Congregational Singing And The Ministry Of The Word -- By: Leonard R. Payton

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 07:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: Congregational Singing And The Ministry Of The Word
Author: Leonard R. Payton

Congregational Singing And The Ministry Of The Word

Leonard R. Payton

The church has gone through fads of urgency. A casual tour of any Christian bookstore every few years sufficiently demonstrates this pattern.

The burning issue a couple of decades ago was whether or not the Antichrist would touch down in the Soviet Union. Now such books can be bought in bargain bags from Christian book distributors.

Francis Schaeffer spoke of the drive for personal peace and affluence he anticipated as he watched late 1960s idealism failing on its promises. We saw this predicted hedonism in our country reach a high peak in the 1980s, and in the Christian community it unleashed a flood of self-help literature. There have been Christian twelve-step programs for every addiction imaginable and fifty others besides. The prolific writers of Christian psychology are only outstripped by the authors of romance novels which, by the way, appear to be forging the next trend in Christian publishing. We institutionally baptized rock’n roll in the 80s; now we’re anointing Harlequin novels in the 90s.

As motivating as psychology, spiritual warfare and Christian romance novels are, probably nothing has the church more inflamed presently than worship music. We are a culture virtually1 formed by our music, and the visible church is not immune to this trend. Indeed, the church often seems to embrace it with gusto. Allan Bloom said, “Though students do not have books, they most emphatically

do have music.”2 In my own survey of forty Christian college catalogs and advertisements, I found far more photos of a Walkman than depictions of the cross. If these schools are a reliable indicator—and I suspect they are—a reasonable corollary to Bloom’s observation might read, “Though Christians do not know their Bibles, they most certainly know their preferences in worship music.”

We are a people defined by our music. We fight over it in the church. We exchange congregations based on worship music style with little concern for what the theology of the new or the old congregation may have been. Whole denominations are embroiled over worship music style with no clear outcome in sight.

We church music directors and worship pastors are primarily administrators of a myriad of activities with ever-increasing demands for diversity. Some of us are intoxicated by the apparent power we wield. After all, well-performed music, large performing ensembles, and large listening audiences do touch some kind of desire for glory in all of us. The ...

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