Music at Spirit of Life Church
We believe that music employed in gathered worship (including wedding ceremonies, memorial services, and other types of worship services) should be:
1. Biblical—As our rule of faith and practice, the Word of God is our authority. It contains sufficient principles, examples, and directives to inform our concept of worship music. Music serves in worship as praise, prayer, and proclamation (Ps. 96; Ps. 51; 1 Chr. 25:1). Although there are distinctions, in these ways the music ministry shares similar roles and goals with the pulpit ministry. Music may carry our thanksgiving as well as our lament and cries for mercy (Ps. 95; Ps. 102). It should include psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, voices, and instruments (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16–17, Ps. 150). Words sung must not conflict with the teachings of Scripture, and the Scriptures themselves are the best texts for worship (Ps. 119:54, 2 Tim. 3:16).
2. God-centred—Hearts should be focused on God, who is both the subject and object of worship (Ps. 22:22; Ps. 100). The music is offered principally to Him, rather than to each other, and it is for His glory, not for our own. Yet it should also edify, admonish, and teach the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:26, Col. 3:16). It is a communal activity. Applause for musicians in the context of worship is therefore unnecessary and unbiblical. Although we present our music from the front, facing the congregation, we do not purpose to draw undue attention to the vessel through which the music is offered (Rom. 12:1; Php. 2:5–7, Mt. 6:1). Clapping one’s hands to God is mentioned in the Psalms and should only be done for God’s glory and not to be confused with applause associated with the entertainment industry.
3. Excellent—Excellence is, first of all, an attribute of God (Gen. 1:31; Ps. 8:1). We should offer Him the best we can and nothing less. This has to do with the intrinsic and extrinsic qualities of our music—its melody, harmony, rhythm, form, and words—which will be judged according to musical standards of excellence, as well as its appropriateness for a worship context and its delivery by the musicians offering it. Decisions about the quality and type of music offered in worship are entrusted to the head of worship ministry who will consider musical, theological, cultural, and other informing aspects when making such decisions for the congregation. Excellence should never become a goal in and of itself, however, when combined with the right motive, will glory God and edify the church.
4. Of the Spirit—Without the work of the Holy Spirit, our efforts are meaningless (John 4:24, 6:63; 1 Cor. 2:13). Music is not intrinsically worship. Without due caution, one can actually be guilty of worshipping the music that one enjoys. It is important to be mindful of the distinction between spiritual truth and musical pleasure. Worship directed anywhere else other than to God is idolatry.
5. In truth—Truthfulness in worship refers to the actions we take, the attitudes of our hearts and the intentions of our minds. These should align with biblical teaching on worship (John 4:24). Our musical offerings should be genuine and offered to the best of one’s ability. The congregation and its leaders should sing psalms and hymns with understanding and with conviction—with the mind and the spirit (1 Cor. 14:15).
6. Skilfully led- According to Psalm 33:1–3, we are to compose, sing, and play skilfully to the Lord. This demands that those who lead public worship music should be skilful, trained musicians or those in training. For musical leadership we draw on proficient amateur, semi-professional, and professional musicians from within the congregation and also from Christian brothers and sisters from other fellowships. In keeping with biblical practice (Neh.12:46–47a; 1 Chr. 23) and in order to support musicians who are dedicated to music as a calling, we endeavour to provide salaries (for full time music staff) and honorariums to our musicians and singers.
7. Prepared—Because our music should be excellent and skilful, it follows that it must be carefully chosen, adequately rehearsed, and presented by musicians who have prepared themselves before God (1 Chr. 25:6–7). Choirs (adult and children’s) and soloists should be well-prepared for the significant roles they will play in corporate worship. Worship is not an opportunity to “try out” one’s ability or to showcase anyone or anything.
8. Meaningful—Our musical offerings must be intentional and have purpose. They should never be apathetic or careless (Mt. 6:7, 15:8–9). The ministers carefully select the psalms and hymns sung in worship with the input of the head of worship ministry. All other music is selected or approved by the Pastor, who by biblical example is to be the guardian of the people’s praise (1 Chr. 15:22). An attempt is made, whenever possible, to make service music meaningful by suiting it to a particular element of the service and/or to the theme of the sermon.
9. Of the people—Largely this means that our music will find its basis in congregational song, the most important kind of worship music. It also means that the congregation should be fully involved in singing, listening, and learning (Ps. 111:1, 149:1). This characteristic informs our musical choices—that generally our music should be accessible to the people (or made accessible/taught by communicating information about it) although it is directed principally to God. This does not mean, however, that music selected will not require thought or that it will be “popular” in nature or immediately accessible to all who hear it.
10. Joyful/emotional—One of the most significant aspects of music in worship is that it should reflect the joy of being a Christian (Psalm 47:1) and a thankful, grateful spirit (Eph. 5:19). There are many other emotions inherent in music-making, and the book of Psalms provides examples of the musical expression of many of these within the context of worship.
11. Intelligible—This parameter has ramifications for sung language, which on most occasions should be English. Language used in worship should be comprehensible, and the words will appear own the overhead screens. When other languages are used, a translation will be given so that worshippers can fully interact with the words and musical meaning (1 Cor. 14:7–10, 19). Musical style should also be intelligible—clear, understandable, explained when unusual or difficult.
12. Live Music- We utilise live musicians for worship service music and believe that it is important to do so. The Bible models this in many places. We very rarely use pre-recorded music or accompaniment tracks. The use of live musicians affords flexibility in tempo, nuance, time, pitch, and all of the other living aspects of music.
Music and the Individual
The church has no specific authority over the music that individuals choose to purchase or that to which they listen or in which they participate. The church does not seek to make such decisions nor to determine what is good or bad music for its members with respect to their private lives. However, the following concepts and Scripture passages are offered for consideration when choosing music for oneself or for one’s household:
- Music is an integral part of the Christian life and should be encouraged in the home, particularly in family worship. Singing and learning to play instruments is consistent with biblical teaching (Ps. 92:1–3, Ps. 98, Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:15–21). Singing is, in fact, one of those few activities that we know is eternal (Rev. 4 and 5). It also gives opportunities to glorify God inside and outside the church.
- Music is a powerful medium that teaches and communicates things in deep ways. It can overpower other verbal or written teaching with ease. There is good and bad music. Music is not neutral—it will affect those who listen either positively or negatively. As such, musical choice is essentially an ethical choice. Words that are anti-God, anti-authority, or humanistic (which can appear in any musical style) will have a negative effect. Styles that are associated with baser things will not usually be edifying and would best be avoided. It is left up to the individual under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine what is God-Honouring or destructive in this regard.
- Most people identify with a certain style of music or several styles as a means of defining themselves (sociologically, intellectually, and in other ways). The music to which we listen shapes our character, personality, and mind. Music is not without moral substance or consequence. Parents especially should be mindful of this on behalf of their children.