Westgate Baptist Church Philosophy of Music & Worship
Philosophy of Music and Worship
As a church we are committed to striving for worship that pleases God both in our corporate worship services as well as in our private times of adoration. In John 4:23-24 Jesus gives us one of the clearest statements regarding the kind of worship that God requires when He says, “…the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Worship in spirit is worship that engages the spirit or the heart of a person. True worship flows from the inner dimension of a man and involves the intellect, the emotions, and the volition (Ps. 45:1; 103:1; Ps. 51:17; Rom. 1:9)
Worship in Truth is worship that occurs in response to God’s gracious revelation of Himself in both creation (general revelation) and the Word of God (special revelation). True worship cannot occur apart from an understanding of who God is (Acts 17:23), and thus every aspect of worship must conform to the truth of God’s Word. Each facet of our corporate worship must be carefully evaluated in the light of scriptural truth in order to protect and enable “worship in truth.” Worship that is saturated in Scripture will be protected from unworthy or errant thoughts about the object our worship, God Himself. Biblically based worship will retain God and His glory as its central focus thus avoiding man-centeredness. When scrutinized in the light of God’s Word, worship will emphasize both the transcendence and immanence of God (Is. 57:15, Ps. 113). Worship submitted to the authority of God’s word will insure that songs can accurately teach and admonish as commanded in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19. Scriptural worship will balance the subjective expression of our thoughts to God (Ps. 18:1-2) with the objective impression of God’s thoughts to us (Deut. 6:3; Is. 1:18-20)
Like the rest of creation, music is designed by God for His own glory (Is. 48:11, Rom. 11:36). Music should be used as a tool to facilitate worship, not as an end in itself. Music enhances our expression of adoration of God beyond that of the spoken word alone (Ps. 147:1) and enriches our convictions with the wonder and majesty of God-given musical expression
Fundamental Principles Undergirding the Music & Worship Ministry:
1) The Authority of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17): The Word of God is the bedrock foundation upon which all of our worship practice is built. Only in scripture does God ultimately reveal to us who He is and how we are to respond to Him in worship (i.e. the kind of worship that pleases Him) (Jn. 4:23-24), therefore scripture alone must govern and guide all our practice!
2) Worship as Whole Life Consecration (Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15-16): Biblical worship is not relegated to 30 minutes of singing on Sunday morning prior to the pastor’s sermon; rather it encompasses the whole of our life (Rom. 12:1) lived out before the all-seeing eye of God. Worship should be a perpetual experience of the heart whereby we ascribe to God supreme worth! Worship is expressed both internally and externally; both privately and publicly; both with our lives and our lips. It involves singing (Heb. 13:15), preaching (Rom. 1:9); serving (Heb. 13:16), evangelism (Rom. 15:16), giving (Phil. 4:18), offering thanksgiving and praise to God (Heb. 13:15-16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:5), as well as every other act of obedience to Him and His Word (Rom. 12:1ff).
3) God-Centered & God-Saturated Worship (Is. 42:8, 48:9-11; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:31): The goal of our worship is to joyfully exalt the triune God. Worship isn’t ultimately about us and our subjective feelings, it’s about exalting God for who He is, for what He has done (especially in the person and work of Jesus Christ) and for what He promises to do! Therefore, God is to be the sum and substance of all our preaching, teaching, praying, singing, giving, serving, etc.
4) Content-Driven Worship (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 4-5): The issue in worship is not old vs. new; hymns vs. contemporary music; but rather content. The question is: Is the content of our worship who God is (Ps. 145:3-5), what He has done (in creation, redemption, etc.) (Rev. 4-5; 1 Pet. 2:9) and what He promises to do (in His return & ultimate reign (Ps. 96; Rev. 11:16-19)? We must carefully evaluate the content of every lyric used in our services. Is everything in a song doctrinally sound? Does it communicate the truth in the way God intended? Does it contain a small or significant amount of truth? We must strive for comprehensive exposure to “the whole counsel of God” in our worship.
5) Emotion-Filled Worship Not Emotion-Driven Worship: True biblical worship is to involve the emotions (Ps. 33:1, 100:1-2) but the emotions are always to follow in response to biblical truth/revelation. Corporate worship is not to be ecstatic for the sake of ecstasy or divorced from the use of the intellect---where emotions overshadow the truth and become the experience. This makes the “worship experience” the consuming focus to the detriment of equipping for whole-life worship. Many churches are now worshipping the emotions of “worship” rather than God because people are addicted to the experience. This emotionalism is reflected in the lyrics of an ever-increasing quantity of contemporary songs. Therefore, we must be careful in our worship to avoid empty-headed emotionalism. At the same time we need to be careful not to swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme of empty-hearted intellectualism. The goal is a biblically-informed, truth-filled mind that issues forth in an enflamed heart of passionate love, devotion, obedience and praise to God!
6) Music and Scripture are a God-ordained Marriage (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16): It is God who ordained the marriage between music and His Word for the church when He spoke through the Apostle Paul, commanding us to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:18-19, Col. 3:16). Singing God's praises was a central part of Israel's worship (e.g. the Psalms, and 1 Chron. 15:16-22) and it will be a future heavenly activity as well (Rev. 5:9).
7) Variety of Music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16): Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 indicate that music of differing content should be used in communicating the Word of God within the Body. While the difference between “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” may be difficult to distinguish with technical definitions, we believe that “psalms” generally refers to the psalms and canticles in the Bible, “hymns” most likely refers to ancient songs of praise written to teach more theological content in their poetry and verse, and “spiritual songs” are likely the varied and broad songs composed for praise, adoration, and to express the testimony of a heart transformed by Christ.
8) Everything is To Be Done for Edification (1 Cor. 14:26, 40): Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:26 “Let all things be done for edification,” which means that our personal preferences must always be subordinate to that which serves the greater good of the Body (edification). Practically speaking, the emphasis in corporate worship should not be upon individual musical preferences, nor upon what someone desires to get (emotions, sensations, what they like to hear, and so forth) from the experience. Rather, corporate worship should focus on what a person comes to give (exaltation of Christ and spiritual service to the church). Paul also says in 1 Cor. 14:40, “do everything decently and in order,” which means that whatever is disorderly or connotes an element of chaos in corporate worship is inappropriate. God is not a God of confusion (v. 33), nor are visitors and the unsaved to think that the church body is lacking in sound judgment or outright senseless (v. 23). Upholding the clarion purpose of corporate edification is a good safeguard against such distractions.
9) Reverent Worship (Heb. 12:28-29): Reverence, awe, and honor are to be the marks of our lifestyle and worship attitudes (Heb, 12:28-29). Two of the great worship scenes in scripture (Is. 6, Rev. 5) strongly emphasize God’s holiness and loftiness. Not only should our worship reflect this, it should also be carefully conceived so as not to trivialize the worship of God.
10) Blend Historic and Contemporary Music in Worship (Mt. 13:52): Essential to cultivating good balance is blending classic/traditional music with the best of the contemporary music being written today. Of course, this requires a degree of deference from contemporary-minded musicians toward the traditional, and from classic-minded musicians toward the contemporary. When a broad range of styles is tastefully harmonized in one service—and if your musicians are mature!—the body benefits from each aspect of the spectrum represented by the demographics of the fellowship. If each group must demand their own genre of music, the end result will be two churches meeting at different times in the same building.
11) An Unswerving Commitment to the Biblical Purpose/Priorities of the Worship Service:
A ministry with a welcoming environment is certainly more attractive than one without “life and passion”, but we must avoid turning evangelistic fervor into tampering with God’s design for the gathering of His people. We gather on the Lord’s Day primarily to praise God, to pray, to share spiritual resources (“fellowship”), to edify one another, to be equipped by doctrinal preaching & teaching, to meet needs, to prepare for evangelism through the week, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and to baptize new converts,. Ephesians 4:11-16 gives us a clear treatise on church growth, with an emphasis on individual spiritual gifts and maturity in the truth. Our churches should welcome unbelievers to “eavesdrop” on our Sunday activities that they might hear the gospel, but we must not turn the main Sunday service, or its music, into a pragmatically-determined strategy for attracting the lost. The unsaved come to salvation by the supernatural regenerating work of God through the Word alone (1 Cor. 1:21, Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23). The music and praise of our worship should not be designed around the preferences of curious non-believers or what is culturally appealing to the masses. Our worship should be something strange and attractive to the soft-hearted, and something uncomfortable and detestable to the hardened.
12) Undistracting Excellence (Ps. 33:3):.Musicians and singers should strive to honor God with the best of their talents and spiritual maturity. Artistic excellence, however, without godly maturity leads to pretentiousness and shallow praise. Conversely, musicianship that is carelessly offered and poorly rehearsed can dishonor the Lord, contributing to distraction and lack of passion. This is no less important than excellent preparation in the preaching of God’s word or any other ministry gift and talent offered in the church. Natural, undistracting excellence (Ps. 33:3) that draws the listeners’ attention to the text (rather than to the performers) must always be the goal of the musicians involved in worship.