Matthew R. Perry

When Biblical Theology Informs Congregational Music Performance

In Music on October 17, 2008 at 10:29 am

Even though I serve as a pastor, I received my college and Master’s in Church Music, with an emphasis in piano.  I do not have an opportunity to play much  during our worship services simply due to my other duties in preaching.  Yet, this past Sunday our pianist was out of town, so I filled in.  I forgot how much I enjoyed playing in aiding our people in the worship of our Lord Jesus.

Our offertory hymn was Bill and Gloria Gaither’s “Because He Lives.”  I confess this is one of my favorite hymns to sing.  What struck me was the third stanza:

And then one day I’ll cross the river;
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Here, the music must be an appropriate vehicle for the text. I started it out softly, hoping the congregation would take time to consider their own mortality and the finality of not just their life, but also the “final war with pain.” But then when we hit that third line, “And the, as death gives way to vict’ry,” this is when I felt I really needed to dig in on the piano to help lift our hearts to the reality that death is not the end–it’s an entry into glory!

Music can be a snare because we can be so caught up with the tune, the harmonies, and the rhythms that the words risk being lost. In the context of Christian worship, the music always, always, always serves the text.  The music must support and propel the biblical message found in the text of the song or hymn. 

Bob Kauflin has a wonderful website called Worship Matters which helps musicians not just think musically but biblically and theology in regards to their music leadership. 

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