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Generic Template for a "Statement of Music Theology and Philosophy"
Biblical Guidance for the Choir Director
Copyright © 2006 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

At the end of this article is a generalized template, or outline, of a "Statement of Music Theology and Philosophy" which is intended to be freely copied and modified by elders of any local church. A "Statement of Music Theology and Philosophy" is a document which captures an individual church’s beliefs and guidelines regarding the use of music in a church setting. The "Statement of Music Theology and Philosophy," when completed by the church leadership should be used to communicate to the congregation the Scriptural intents, goals, guidelines, and protocols for using music in their local church. In this manner, the congregation may understand and support the direction of the music ministry, and the statement serves as but one instance of the church leadership intentionally and tangibly working to maintain the unity of the Spirit within the church.

Purpose of the Template

Church Administration has the responsibility to either select the music for worship, or to delegate such selection to a choir director. In either situation, the Senior Pastor retains ultimate accountability for every piece of music used during worship and for every lyric softly uttered or enthusiastically sung.

Regardless of the person or team that must select the music for worship, there are a number of considerations that must be prayerfully and thoughtfully determined before the worship begins. Such questions include: the number of songs to be sung, the volume of the music, the style, whether to use tape recorded sound tracks or live instruments (or no instruments?), whether drums are appropriate, and whether there should be solos or a formal choir, should the service be led by small worship song teams, and finally, a most emotionally charged determination: should the church use amplification equipment? All these decision points could become divisive issues in the church, so Scriptural principle must be brought to bear on every question as the basis for the proper answer.

When the music director has made each choice based on the study of specific Scriptures, the music director will then be able to explain the biblical basis for the philosophy he has chosen for the music ministry at the church. In this way, by sharing with the congregation the reasons from the Word that drove the strategic framework from which the music ministry was implemented, the congregation will be able to become unified, supportive, and like-minded around this subject.

Without such a common biblical grounding, the congregation will remain uninformed. Without genuine information available the void will likely be filled with personal opinions, potentially leading to suspicions, rumors, and ignorance which could result in dissent and the fracturing of the unity of worship. We are called by the Word to be unified in our doctrine and like-minded in our fellowship--not by divesting ourselves of convictions or by remaining non-conversant about tough topics, but by rallying around a joint understanding of the Word by means of shared Bible study.

Therefore, please make use of the following template as one possible guide or outline for generating your own written philosophy of sacred music from which you can apply the theology of music you have studied. Then, please share that written philosophy with the congregation, celebrating your unity in the Spirit around the Word of God.

Outline for a "Statement of Theology and Philosophy of Music" for the Local Church

What follows is an outline (essentially a template or framework) on which any church may construct its own systematic theology and philosophy for the use of music within its own church. As a generic template, it lacks detail and substance which is to be provided by the church leadership as they study out the implications of the theology of music for their own local assembly. The template is intended to be copied and then thoroughly changed so that all the content conforms to the beliefs and standards of worship within one’s own local congregation. Finally, each principle ought to be fully documented as to the applicable verse or passage of Scripture that generates a specific principle of music or worship (this has not always been done within the generic template since it is meant only to be a general example).

When the statement has been fully written for a given local church, the statement becomes an excellent handout document and communication vehicle for the congregation. Such an action will likely promote questions from the congregation which should be openly welcomed, discussed, and politely resolved by appealing to Scripture as the backbone of the document’s theology. Remind the congregation that the goal of this communication is to allow the church to understand and support the biblical basis of the church’s music ministry, and that this has been written and shared with all to promote the unity of the Spirit.

 

Generic Template begins below. Copy the Generic Template and modify it as the Spirit leads through your study of music in God’s Word.


XYZ Church’s Statement of Music Theology and Philosophy

Overarching Principles of Worship

Worship means to "to bow down" and "to serve." We purpose that music used in our church will invoke in us the propriety of need and desire to bow down to God and to spur us into service for God and for one another (Romans 12). At all times the music must enhance worship and never detract from worship or distract the church from worship due to its lyrics, volume, tempo, instrumentation, its melody, or lack of same.

Worship, and therefore, all worship music in our church is predicated on the following principles:

Principle of Worship

Resultant Principle of Music in Worship

Christ is the Lord, so, a goal of worship is to glorify Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:11)

Music in our church must be glorifying to Christ as Lord

Another goal in worship is that all spoken words are to be verbally edifying to the saints (1 Corinthians 14)

Music in our church must be verbally / lyrically edifying to the saints

Another goal in worship is to call sinners to repentance (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

Music in our church must be capable of calling sinners to repent

Another goal in worship is to give thanksgiving and praise to God (Psalm 147:1)

Music in our church must include songs of thanksgiving and praise to God

Categories of Music and Their Governing Principles

Music in Formal Church Gatherings

Music used during formal services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, Wednesday church-wide Bible studies, weddings, funerals, communions, and other services should adhere to the overarching principles of worship as described above and to the following specific parameters:

Each musical piece must be examined by a member of the pastoral staff to validate that the text (lyrics) of the music conform to sound doctrine as derived from the text of Scripture (Titus 1:7-9). No song should be used which can be shown to contradict Scripture or conflict with the teachings of Scripture, or espouse a philosophy of life or practice that is not explicitly and plainly found in the text of Scripture (Titus 1:11). Song may incorporate prayer, Scriptural quotation, poetry, lament over sin, joyful praise over forgiveness, adoration of God, and any other subject fitting the proposition that we delight in God and in His Word (Psalm 119:105).

Proper topics for songs and hymns must be generally God-centered. That is, such songs should call the congregation to praise God, to serve God, to repent before God, and to understand the many attributes of God’s nature (Colossians 3:16). Songs which emphasize man or the individual (such lyrics might include "I am happy to be seen praising You, I praise You, I am so good for praising You…") should not be considered appropriate content for formal worship, whereas music that is appropriate properly emphasizes God as the subject (such lyrics might include "Praise God in His sanctuary"). Worship, even worship music, directed anywhere but toward God, may be construed as idolatry.

Music, as other elements of a corporate gathering, is to foster the unity the saints have in the Holy Spirit. Care will be given to ensure the worship music enhances and aligns with the theme of teachings and sermons for the meeting, a theme which must be assumed is laid upon the heart of the Senior Pastor by the Holy Spirit working invisibly and of His own volition in such men (2 Corinthians 8:16, 2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Worship music is not entertainment. Nonetheless, skill and excellence are valid requisites for worship music (1 Chronicles 25:7). As such, practice and instruction are not merely implied, but are obligatory. Similarly, immature music (silly lyrics or songs lacking majesty, depth, and musical proficiency) ought to be excluded from the formal services (Ephesians 5:4).

Music, if it is to have value in the hearts and minds of the congregation, should be sung by the attendant worshippers. The saints should be able to personally express their fears, love, and desires to God in song rather than hear a privileged few do this on their behalf while they observe mutely. The veil has been torn and all have access to God through the Son (Hebrews 10:19-22). It is both a right and an obligation of those engaged in worship to address God in holy song (Psalm 150). This is not to say that solos or special music cannot be performed, though such ought to be the exception and not the rule.

Exceptionally skilled individuals, or teams of individuals, may "perform" special numbers for the congregation. Such songs ought to be of such a nature that they do not lend themselves easily to corporate voice, else, why not have the congregation sing the song for themselves? Special music may also be used as a means of introducing the congregation to a new piece of sacred music intended to be used as a congregational song in future services. Solos and special music numbers are not a forum for "showing off talent" but rather should be used with thoughtful intent as an outlet for the spiritually gifted and for the edification of the congregation.

Music that has as its sole intent to evoke sentimentality, particularly tears, with no better motive than the production of moisture from the eyes of the listeners is not welcomed for the purpose of worship. Tears should flow naturally as the result of the sinner being confronted by his guilt in his heart, or happy tears of gratitude ought to be elicited when the sinner realizes the weight of sin has been lifted. Music that so engages the mind, the heart, the spirit, and the emotions is welcomed. Joyful praise and songs of thanksgiving are well suited for worship.

Song whose tempo, volume, or instrumental accompaniment make the words indistinct or unrecognizable are not suitable as worship music. Words that are not in the predominant language of the assembly are not suitable as worship music. Singers whose personal style makes the lyrics indistinct should not be given prominence in worship leading. The value of lyrics in encouragement or edification is only found in their ability to be understood. Instruments that themselves make an indistinct sound or simply produce a preponderance of noise ought to be withdrawn from use during worship (as even a trumpet is required to be distinct and clear in its tone--1 Corinthians 14:7-8).

Concert Music - Informal Church Gatherings

Church buildings are sometimes pressed into service for congregational or community activities, such as for music/art concerts or Christian entertainment concerts. While the weight of certain constraints is not nearly so great for these events as they may be for worship services, given that it is done on church property or in the name of a given church, some guidelines are still appropriate as folllow.

Ensure the activities and the music are not blatantly dishonoring to the name of Christ. Ensure the message of the music is moral. Though not necessarily a worship service in nature, a concert on Christian property or attended by Christians must still be something that would honor Christ.

Personal Music - Home Use

Most churches will not seek to impose formal guidelines on members of the congregation who listen to music at home or away from church activities. Nonetheless, the saints would be well advised to establish for themselves guidelines regarding the type of music that is personally appropriate and appropriate for their own children.



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Page First Posted: February 12, 2006
Page Last Revised: February 17, 2006