music stirs the soul and prepares it to receive the Word of God
| Whereas, various denominations
of Christianity either play down the role of music in church worship or
emphasize it above the preaching of God's Word, Baptists have managed to
maintain a balance between the two. Due to their view that music
in a worship setting is primarily intended to prepare the soul to receive
the preaching of God's Word, they neither minimize it's importance nor
Furthermore, the visitor
to a Baptist church will be surprised as to the involvement of the membership
when it comes to the music of the church. First and foremost is the
fact that those in the congregation are just as likely to sing out with
joy and praise as any choir member. There are always instrumentalist
whether it be a lone pianist or a well practiced orchestra. The choir
may be made up of several members who love to sing or seventy members who
sound like the angels around God's throne. It may be a quartet, a
trio, a duet, or a soloist who sings the "special" just before the pastor
comes to the pulpit. At any rate, one can always expect great music
in both small and large churches alike.
Baptists take the preparation
of hearts to receive God's truths as very serious business.
Church history tells us that
the first congregationally sung hymns in Baptist worship services were,
in fact, the Psalms put to music. Of course, the original music ascribed
to the "song lyrics" in that book have been long lost, there were those
who were able to segment various portions of the Psalms with musical accompaniament
that matched the mood of the text and did so very effectively. If
you were able to visit a church during the 1600s, you would hear the congregations
singing from this Biblical book and doing so in an attitude of worshipful
However, by the colonial
period, a revolution in church music began to take place. Whether
it was the high praise of hymns written by the Lutheran reforemer, Martin
Luther, or those of the original Methodists, the Wesley brothers, hymns
that contained lyrics in rhyme written by men of God began to be merged
with the singing of the Psalms. True to Baptist form, those who had
always sung from that Old Testament book refused to do so while the more
"progressive" of their brethren embraced these new "man-made" hymns.
Who now would argue that
such hymns like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" or "Leaning on the Everlasting
Arms" are considered to be sacred in their own right.
Furthermore, how many of
those who have sung the well-known verses of "Amazing Grace" even realize
that it's composer, John Newton, had in fact been a Yankee slave trader
who was known as the most wretched of all; that is, until he committed
his soul to Jesus Christ and spent the rest of his life telling of how
he had once been lost, but now was free?
|Great Hymns of the Faith
What church member of the
twentieth century does not recall a time when every Baptist church had
a hard-covered hymn book or two tucked into every "pew pocket" when they
arose to sing as a congregation?
The song leader would call
out a hymn number and ask everyone to join in. He would then wave
his arms in time while leading the congregation as they sang out their
praises to God. In fact, non-Baptists are amazed when visiting a
Baptist church at how the people love to sing. There are few such
churches where the singing does not involve everyone's full participation.
From the most gifted of voices to the those who insist that their lack
of voice qualifies them as "making a joyful noise unto the
Lord," Baptist people love to sing for the Lord.
|Folk Gospel Music
The American cultural revolution
of the 1960s brought yet another change in the Baptist taste in music.
The youth of that generation began to find significance in blending the
popular "Folk Music" of that day with Christian worship lyrics. What
became known as "Folk Gospel" caught on quickly and, again, true to Baptist
form, the older generation either rejected it or found it difficult to
Nevertheless, this style
of music was generally accepted. It was non-threatening to the majority
of Baptists with the exception being the most conservative of their numbers
who thought of it as being a form of compromise. However, it became
even more appreciated by the next generation who continued to develop it
into a more contemporary form of gospel music.
|Contemporary Gospel Music
As the twentieth century
came to a close, some Baptist churches began to adopt this style of music
into their worship services by blending it with traditional hymns.
Whereas, the most conservative of Baptists still refuse to allow a guitar
or drums into their worship services, others began employing this instruments.
Furthermore, they have presented a rather strong argument for their use
in that guitar and psaltry of the Old Testament are both six-stringed insturments
and the drum was indeed used in the Bible to accompany worship, thus, both
preceded the piano and the organ.
Thus, the subject of using
what some call "rock gospel music" has become a hot button in some Baptist
The purpose here is not to
approve or disapprove of any form of gospel music but to accurately report
the practices of all things Baptist. Thus, it is accurate to state
that more and more churches are doing what Baptists have always done; that
being their ability to use the current cultural means of communication
to declare the Gospel message without stepping past the bounds of Scriptural
truth. Therefore, it is becoming more common to find Baptist churches
with multiple services that include traditional, blended, and contemporary
forms of music.
As this trend continues,
those churches who hold to traditional hymns as their sole means of musical
worship will be continuously challenged. That challenge may have
less to do with musical preference and more to do with who will allow it
to become a source of devisiveness amongst Bible-believers. Keeping
in mind that Baptists have always held to the independency of the local
church, condemning other churches for how they worship God may be taken
as a denial of that fundamental doctrine.
Music Controversy: The history of the introduction of contemporary
gospel music to Baptist praise and worship.