The Chief Musician Is a Pastor-Teacher -- By: Leonard R. Payton

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 03:4 (Fall 1994)
Article: The Chief Musician Is a Pastor-Teacher
Author: Leonard R. Payton


The Chief Musician Is a Pastor-Teacher

Leonard R. Payton

There are two bases for the assertion stated in my title.

Music has a psychological power to teach. We can often remember the music, sometimes word for word, and yet forget most of what the pulpit minister—even the very best—has said. This is not to denigrate the quality or role of discursive preaching. It does, however, point up the fact that music has greater power to inculcate.

Music has a scriptural mandate to teach.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (Eph. 5:18–20).

In a similar passage Paul says:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16).

An honest reading of these passages makes it difficult to escape the didactic function which the apostle Paul accorded to singing. What about “psalms?” The addressee would have reasonably understood it to mean “The Psalms,” not rhymed psalmody in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English to tunes composed in Geneva in the sixteenth century. Setting aside the debate over strict psalmody, this much is abundantly clear: The Psalms embrace a very wide range of subject matter, and as such, should be our paradigm in contemporary church music practice.

It appears then that the chief musician bears the same load and responsibility of teaching as the pulpit minister, yet with different means. Therefore, the chief musician must be prepared and examined as thoroughly as the pulpit minister. The

particulars will differ in obvious points, and will intersect in others.

What is the profile of a competent chief musician?

The chief musician knows what to teach, having one finger on the pulse of the congregation, another on the pulse of Holy Scriptures, and is a partner with the pulpit minister in every way. Indeed, his power to inculcate sets the table for the work of the pulpit minister. Conversely, the cool reasoning of the pulpit minister applies what has been inculcated by the musician. Together they edify the body.

Not only does the chief musician know what to teach, ...

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