Philosophy of Worship And Music
GBC is committed to pursuing worship that pleases God in our corporate worship services and private times of adoration at GBC. John MacArthur has said, "Worship is meditating on God's providence." This simple statement encompasses the entirety of worship. God's providence involves all His attributes (His eternality, holiness, omniscience, omnipotence, goodness, mercy, etc.) Meditation on His providence results in praise and adoration for Him, for His glory.
Jesus Himself offers one of the most concise and explicit statements in all of Scripture about the kind of worship that God requires:
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jn 4:23–24.
The phrase "such persons the Father seeks to be His worshipers" could be translated as "such persons the Father requires, demands, or expects." Thus, God requires worship in the Spirit as the only worship He will receive. As individuals and as a church, we must carefully evaluate every aspect of our private and corporate worship, considering this clear teaching to ensure we are "true worshipers."
Worship in Spirit and Truth
Worship in Spirit engages a person's heart. True worship flows from the inner dimension of a man and involves his intellect, emotions, and volition, as illustrated in the following texts:
- Psalm 45:1 – My heart overflows with a good theme.
- Psalm 103:1 – Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name.
- Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
- Romans 1:9 – God whom I serve (worship) in my Spirit.
Worship "in spirit" is in stark contrast to outward worship or ritual. Such worship is rejected and strongly condemned by God throughout Scripture (Isaiah 1:13,15; 29:13, Jeremiah 7:9-10, Matthew 15:7-9). The corporate worship of our church must not be motivated by such hypocrisy, deceit, or pretense. Worship "in spirit" is characterized by earnest, sincere, authentic, and passionate expressions of love and adoration for our God.
Worship in truth occurs in response to God's gracious revelation of Himself in His creation (general revelation) and His Word (special revelation). True worship cannot happen apart from understanding who God is (Acts 17:23); thus, every aspect of worship must conform to the truth of God's Word. We must carefully evaluate our corporate worship, considering Scripture to protect and enable "worship in truth."
We must carefully evaluate our corporate worship, considering Scripture to protect and enable "worship in truth."
Worship saturated in Scripture is protected from unworthy or errant thoughts about the object of our worship, God Himself. Biblically-based worship will retain God and His glory as its central focus, thus avoiding man-centeredness. When scrutinized in the light of God's Word, worship will emphasize God's transcendence and immanence (Isaiah 57:15, Psalm 113). Worship submitted to God's Word will ensure our songs accurately teach and admonish as commanded (Col 3:16, Eph 5:19). Worship shaped by Scripture balances our subjective thoughts toward God (Psalm 18:1,2) with God's objective thoughts toward us (Deut 6:3; Isa 1:18-20).
Hebrews 13:15-16 teaches that "worship in truth" will bring glory to God not only through the words of the worshiper but also through their lives:
Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (emphasis added)
This passage defines worship as the praise on our lips and our good works (cf. Matt 5:16). The Bible expresses worship as singing praise along with good works such as personal evangelism (Rom 15:16), financial giving (Phil. 4:18), and any other work of faith (Rom 12:1-2, 14:13,18 Ps 95, 1 Cor 10:31).
Music: Designed for His Glory
Like the rest of creation, God designed music for His glory (Isa 48:11, Rom 11:36). Music is unique and special but universally available. God gave it as the means for His people to worship Him. Worship through music is part of our collective and complete worship as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2) and in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). We should use it as a tool to facilitate worship, not as an end in itself. Music enhances our expression of adoration of God beyond that of the spoken word alone (Psa 147:1.)
Scripture teaches that God values music and that it is essential to His people. The Hebrew and Greek words for "sing" and "song" appear over 250 times throughout Scripture. God commands His people to worship Him in song (Ps 100:1-2, Eph 5:19-20, Col 3:16-17); therefore, we must direct our musical worship to God. It is to be Spirit-filled, according to His Word, and a part of our corporate gatherings.
God commands His people to worship Him in song; therefore, we must direct our musical worship to God.
Music: Done with Excellence
Scripture teaches and demonstrates that corporate worship in and through music be organized and done with excellence. In 1 Chron 16:37-42, we see David's selection and assignment of various individuals to oversee the elements of worship, including music leaders.
Undoubtedly, this was to ensure proper and united congregational worship that honors the Lord.
Throughout Scripture, we see worship with gladness, excellence, and for the glory of God (Gen 4:3-4, Ex 23:19, 34:26, Num 18:29, Psa 33:1-3, 100:1-2, Mal 1, I Cor 10:31, Col 3:23-24). By extension, we should apply these to the preparation and leading of our congregation in musical worship during our corporate gatherings.
As Scripture commands, true worship acceptable to God involves worship in Spirit and truth. Our worship through song, therefore, must incorporate and facilitate these. Furthermore, the music ministry at GBC is committed to organizing and directing our times of corporate worship in music to facilitate worship in Spirit and truth.
To this end, we carefully select theologically and doctrinally rich music. We carefully survey lyrics to ensure alignment with the doctrine of Scripture and the content of the sermons. Songs are chosen, arranged, and ordered in a manner that facilitates the singing of the truths and promises of God for His glory and the congregation's encouragement, conviction, and joy. We should offer music in worship such that the message of a song is enhanced.
We carefully survey lyrics to ensure alignment with the doctrine of Scripture and the content of the sermons.
Music can be a distraction if it is ill-prepared or poorly done. Thus, the biblical imperative to "play skillfully" implies acquired abilities, training, and worship rehearsal (Psa 33:3). Pretentious performances calculated to engender men's praise are also distracting. Just as Paul, in his preaching, chose to divest himself of "cleverness of speech" (1 Cor 1:17b) acquired through his training, musicians involved in worship are responsible for rejecting the performance mindset developed in their training. Excellence that draws the listeners' attention to the text must always be the goal of worship musicians.
Pursuing artistic excellence and spiritual maturity is critical when rehearsing for public worship. The teaching of the Word of God should have a prominent place in all rehearsals. While there is great value in developing musicians and singers within the church, the active, whole-hearted participation of the congregation is a greater priority than "running a music program."
The active, whole-hearted participation of the congregation is a greater priority than "running a music program."