"Special Music" in church

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Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
I started singing solo "special music" in church when I was six years old. I come from a very musical family, and we all sing and play multiple instruments.

That said, I've been wondering where our modern idea of "special music" comes from. (I visited to one church where there were five "specials" in each service, with only three congregational songs of one or two verses each. I felt left out of worship!) I'm thinking of two specific areas:

--Choir. My husband and I are in choir at church and spend two hours every Lord's Day in choir practice, which makes for a pretty exhausting Sunday. Why do we have choirs?

--Singing solos. Most churches in my circle have someone sing special music right before the message. I did it all the time growing up. But it started bothering me that the song leader would say, "So-and-so (a woman) will now come and minister to us in song (or bring us a message in song)." Is a woman supposed to minister to and exhort the congregation in that way? :confused: And why do we have special music anyway?

Are these enough questions? :lol:

Oh, and I don't really want this to be about what kinds of songs are being sung (EP vs. non), but about why we use these forms of worship in some churches.
 

jaybird0827

PuritanBoard Honor Roll
The "special music" you describe comes under the category of "innovations". In other words, human invention. This practice is not commanded in Scripture, and that is why the purer the worship of a church, the less likely you are to find such practice in that church.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
In addition to that, special music crowds time out of the worship service. Often these solo performances by an individual or a choir degenerate into entertainment, and the congregation are relegated to being passive spectators.

I'll leave it to someone else more well versed in this than I to expound on the fact that one of the things the Reformation recovered was congregational singing and that choirs, etc. were done away with in Reformed churches.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Not every church has choirs, some of them out of principle that they should NOT have them.

THE choir is the assembly, not a segment of it. We are singing for God and for joy, not for the vicarious enjoyment of the pew-sitters.

Solos just take that idea one step farther. Now some individual "special gift" is being used to "edify" the church... but I thought that was the job of the minister of the Word? Hmmmmm. And by women sometimes, double hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Happy pondering.

BTW, I used to LOVE to sing in church choirs, and even sang a few solos in services. That was before I was ordained to the ministry, before I went to Seminary. I really didn't want to miss out on active participation in that part of the service. I've kind of done a 180 on the whole thing.
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
At the root of it? Will-worship. However, I wouldn't give that intention to all who have it today. Although the practice is still will-worship, it's done mostly out of ignorance today (but that's no excuse, because we have the manual for Worship: the Scriptures).

Why are people happy to stay in ignorance? Why do people and pastors I so greatly respect not question these things? Sometimes I feel like my husband and I are strange because we try to think through things without letting current trends cloud our judgment.
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
This is a good question; although, I know that in my case, I was never exposed to any other "view" than what I had done most all of my life out of tradition. Singing "specials," in choirs, playing guitar, "leading" worship with "my band." It's just "what we did." When I finally yielded to the force of God's Sovereignty in Salvation (precisely when He wanted me to), I was still doing these things. I was in an Arminian Church still, and still attached to much of the traditionalism found in such circles (It was an SBC Church). I did "Youth Ministry." We had a rock band, and we just knew the kids were "worshipping" when we saw them raising their hands, closing their eyes, and swaying with the music. :barfy:

However, when I came to the Puritan Board and was introduced to the Regulative Principle Worship, etc. all that mess started to fade. Eventually I left the Youth Ministry out of conscience. Then, after some frowning providences, I was joined to my current church, a Calvinistic Baptist Church we believes in the RPW. Now, I'm not exactly in agreement with my church, but we certainly don't have choirs or special music. For that, I'm thankful. It took me a while to distinguish between the Normative Principle of Worship (whatsoever the Bible doesn't condemn is permissible in worship) and the Regulative Principle of Worship (whatsoever is not commanded in worship is forbidden). But when one considers the totality of Scripture, along with explicit examples of Nadab & Abihu, Uzzah, King Saul's debacle, etc., it's a clear Biblical principle to which I happily submit myself.

Ignorance is bliss, right? Not for me.

Hmm . . . definitely things to think about. Thanks :up:

For those who don't follow the RPW (I just recently learned about it), I still don't see the point of special music. Only a select few get to lift their voices to God while others sit as spectators. Hmm . . . :think: . . . my brain hurts. :lol:
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
For what it's worth, besides the Regulative Principle there is also the Normative Principle of Worship ( I think that's what its called. Someone correct me if I'm wrong). This principle says that what is not specifically forbidden in Scripture can be done in a worship service. The Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and other churches follow this principle. That may be the reason you see solos, choirs and special songs during a worship service.
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
Well it seems it doesn't help a whole lot! It didn't help me read your whole post!!! :p
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
For what it's worth, besides the Regulative Principle there is also the Normative Principle of Worship ( I think that's what its called. Someone correct me if I'm wrong). This principle says that what is not specifically forbidden in Scripture can be done in a worship service. The Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and other churches follow this principle.

not to mention the vast majority of everyone else, including (i suspect) the majority in the PCA.

That may be the reason you see solos, choirs and special songs during a worship service.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
For those who don't follow the RPW (I just recently learned about it), I still don't see the point of special music. Only a select few get to lift their voices to God while others sit as spectators. Hmm . . . :think: . . . my brain hurts. :lol:

At Choral Evensong it would possible to attend and say nothing with the choir singing everything!! Sounds lovely though ;)
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
I'm sure this has been addressed on the PB somewhere before, but I can't recall the details.

In the OT, singers were appointed as part of worshipping God:

1Ch 15:16 And David spoke to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.

2Ch 5:12,13 Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets: ) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;

2Ch 29:28 And all the congregation worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.​

Does the idea of special singers set apart for the music ministry NOT follow from these verses because they are part of the sacrificial part of the law, which has been fulfilled by Jesus? Is this one of those areas where a command to continue the practice would require a command in the NT?
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Does the idea of special singers set apart for the music ministry NOT follow from these verses because they are part of the sacrificial part of the law, which has been fulfilled by Jesus? Is this one of those areas where a command to continue the practice would require a command in the NT?

Temple worship has ceased hence all of the cultic activity inextricably tied up with that has ceased also. :2cents:
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Temple worship has ceased hence all of the cultic activity inextricably tied up with that has ceased also.

Not sure what you're referring to when you say cultic activity tied to temple worship. By cultic activity, you're not referring to singers praising and thanking God, lifting up their voices in praise, and singing Psalms, right? :confused:

2Ch 5:12,13 Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets: ) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
The Levitical choir is done away with as surely as the Levitical priesthood, both of which were part of the ceremonial worship that was fulfilled and abolished in Christ. The regulated Levitical choir must now give way to the whole congregation of the saints, who are the royal priesthood of God (1 Pet. 2.9), in Christian gospel worship.

Augustine's exposition of Psalm 149.4:

4. Let them praise His Name in chorus (ver. 3). What means chorus? Many know what a chorus is: nay, as we are speaking in a town, almost all know. A chorus is the union of singers. If we sing in chorus, let us sing in concord. If any one's voice is out of harmony in a chorus of singers, it offends the ear, and throwes the chorus into confusion. If the voice of one echoing discordantly troubles the harmony of them who sing, how does the discord of heresy throw into confusion the harmony of them who praise. The whole world is now the chorus of Christ. The chorus of Christ sounds harmoniously from east to west.

and on Psalm 150.6:

You [God's saints] are trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, choir, strings, and organ, cymbals of jubilation sounding well, because sounding in harmony. All these are you: let nought that is vile, nought that is transitory, nought that is ludicrous, be here thought of.

Brian Schwertley notes:

A study of God’s word reveals that the only choirs (i.e., people set apart to sing during the worship service) that existed in the Bible were composed of Levites (cf. 1 Chron. 9:33; 15:16; 2 Chron. 5:11-13; 29:28-30; 33:15). “Prepare yourselves according to your fathers’ houses, according to your divisions, following the written instruction of David King of Israel and the written instruction of Solomon his son. And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the fathers’ houses of your brethren the lay people, and according to the division the father’s house of the Levites.... And the singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their places, according to the command of David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, the king’s seer” (2 Chron. 35:4-5, 15). Since the use of choirs, like musical instruments, was restricted by God to the Levitical temple worship, their use is clearly inappropriate and unscriptural in Christian worship services. Their use (like that of musical instruments) arose as an aspect of the Judaizing Papal mass with its priestly garments and unauthorized rituals.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Yes, because the Levitical priesthood had to do with the ceremonial aspect of the Old Covenant.
Just slowly thinking this through a bit, but if you strip out everything from the law related to the ceremonial aspect of the Old Covenant, including the above sited aspect of worship via music, what are we to glean from what's left over that can be used to govern how we worship in the NT? Several of the 10 commandments, of course, tell us when to worship and how to honor God, but apart from that, what else should be gleaned.

Furthermore, even if in some feasible way it were still practice, it would be restricted to officers, just as it was restricted to the Levites.
That would be consistent.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The precise point alluded to is that the participants were ministers, i.e. priests and Levites. So, the more accurate analogy to today would be if all the church officers got up and did all the singing in worship. That is not the case today, inasmuch as the participant "priesthood" has been widened out. The choir is the priestly congregation.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
The precise point alluded to is that the participants were ministers, i.e. priests and Levites. So, the more accurate analogy to today would be if all the church officers got up and did all the singing in worship.
Knit-picking, but since not all the priests/Levites were singers, wouldn't the analogy be that only some of the church officers did the singing? (That line that Pat Paulson was so famous for is so appropriate, wouldn't you agree).
That is not the case today, inasmuch as the participant "priesthood" has been widened out. The choir is the priestly congregation.
No comment, new thoughts, so just continuing to think...
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
if Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 weren't in the NT, what would we use to guide us in worship, specifically music?

Those two are sufficient, in a general sense, to instruct us, but some more explicit testimony...

Acts 16:25
Rom 15:9
1 Cor 14:15, 26
Heb 2:12
James 5:13
Rev 5:9, 14:3, 15:3
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
While I am able to accept that the non EP position can be held in good faith I react with horror to the notion of solos in communal worship and with great unease to the use of choirs.

Church worship is communal, that is the whole point of being a church, to be communal in our worship. We do not do our own thing in Church, there is no difference between someone singing a solo and someone break dancing on the pulpit or even showing everyone his excellent stamp collection.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
2. The problem with hypotheticals, Bob, is they're not real. ;)
True, but...

Let's do a test. For 10 seconds, everybody close their eyes. With all eyes closed, and nobody looking around...

<sneaking back to previous post to delete embarrassing hypothetical question>
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Knit-picking, but since not all the priests/Levites were singers, wouldn't the analogy be that only some of the church officers did the singing?

I am not convinced that the biblical data teaches that only Levites sung but even if that were the case, corporate praise is warranted from Eph 5:19.
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Does anybody's church pianist/organist play music while the elements of the Lord's Supper are being passed out? It seems to me that by the same argument many are offering here, instrumentals during times such as the Lord's Supper and giving of tithes/offerings ought to be discarded...it seems the best way to be consistent on this argument is to go EP...or, there is another option.

Let me also say: I generally agree with most folks that "special music" tends to be done in a God dis-honoring way. I remember watching these performances growing up...many times they were purely performance...and then it was followed up with clapping. I'm not a fan of it at all.

When it comes to the receiving of offerings, I have no problem with "special music" so long as it is not done for performance/will-worship, rather, to keep our minds on Christ while the plates are being passed around.

I believe in the RPW...my beliefs tend to be more rigid than most...but I think someone can do a solo, or have a choir sing in a way which is God-honoring...especially if there is active over-sight on the part of the pastor/elders to keep the songs in check, and not allow it to be more than what it is.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Knit-picking, but since not all the priests/Levites were singers, wouldn't the analogy be that only some of the church officers did the singing?

I am not convinced that the biblical data teaches that only Levites sung but even if that were the case, corporate praise is warranted from Eph 5:19.
Agreed, corporate praise is warranted. No arguments there.
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
Does anybody's church pianist/organist play music while the elements of the Lord's Supper are being passed out? It seems to me that by the same argument many are offering here, instrumentals during times such as the Lord's Supper and giving of tithes/offerings ought to be discarded...it seems the best way to be consistent on this argument is to go EP...or, there is another option.

Let me also say: I generally agree with most folks that "special music" tends to be done in a God dis-honoring way. I remember watching these performances growing up...many times they were purely performance...and then it was followed up with clapping. I'm not a fan of it at all.

When it comes to the receiving of offerings, I have no problem with "special music" so long as it is not done for performance/will-worship, rather, to keep our minds on Christ while the plates are being passed around.

I believe in the RPW...my beliefs tend to be more rigid than most...but I think someone can do a solo, or have a choir sing in a way which is God-honoring...especially if there is active over-sight on the part of the pastor/elders to keep the songs in check, and not allow it to be more than what it is.

But what is the point of a solo, why should everyone not join in?
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Does anybody's church pianist/organist play music while the elements of the Lord's Supper are being passed out? It seems to me that by the same argument many are offering here, instrumentals during times such as the Lord's Supper and giving of tithes/offerings ought to be discarded...it seems the best way to be consistent on this argument is to go EP...or, there is another option.

Let me also say: I generally agree with most folks that "special music" tends to be done in a God dis-honoring way. I remember watching these performances growing up...many times they were purely performance...and then it was followed up with clapping. I'm not a fan of it at all.

When it comes to the receiving of offerings, I have no problem with "special music" so long as it is not done for performance/will-worship, rather, to keep our minds on Christ while the plates are being passed around.

I believe in the RPW...my beliefs tend to be more rigid than most...but I think someone can do a solo, or have a choir sing in a way which is God-honoring...especially if there is active over-sight on the part of the pastor/elders to keep the songs in check, and not allow it to be more than what it is.

But what is the point of a solo, why should everyone not join in?

Again,
what is the point of in instrumental solo for an offeratory? May we all join in? What's the point of an instrumental solo during the offering anyway? If instrumental music is appropriate for the offeratory, how is that okay but not a vocal solo or choir?

EP makes things simpler, really. But if we are not going to go EP, we have to explain our reasoning better.

I'm just trying to throw in a monkey wrench ;)
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
But what is the point of a solo, why should everyone not join in?

Again,
what is the point of in instrumental solo for an offeratory? May we all join in? What's the point of an instrumental solo during the offering anyway? If instrumental music is appropriate for the offeratory, how is that okay but not a vocal solo or choir?

EP makes things simpler, really. But if we are not going to go EP, we have to explain our reasoning better.

I'm just trying to throw in a monkey wrench ;)

The big difference is that if someone is singing why should everyone not join in, I would feel the same way if everyone had a glockenspiel in front of them and music was played during the offering, everyone should join in. It is the communal aspect that is so important for church worship.

Solo's are inherantly offensive in church as there is absolutely no point in them apart from really really bad ones.
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
The big difference is that if someone is singing why should everyone not join in, I would feel the same way if everyone had a glockenspiel in front of them and music was played during the offering, everyone should join in. It is the communal aspect that is so important for church worship.

Solo's are inherantly offensive in church as there is absolutely no point in them apart from really really bad ones.

But following your thought, playing an instrumental is decidedly non-communal if no one else is singing, right? I promise I'm not merely trying to be difficult here.
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
Just wanted to say :up: to everyone for a good discussion.

A little :offtopic:, but I guess I can do that since I started the thread :cool:. When I was growing up, I always hated cleaning my bedroom (I still do). When my mom would finally force me to clean it, I would say that I wanted to set my room on fire so the mess would be gone and I could just start over again. :lol: I feel that way about theology sometimes. There are so many issues to study that I feel like throwing away everything I've known and understood, and start re-building straight out of Scripture. I think if enough Christians did that, we would have a very different understand of worship, for example, than the practices of the vast majority of churches right now.
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
The big difference is that if someone is singing why should everyone not join in, I would feel the same way if everyone had a glockenspiel in front of them and music was played during the offering, everyone should join in. It is the communal aspect that is so important for church worship.

Solo's are inherantly offensive in church as there is absolutely no point in them apart from really really bad ones.

But following your thought, playing an instrumental is decidedly non-communal if no one else is singing, right? I promise I'm not merely trying to be difficult here.

If everyone is playing it is communal, I am not suggesting that one person sing and everyone plays but that either all play or no one plays.

The argument would have to be that the music during the offering is not an element of praise, and this is probably not that bad an argument but it does beg the question of why do it if it is not praise.

I guess it is done because it is nice and "feels" spiritual and holy. I have answered my own question here and I agree with you that it is actually really bad to play music during the offering unless everyone joins in.
 
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