‘God-Centered Music’ by Derek Thomas

Derek began his second “klunker” of a topic by stating, “I’m not a professional musician.” But, he said, I have many opinions! Further, he said, “I don’t think music should be handed over to professional musicians.

Thomas continued by recounting a moving story of his earliest memory of his grandfather. This grandfather died when Thomas was only 7 years old. He was a WWI soldier who had been gassed. As a 3 year old boy, Thomas remembers vividly being in his house when he sat him on his lap and played a record of classical music. His grandfather belonged to a record club and owned 400 or 500 hundred records. This event was his introduction to music. It was the most important event in his life, besides his conversion at age 18. He inherited his grandfather’s collection by the age of 15. When converted at 18, he knew nothing of Christianity. But he desired to be holy! He had never met a Christian in his first 18 years of life, but within weeks of his conversion, he met a Christian. This Christian introduced him to Francis Schaeffer’s writings (that was a good thing). But the same man also told him that if he really wanted to be holy, he must get rid of all of his music! Music was everything to the young Thomas. Every Saturday afternoon after playing Rugby, he and a friend listened to music. All of his life was spent listening to music. But that day he sold all his records (inherited from Grandpa) for 5 pounds ($10.00). This is his biggest regret in life. If he could do anything over it would be this.

Derek then quoted Martin Luther who said, “Next to Jesus, music is God’s greatest gift.” Dr. Thomas then said, “If there’s no place for music in your life, you are wearisome company and (I might not say it to your face) but you’re a Philistine!”

The above is Dr. Thomas’ qualifications for discussing music. His love of music evidenced by his nearly full 60 GB I-Pod and 2,000 CD’s are futher qualifications. Is he hopelessly prejudiced? “Yes,” says he. But he hopes in this discussion to “offend all equally.” He believes in a Christian worldview of music. But the Christian philosophy of music is eel-like (slippery). When you think you have it, it slips away. But we must beware of idolatry in our view of music.

Next, Thomas made three observations about Ephesians 5:18-21,

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

  • First, the church has historically understood this text as referring to the singing of Psalms unaccompanied by instrumental music.
  • Second, by singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” we are to teach and admonish one another. The emphasis is therefore on the text not the music. Music is a vehicle for the text. The question we must ask ourselves is: “Does this music allow the text to come forth in all its power?” Domineering instrumentals can overpower the message of the song.
  • Third, music is an instrument that serves the affections “making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”

Next, Dr. Thomas “humbly” submitted his 10 commandments of music. But first he presented the “great commandment” of music. *Thou shalt not engage in more than 20% of the service musically.* Now the 10 commandments . . .

1. Aim to ensure that the music helps me worship God (not myself, my emotions, feelings aroused within me). Choose tunes and melodies that enable us to make much of God. People should leave saying, “What a great God!” Not, “What great music!”

2. Aim to ensure that the music enhances the corporate nature of worship. Congregational singing should be emphasized. Choirs must be seen as aids (like instuments) to congregational singing. Since the congregation should be singing the tunes must be relatively simple.

3. Do it well!!! Invest time and money as necessary.

4. Be sensitive to appropriate musical forms. Tunes and words must match. The words and music should be married together. Don’t just sing the same tunes. Don’t just sing your favorite tunes.

5. Be culturally different! The church should be different. It should reflect its own culture. We should not be constantly thinking of the world as we sing. The church’s music should be reflective of its history. Not singing just today’s and yesterday’s music, but also the music of the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries.

6. Avoid crassness (on one hand) and elitism (on the other hand). Keep a balance between the classical and the popular. The church should pursue a via media between crassness and elitism. But have as high music culturally as your situation allows.

7. Introduce new tunes with care. Not on Sunday morning.

8. Use your hymnal devotionally.

9. Take charge of the music. Autocracy and tyranny have their place here. The minister must take charge of the music.

10. Evaluate what you do regularly.

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