scripture are a multitude of direct commands to sing. For example:

In Ephesians 15:9, Paul directly commands the church to: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” 

In addition to this, the Bible holds hundreds of references to the importance of song. After the Last Supper, Jesus sang words of praise and thanks, highlighting its importance in addressing matters of sincerity and importance. When we sing, we are thanking God for the gift of our voices, and we can use these voices to thank Him for everything else. 

Singing at church

How to evaluate worship in music at your church

Assessing whether or not your church is successfully harnessing the power of music in prayer is important. Asking these questions can help you to double-check that you are on the right track:

  • What theology are you expressing in your congregational songs?

Ensuring that the songs you sing are biblical and based on Scripture is vital, but making sure that they align with your church’s central philosophy is even more important. 

  • How inclusive is the language used in your songs?

Sometimes, songs can find themselves stuck in time, and are only relevant to a specific group of people. That’s why we must re-evaluate the nuances of the language used. Can all believers feel included by the semantics, whether old or young, male or female?

  • Do the hymns encourage growth in discipleship?

Do you tend to keep the same songs on a repeating loop, or do you incorporate new, potentially more challenging songs into the mix? Worship is a form of sacrifice, so we must take the time to tackle a wide berth of music into our services.

  • Does the music complement the texts?

Selecting the types of music or song you would like to have present in your church must be carefully considered so that the energy of the songs match the Scripture read that day and the lesson being taught.

The beauty of singing all together at church lies in the fact that individual ability ceases to be important. Together, voices can be harmonized to create beautiful sounds, regardless of each person’s skill level. Embrace it, and pray together through song.

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