Philosophy of the Use of Music in Corporate Worship
Worship is giving thanks, praise, and adoration to God. It is truthfully and clearly acknowledging God for who He is. It is constant; everything we do in life should be an act of worship to our Creator. That being said, the purpose of this document is to define what corporately sung worship looks like at Southwest Hills.
Why We Worship
First, we worship God because He has called us to do so. Paul says that “We have…received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.” (Eph 1:11-12 ESV) God is pleased when His creation worships Him, and He created and saved us to give Him praise and glory. He has given us the ability to communicate, sing, and enjoy His creation. The ability to take inspiration from music and the beauty around us gives us an idea of how God wants us to worship Him, and He expects these kinds of worshipful acts from us.
Second, we worship God because of what He has done for us. Though we deserve death, God has given us life. Paul outlines this for us: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:1-10 ESV) We all fall short and need to confess our shortcomings to God. While repentance may initially show us only our flaws, it turns into rejoicing and praising God that our sins are forgiven. We worship God because He has given us grace and mercy far beyond what we deserve.
Third, we worship God because of who He is. David understood this when he penned this Psalm: “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you, and praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.” (Psalm 145 ESV) God is Creator, the Supreme Leader, Lord over all things, and our worship should reflect these essential truths.
How We Worship
We gather together to worship and praise God. Reading through the Psalms reveals a fairly consistent theme. The Psalmists often mentioned man’s actions as a response to who God is and what He has done for them. Following the Psalmist’s example, our corporate worship should praise God and not the actions of mankind. When we gather together to worship, our songs are focused on God’s attributes. It is a time to encourage one another with the truth of who He is and everything He has done. Paul charges the Colossians to “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.” (Col 3:16 ESV)
Corporately sung worship at Southwest Hills encompasses a wide variety of songs and styles. More important than style, however, is the lyrics’ adherence to and affirmation of scripture. While scripture does not tell us what style songs should be sung in, it does give us the truths that we should sing about. Paul reminds us that “All scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for teaching for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV) If scripture is profitable for teaching and training in righteousness, then the lyrics of the songs we sing should be also. While the songs we sing do not have to quote scripture, they must accurately reflect the truths contained in them. Worship songs serve not only to worship and praise God, but also to teach the Word of God.
Southwest Hills endeavors to include songs in our services that outline the Gospel, which reminds us of all the essential truths previously mentioned, giving us hope for eternity. Paul sums up the Gospel in I Corinthians: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Cor 15:3-5 ESV)
Corporate worship has been a part of the Church for generations. We are called to sing a new song, make music to Him, and give Him the honor and praise that He is due. (Psalm 8,33,65,76,100,111,146,150, etc.) God is pleased when we acknowledge our need for Him and worship Him as a result. The Southwest Hills music ministry will continue to humbly lead the body in song, as we “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace and help in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) We strive to use music to worship God “in Spirit and Truth”, (John 4:23-24) and “teach and admonish one another in wisdom”. (Colossians 3:16)