Adapted from an article by Link Hudson
Music has always been an important part of Hebrew and Christian worship
God intended music to be a part of corporate worship and of private meditation during the week. Approximately AD 200, the church leader Tertullian wrote in his Apology, concerning their agape (love feast): “Each is asked to stand up and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the Holy Scriptures or one of his own composing.”
Paul gave instructions about singing, Ephesians 5:18-20: “Be not drunk with wine, in excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul also wrote to the Colossians (3:16). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Paul allowed all kinds of songs to be sung, not only during worship but also during the week. He urged believers to sing to themselves in their hearts. One can sing during worship and during the week if a melody is easy to recall. Some songs are composed for all to sing; others are for musicians to perform.
“Teaching and admonishing one another” refers to one person at a time speaking to a group, as well as to a group singing. During the Protestant Reformation, the reformers had the congregation participate in church meetings singing, rather than merely hearing choirs.
A word of caution about puffing up a song leader’s role
Some teaching regarding music is not scriptural. The Bible does not teach that there must be a special role of ‘worship leader’ or ‘music pastor’ or whatever other roles have evolved. Some books on worship music portray musicians as Levites or priestly figures; a music leader’s role is to lead others into the presence of God, with the assumption that they cannot find their way to Him without the help of a professional leader. Christ taught that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is there with them (Matt. 18:20). God does not require a worship leader to bring His people into His presence. Many believers have gifts that help others sense the Lord’s presence; a leader paralyzes the body by assuming that his ministry alone makes the Lord become present. No one person on earth is mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
Some house churches do have musicians who play music and lead the singing. This is an option for those who engage extensively in congregational singing. Musicians also need to respect the ministry of individuals who would sing solos. They should not feel that they have to play music to accompany every solo. A musician trying to figure out how to pluck out the tune of a prophetic song could distract the prophet who is ministering. Someone in the congregation may stand and sing an old hymn. The congregation does not necessarily have to join in and sing it, even if they know it. There is a time for listening.
Be careful with that all-important, over-riding, over-powering Guitar
Some musicians like to play music while another person is speaking, which can distract. Sometimes someone sings and a musician is strumming another tune, making it hard for others to join in singing. Musicians are to sense the Spirit’s moving, and the mood of the people. Believers may be ready to share insights from the Scriptures or prophecies, but find it awkward to speak because the guitarist does not stop strumming.
Christian musicians consider singing to the Lord an important part of the meeting, and some never want the music to end. Teachers consider teaching important and don’t want the teaching to end. Prophets consider prophecy important and sometimes ramble on needlessly. We ought to respect one another and let everyone’s gifts operate.
Some churches expect a song leader to help people participate, leading not only music but also exhorting people to praise the Lord and do other activities, recapping sermons and commenting. Biblical meetings enable reciprocal “one another” operations of gift-based ministries, and there does not always have to be one leader for every activity. One who plays music for one song does not have to lead all the singing. Some meetings may have a song followed by a teaching, followed by several prophecies given according to Biblical directives, followed by songs again. Tradition has taught us that we must have a set time for music. This is certainly an option, but we can’t force every church, especially house churches, to follow the traditional patterns and have a set music time. Musicians that allow others to suggest songs, sing solos, or give teachings can stop playing after a song is finished, to let the Spirit move.
Musical “Outbursts”. Some churches have musicians all playing notes that make up one chord. The worshippers each sing their own song using the notes of this one chord. One cannot make out what another is singing, because everyone is singing something different. One is singing to the Lord in his own language; another is singing a song in tongues. The principles Paul applied to tongues apply also to musical outbursts. Non-interpreted tongues build up the one speaking, but do not edify the congregation (1 Cor. 14:2-17). Therefore, one who speaks in tongues should speak to God and refrain from speaking aloud in the congregation, unless someone interprets, to avoid confusion (1 Cor. 14:27-28). One who sings in tongues should not sing aloud unless someone interprets. 1 Corinthians 14:40 requires orderly worship. If everyone teaches different things at the same time, the body is not edified. If teachers take turns teaching, then the body is edified. The same applies to singing.
Edifying Songs. Consider the content of songs that we sing in meetings. Some songs teach erroneous theology and we should avoid or modify them. Songs from Scripture, or Scripture itself, are very edifying. Some other songs have little edifying content. Some songs are designed for entertainment and have hardly any substance. A considerate leader avoids introducing such songs worship.
Potential Problems with Solos. Some believers prefer congregational singing to solos, because solos are often mere entertainment. Singers should be careful not to sing just to draw attention to themselves. Some singers love to perform, as do some preachers, and no matter how impressed people are with an attention-drawing performance, God is not impressed.
The Simplicity of House Church Music. In homes, there is no need for expensive sound systems. Some house churches use a keyboard or guitar to help worshippers sing in unison on key. Some house churches have mistakenly tried to imitate a big church by using a loud sound system, which has brought on the wrath of neighbors.