Philosophy of Worship and Music Ministry

Purpose of This Philosophy Statement

  1. To clarify what the Bible has to say about worship so that our ministry can be examined in light of Scripture.
  2. To ensure unity, effective communication, and continuity from one leader to the next through the use of a written statement.
  3. To distribute this statement to everyone serving in the worship and music ministry so that they understand the biblical philosophy and its implementation.
  4. To supplement the job description of the Minister of Worship/Music—any potential candidate should understand and agree to support this statement.
  5. To support the Grace Church Elders’ responsibility to ensure that our worship and music ministry remains biblical via periodic comparison of the actual ministry to the stated principles and applications in this statement.
  6. To clarify our positions with respect to previous decisions of the Elders regarding this ministry that were not clearly documented (i.e., the use of outside, paid musicians).
  7. To focus attention on missing ingredients in our historical philosophy that are not currently being implemented.
  8. To create a written philosophy statement that can be added to the Church Constitution as an addendum.

 

Ten Principles Guiding Our Corporate Worship

In creating this philosophy statement, the Grace Church Music Committee has attempted to examine every biblical passage pertaining to worship and, as particular expression of worship, music. Our study of the scriptural testimony concerning corporate worship, and the ways the church has historically sought to live in accord with that testimony, has led us to articulate the following principles as a guide in the planning and administration of our own worship services.

 

Principle #1

Because worship is the ultimate priority for the church, the reason man was created, the reason regenerate man was redeemed, and the culmination of history…

Exodus 20:2-5; Isaiah 43:21; Mark 12:29-30; John 4:23; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:13-14

Application for corporate worship:

We need to understand the manifold entailments and expressions of worship found in Scripture, and to welcome and encourage those entailments and expressions at Grace Church, as follows:

  1. Biblical worship is offered in fear, awe, and devotion (bowing down)… 2 Kings 17:36; 1 Chronicles 16:25; Job 1:20; Psalm 5:7; 96:4, 9; Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 14:32-33; 28:8-9

  2. Biblical worship includes adoration and thanksgiving…  Genesis 24:48; Exodus 12:27; Judges 7:15; 1 Chronicles 29:13-14; Psalm 89:1; 92:1,4; 95:6-7; 138:2; Matthew 14:33; 28:9, 17; Ephesians 5:19-20; Philippians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 4:9-11; 7:11-12

  3. Biblical worship includes obedience and service…  Joshua 5:14; 1 Samuel 1:27-28; 15:22; Romans 12:1, 9-11; 14:15,18; 15:15-16; Hebrews 12:28-29

  4. Biblical worship includes confession that God is right and my sin is wrong…  Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 15:30-31; 2 Samuel 12:19-20; Psalm 51:15-17; Luke 5:8; Acts 19:18-20; Romans 15:8-12; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9-10; 15:4

  5. Biblical worship includes sacrificial acts…  Deuteronomy 26:10; 2 Kings 17:36; 1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 29:28; Acts 4:36-37; Romans 12:1; 15:15-16; Philippians 2:17; 4:15-18; Hebrews 12:28; 13:15-16

  6. Biblical worship includes praise…  1 Chronicles 16:9,23-28; 2 Chronicles 29:30; Psalm 29:2; 66:3-6; 71:22-23; 89:1; Psalm 108:1; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 5:9-13; 15:3

  7. Biblical worship includes public prayer…  1 Chronicles 29:11-20; Acts 1:14, 24; 2:42; 4:24-31; 12:12; 16:25; 1 Corinthians 11:4-5; 14:13-15

  8. Biblical worship includes the public reading of Scripture…  Nehemiah 8:5-6; 1 Timothy 4:13

  9. Biblical worship includes musical instruments—strings, winds, and percussion…  2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 25:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12-14; 7:6; 29:25-28; Nehemiah 12:27; Revelation 5:8-10; 14:2-3

  10. Biblical worship includes corporate and private singing…  Exodus 15:1; 1 Chronicles 16:9,23; Psalm 66:1-2; 71:22-23; 81:1; 89:1; 92:1; 108:1; Mark 14:26; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16  (The following passages are also thought to have been songs sung by the early church: Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13.)

 

Principle #2

Because worship is a celebration of God, His works and His character…

2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 29:30; Psalm 81:1; 92:4

Applications for corporate worship:

Our services should seek, above all, to lead hearts to exalt and exult in God.

Worship through music and song should be full of vibrant and authentic emotional expressions—including joy and gratitude and hope because worship involves a celebration of God, and grief and contrition because worship also involves an acknowledgment of God’s righteousness and our sinfulness. The music we use must be musically uplifting as well as textually edifying.

Music should show newness and creativity and engender the sense of awe and wonder that God deserves.

We need to be creative in our design of services and selection of songs and meditations to promote fresh thinking about, vibrant experience of, and deepened faith and hope in God. Yet we must also be aware that at times the newness of material can distract from a focus on God. There is a multi-faceted goodness and blessing in familiarity and tradition, which we should both acknowledge and seek to benefit from in wise ways.

Our worship should include enthusiastic singing and music accompanied by instruments, voice and joy!

 

Principle #3

Because God is always to be the only object of worship, and because He is jealous to receive the sole worship of His creation…

Exodus 20:4-5; Leviticus 10:1-2; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Psalm 50:22-23; Mark 7:7-9; Romans 1:25-26

Applications for corporate worship:

Our leaders in worship have as their first and fundamental calling an authentic worship of God in their own hearts, and must never engage in mere posturing for a human audience.

Applause, when it occurs, ought to be the expression and overflow of joy in and gratitude to and adoration of God, rather than the exaltation of an instrumentalist or singer.

Worship music must point ultimately to and exalt God, not human beings. When testimony songs are utilized, they should contain a strong emphasis on God’s character and gracious acts. Music should leave worshipers with a clear picture of God, drawing worshipful attention to God, not to the performer.

Many styles can be used, as long as they are conducive to the exaltation of and an exulting in God himself.

Battles over music or worship styles miss the point that worship is to and for God. When worship is driven by “my preferences” or “my desires,” it becomes idolatry.

Individual/group skills and giftings are to be affirmed and received in gratitude for what they are—gifts from a God of beauty, creativity, power, and grace. We will emphasize the important difference between leading the community in the worship and exaltation of God alone and ostentatious, self-serving display of our abilities, always pursuing the former by the grace and power of the Spirit.

Those leading in worship and music should maintain a modest appearance and dress that does not distract worshipers from offering their worship to God.

Our corporate worship services are primarily intended as opportunities to see, encounter, and revere our transcendent and majestic God. Therefore, we will seek to minimize, or to integrate with wisdom and sensitivity, elements which have potential to distract us from that end, such as an abundance of announcements or other “business” issues. These more horizontally oriented aspects of corporate life are not excluded from whole-life worship, but on Sunday mornings our aim is especially to pursue a vertical orientation in the worship of God.

Our services should be designed to lead believers to worship God in spirit and truth. They should not be designed as “seeker” services for the lost. The best way to evangelize the lost in a worship service is to present “the real God in all His fullness.…A profound discovery of God’s reality will subject all one’s personal beliefs and behaviors, priorities and sources of security to serious questioning” (Marva Dawn, “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Church,” pp. 286, 288).

When performance tracks are utilized, they should avoid the use of styles and instruments which are likely to distract from worshiping God by causing the congregation to stall on styles and instruments. If possible, accompaniment for vocalists should be live to allow instrumentalists to use their gifts to worship God.

Notes

The word “performance” is not synonymous with the word “entertainment.” The word performance, as we are using it, is the ultimate test and finality of discipline, training and rehearsal. In this sense a musician’s use of their musical talent in a worship service is a performance.

 

Principle #4

Because corporate worship in Scripture involves training and requirements for singers and musicians…

Training and musical skill: 1 Chronicles 15:22; 23:3-5; 25:6-8; 2 Chronicles 34:12b

Set aside for music (dedication and financial support): Numbers 8:24-26; Deuteronomy 14:27-29; 1 Chronicles 9:33; Ezra 7:24; Nehemiah 10:39; 12:27; 12:47

Applications for corporate worship:

We should teach those involved in our music ministry the importance of their service and use of their musical abilities.

The heart of a worshiper should not be the only criteria for a musician participating in the corporate worship. There should also be a high level of skill and proficiency attached to the use of musicians in service.

We should create a process to identify vocalists and instrumentalists with musical skill and then train and develop them for service.

Because Scripture supports it, we should also be willing to financially support (when needed) the musicians and music ministry.

Notes

The use of musicians is an important part of the corporate worship found in Scripture. They were vital to the worship in the temple and set aside to be free to use their talents in making music. The use of musicians can be a positive and exciting addition to our corporate worship. We should be willing to honor them for their willingness to use the years of study and discipline in assisting corporate worship.

 

Principle #5

Because biblical worship shows organization and excellence in its production…

Up front vocalists and instrumentalists leading in music: 2 Chronicles 29:28

Organized and choreographed services: 2 Chronicles 5:12-13; 7:6; Ezra 3:10

And because acceptable worship should be conducted “decently and in order”…

1 Corinthians 14:23, 26, 40

And because such excellence and order is especially for the sake of love to our neighbors and to unbelievers…

1 Corinthians 14:1-33

Applications for corporate worship:

We should strive for excellence in our worship services and in our worship music. Worship and music should be led by people who are adequately prepared and organized. Preparation, organization and execution of the worship service should be viewed as an act of worship as well.

We should pursue excellence and order not as some abstract ideal, nor because true worship is rooted in the merit our offering, but as an expression of love to God and neighbor. We desire excellence and order in music so as not to obscure or distract attention away from what we are proclaiming about God himself by shoddy effort, poor or unrehearsed musical performance, etc.

 

Principle #6

Because God does not accept worship when sin is unconfessed…

Joshua 7:19-20; 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:15-17; Isaiah 1:11-15; Hosea 6:4-6; Amos 5:21-24; Matthew 5:23-24

Applications for corporate worship:

We must not knowingly allow musicians to minister whose lives do not demonstrate personal holiness.

It is each individual’s responsibility not to serve with unconfessed sin.

Bringing “outside” musicians in to assist our worship is not inherently wrong, but should be carefully scrutinized for several reasons:

Only believers worship in spirit and truth.

God does not accept worship when sin is present in the individual’s life.

Every person should be encouraged to use their giftedness and talents to serve and worship God in their own local church where they can be held accountable.

Notes

There are significant benefits to bringing in outside worship/music participants. For example, second chair instrumentalists, not qualified or comfortable to play on their own, get the chance to use and develop their talents for God. However, the risks associated with not knowing the lives of the outside participants could outweigh these benefits, and accordingly, reasonable effort should be made to determine their spiritual maturity and faithfulness.

 

Principle #7

Because we worship God in spirit (not in a temple)…

John 4:21-24; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Philippians 3:3; Hebrews 9:24; 10:19-20; 1 Peter 2:5

Applications for corporate worship:

We should not assume that buildings, decorations, and humanly engineered atmosphere “produce” worship.

 

Principle #8

Because we worship God in truth…

Psalm 145:18; Proverbs 9:10; Hosea 6:6; John 4:21-24; 1 Corinthians 2:14

Applications for corporate worship:

Only the regenerate can offer acceptable worship to God.

We should not knowingly allow the unsaved to lead.

We should ensure theologically correct words.

The words (theology) and the music (medium) should be compatible.

 

Principle #9

Because corporate worship should be conducted without offence to weaker brothers…

Romans 14:13-15, 18; 1 Corinthians 8:11-13; Gal 5:13-14

Applications for corporate worship:

We will strive to be sensitive in our selections of music to avoid needlessly offending some.

We will not elevate the pursuit of “musical excellence” above shepherding people with compassion. The people involved in the church and music ministry must have first priority.

Those leading in worship and music should maintain an appearance and modesty in dress out of love for their brothers and sisters so as not to draw unwholesome or impure attention to one’s body.

 

Principle #10

Because Christ became relevant to man through His incarnation, and because Paul tells us to be all things to all men…

John 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Applications for corporate worship:

Music should be relevant to the congregation. Relevancy does not equal popularity; it means familiarity. We should use styles and texts that are capable of effective communication, so that the music becomes a tool the people can use in worship, not a hindrance to it. This music should be easily transferable to their daily, personal worship.

 

Conclusion

We believe these basic principles about worship are in accord with God’s revelation to us in Scripture. We want these principles to guide the pursuit and expression of our corporate worship at Grace Church of DuPage, and, flowing from our corporate worship, the pursuit and expression of our worship as individuals. May the expressions of our worship be true both to what God has done and to who God is. May our worship be a pleasing aroma to Him. And may we know the goodness and joy of living out the chief end for which we exist, namely, the praise and adoration of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.