Someone once said that the reason the arts affect us so profoundly is that they tend to bypass our intellect and go straight to our heart.
There's a reason that for centuries, military units included bands, or at least fife and drum corps. And what is it about a school fight song (accompanied by cheerleaders, pep squad and a stadium full of fanatics) that revs us up? Both of these stir up an allegiance and inspire a dedication without us even having to think about it. Or look back on the times you've heard a piece of music or observed a beautiful painting and you've found no words to adequately express how you feel. That's the power of art, and we'd be wise to think about that, and to think about its implications in worship.
I know you know this, but I'll say it anyway: the music we incorporate in worship is only a vehicle. True, certain styles or melodies or instrumentations appeal to us for a variety of reasons, but in the end, they're only conduits for the message. They open us up to a deeper truth, a more profound insight, a fresh way to express our faith and to respond to God. Art for art's sake glorifies the creation, or maybe the creator, but not The Creator.
No doubt, there's power in the music we choose and in the songs we sing. Music can be one of the most potent tools we have for teaching truth and expressing faith. Lots of us learned our alphabet by singing it. (You're singing “A,B,C,D,E,F,G...” right now, aren't you?) But it stuck with us, right? The point was never to teach us a catchy tune, but to develop our literacy.
Think of it this way: just as an I.V. solution opens up our veins, so that medicine can then be pumped into us, music (and other forms of art) opens up our heart so that a vital message can be easily absorbed. Attractive music not only opens our heart, but softens our spirit so that what's really vital can then be communicated. A saline solution with no medicine to follow leaves us vulnerable. A strong melody or an infectious rhythm with no truth attached (or worse yet, a damaging message attached) is detrimental to our spiritual health.
That's why we choose our music wisely, make it attractive, and present it with excellence. There's a timeless truth to be communicated. And without that, we might as well join the pep squad.
--Click here for more helpful articles from writer/arranger/director Marty Parks.