What is right with our music?
We strive to adhere to the regulative principle in our worship which keeps music in its place, subservient and secondary in importance to the preaching of Gods word.
We strive to have heartfelt worship, that is, singing from our hearts and engaging our emotions and will.
We attempt to play skillfully since we understand that what we are doing, we are doing before the face of God, in the presence of the risen Christ who has gathered to meet with His people.
We seek to avoid the error of many modern churches in dumbing down the music and words that are being sung.
We seek to preserve the rich history of music in the church. Therefore, we are big on singing hymns.
In short, most of what is right with our music is theoretical, not executive. I think that we have an excellent foundation in the philosophy of music in terms of regulation, engagement, execution, and preservation.
What is wrong with our music?
Funny enough, most of what is wrong with our music is simply an over-application of what is right with our music. For instance, in our zeal to preserve the richness of the musical history of the church, we end up playing music that sounds 300 years old (which it is...)and singing words that are simply archaic. Most of us have no idea what a “bulwark” is, although we sing it often in one of our favorite hymns. Unfortunately, the syntax of 15th century English is no longer applicable in our modern culture. Consequently we sing the following line and I think that most of us have no idea what we are singing: “O, enter then His gates with praise. Approach with joy His courts unto; Praise, laud, and bless His Name always, for it is seemly so to do.” Nobody talks like that. No one uses the word “laud”. No one “raises his Ebenezer” when he realizes how far God has brought him in his life. No one “harks” to the “sound of jubilee”. The examples could be multiplied but I think the point is made. We are in the midst of a particular culture, and if we are going to provide an accessible platform whereby this culture can engage their thoughts and emotions in the worship of God through singing, we must employ the particular forms that the culture is accustomed to. That is not to say that we use the more extreme forms, ie. Rap, heavy metal, etc. However, there is a cultural “ear” that is accustomed to a particular form of music, typically in the “small combo” genre consisting of guitar, bass, drums, harmonized vocals, and keyboards playing in a harmonic form that is far less complex than the harmonies that are present in the hymnal. It is a very simple form of music and it is the form that our culture is accustomed to. Consequently, it is the form that we ought to use.
Another thing that I think that is wrong is that our liturgy, which includes our singing, seems to start and stop to often. There is not given enough time for the music/words to “sink in”, to “get into” the music as we sing one hymn, then the amen, then sit down and do something else, and then stand and sing, then the amen, then sit down...etc. I think that it would be better if we were to sing the songs/hymns without stopping and without comment sometimes. We need emotional singing and it takes a little while for our hearts to warm up.
Here is a basic one, courtesy of my wife. It is no benefit to anyone when we sing songs that we are not familiar with, regardless of how spiritual the words are or how much a particular pastor likes it. Remember, the music is to serve the congregation in expressing its worship to God in song. When we sing unfamiliar songs, we hardly sing.
In short, archaism (in lyric and form), awkward liturgy, and unfamiliarity are the three biggest offenders when I survey the music in our church.
What would I do to fix these problems?
As a preface, I will simply say that any effort to fix our current music is going to require more time commitment from the musicians and the necessity of change. ‘nuff said.
We will begin to use more familiar forms, always giving consideration to the effect these forms produce to ensure that they are appropriate.
In regards to the lyrics, we will need to begin to put together a list of songs that are more popular.
It would be a good idea if we had a time of singing that was not interrupted, that is, all of the songs that we are going to sing would be sung together. This is how most of the churches I have been to have done it.
I will establish a list of the hymns that are the most familiar to us as a church. This will be our "core material". We will then seek to introduce new songs and hymns at a consistent rate so as to increase our repitoire.
What other churches am I aware of that have much to teach us about music in the context of Biblical worship?
Grace Community Church
What kind of help (manpower, leadership) and resources (equipment, money) do I need to do all of these things?
Let me address the issue of resources first. In order to advance the music of our church, we will need more musicians.