I am a loyal Gospel Music fan. For years, I have joyfully collected Gospel CD recordings. More recently, I download music from iTunes. And I rarely go anywhere without my iPod. Keys, wallets, cell phone, and iPod – don’t leave home without them!
I love Gospel Music. Praise and worship. Traditional. Contemporary. Old school. New school. You name it. I like it, except for quartet music (Oops). Sorry.
Really, I just love music. But I especially love Gospel Music. However, most of the Gospel Music on my iPod, I would absolutely freak out to hear performed in an actual worship service on Sunday morning. The music may sell a lot of records. But it is not music that is appropriate for public, corporate, Christian worship services.
Gospel artists, know that you have my full support. I love your work. Many of your are very gifted and talented. And I pray that God will use your ministries to his glory. However, as a pastor, I am concerned about how your work shapes Sunday mornings in many local congregations.
Concerning music in worship, Paul exhorts, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16, ESV).
Note three things about this verse. A variety of music is acceptable in Christian worship. Music used in worship ought to teach and warn the saints in all wisdom. And the goal of music in worship is to cause the word of Christ to dwell in the hearts and minds of the saints more fully.
Even though you are performing music as a part of the music industry; as a Christian, you are not exempt from these instructions. The Lord will hold you accountable for the music you perform in his name, just as he will hold me accountable for the sermons I preach in his name. So sing, play, and write to the glory of God!
Here are ten recommendations you should consider as you strive for spiritual excellence in your music ministry:
1. Write and sing songs that exalt the Godhead, rather than songs to and about the congregation or audience.
2. In many instances, simple is better. But be careful not to dumb down worship by only writing and performing simplistic songs. 7-11 songs – where you keep saying the same seven words eleven times – are not edifying. Write a text. Make a point. Give us something grand about Christ and the gospel to listen to, sing, and think about.
3. Please stop doing so much talking before, during, and after the songs. Just sing. And let the lyrics speak for themselves.
4. Take the time to have a pastor or Bible teacher review your lyrics, to help you think through the theological, doctrinal, and textual implications of your lyrics. (Hopefully, it can be your pastor. You do have a pastor, don’t you?) Word of Faith teachers do not count.
5. Be sensitive to the fact that your recordings influence many local churches, music departments, and worship services – for better or for worse.
6. You may cause us to miss your point about how good God is if you are simultaneous trying to show us how good you can sing.
7. Do not give “shout-outs” during the songs to your record company, producers, fellow musicians, band members, home town, or… you get the point. What’s that about?
8. You dishonor the entire worship service and set a bad example when a pastor invites you to sing and you do your “set” and then leave.
9. Stop speaking in tongues on your recordings. Many of your listeners do not speak in tongues. And many who do believe that tongues should have an interpreter. Carefully study 1 Corinthians 12-14. And think about what you are communicating in a recording of worship music.
10. Stop addressing cities in your music. “Praise him, Detroit.” “Sing it with me, Houston.” You are not leading cities in worship. You are leading the congregation you are leading. Hopefully.
Here is one more recommendation for free:
11. Please remember that it is not about you.