How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? - Ps.137:4
Music ministry in the contemporary church can, for many of us, feel like an increasingly strange and foreign land. Those of us who are called to serve our churches and communities through music find ourselves in a musical culture that often stands opposed to the worldly perception of success. Instead of music being a form of self-promotion and expression, our music seeks to make Jesus known. Our skill is not found in technical exuberance, but rather in understated excellence. Like the exiled Israelites in Psalm 137, we ask ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’. Like the Israelites, our songs are for a different purpose than the songs of the world around us. How can we sing of the Gospel in a world that tells us to sing of ourselves? How can we avoid making ourselves the centre of our worship? How, practically, do we sing the Lord’s song in the midst of musical mess and mayhem?
This blog is for Christians seeking to navigate this land.
I want to open with my understanding of music ministry. This is a reflection of what I have learned from experience, reading and conversations. Here it is.
Musical ministry occurs whenever a Christian seeks to edify another believer/group of believers through songs that
- proclaim the perfect life, saving death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ
- encourage believers to live according to God’s word
- remind believers of the promises of God fulfilled in Christ.
Music ministry, in its simplest form, is doing the work of ministry through the form of music. In Scripture, we see this expressed in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. - Colossians 3:16
Here we see an example of ministry work - "teach, admonish one another with all wisdom", paired with the form of music - “as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. All of this should be marked by the word, or message, of Christ dwelling within the group of believers.
If asked for a single sentence definition of music ministry, I would say:
Music ministry is the faithful exposition and proclamation of God’s word in the support of congregational singing for God’s glory, resulting in the edification of believers and the building of Christ’s church.
Music ministry is Word focussed, we sing of God’s truth revealed in Scripture.
Music ministry is communal, we unite to sing, teach and encourage each other.
Music ministry, above all, glorifies God by equipping and encouraging Christians to spread the Gospel while deepening their love for, faith in, and trust of Christ their Saviour.
And of course, no ministry is possible without the work of Holy Spirit within us, refining us and shaping us to conform to the image of Christ. Thank goodness. Without Him, we would have no hope of accomplishing the task ahead of us.
I hope this post has served as an introduction to understanding music ministry and will serve as a reference for future posts as we explore this often foreign land of what it means to musically minister to God's people in our churches.