There are many misconceptions regarding the part that music plays in worship. Now and then a minister will want the music hurried out of the way so that he can begin preaching, and often he might be shocked to know that some in the congregation came to hear the music rather than the preaching. His attitude is based upon a false concept, for the singing and the preaching should each have its allotted time. They go together and complement each other.
Sabbath Morning Worship
As a contribution to worship, music plays one of its greatest parts. Music can bring in a spirit of worship, even in an evangelistic service. It can set a spiritual mood, edify, raise the plane of spiritual thinking, drive discouragement away, fix in the mind worth-while words, and deepen one's appreciation of worship. Singing for the sheer joy of praising God is of the greatest value. Singing as a means of communion is a delightful form of worship.
Songs for Sabbath worship should be carefully chosen. They should all definitely contribute to the spirit of the hour. The following program is effective when there is a choir or perhaps only a quartet. The responses and special music will make a definite contribution to a Sabbath morning service. If there can be no choir, then the congregation can be taught simple responses which will enrich the individual's spirit of worship.
Suggested Order of Service
Praise and Adoration---Choir
Call to Worship ---Choir(During this the ministers come in and kneel for silent prayer.)
Invocation ---The Morning Speaker (very short)
Presentation of Tithes and Offerings
Choral Response (while congregation remains kneeling)
Worship in Song (choir, solo, or vocal or instrumental ensemble)
Scripture (from the back of the hymnal, read responsively)
Hymn of the Month (the same hymn for the whole month)
This is not. a theoretical program, but one that is in constant use. It is not so long as it seems. There is ample time for preaching. Of course no time is wasted in repeating announcements that are already printed in the bulletin.
The reason for including this program is that there are three congregational hymns in it instead of two. The extra one is the hymn of the month, carefully selected, just preceding the sermon. The first Sabbath it is used, a few words may be said regarding its history. Then it is sung meditatively, with the congregation seated. The plan is very successful. It becomes a hymn of release, and seems to be one of the most effective parts of our service. At times the Spirit comes in a marked manner during this hymn. Hearts are touched, burdens are lifted, and God draws near.
The Scripture reading is placed between the worship in song (the special music) and the hymn of the month, so that two songs do not come together. However, that is not the only reason for its inclusion. Scripture is powerful, and we as Adventists do well to have these responsive readings as a regular feature of our worship hour. Preaching is not the all-important part of worship. Prayer, singing, and Scripture reading are all divinely ordained parts of the whole. Responsive Scripture reading and such a hymn as the hymn of the month com bine to make a strong preparation for the sermon among individuals of the congregation.
The song service is not for filling time. It is not merely to entertain the audience while the latecomers are arriving, though it is good to have well-planned music while people are coming. Neither are songs presented to astonish the audience, or for mere entertainment, or for pleasing the senses. Music has a higher mission than this.
Though some musicians seem to think that music is a means for them to show off, this is a selfish conception. They are not thinking of the benefits they may bring to the audience, but are merely trying to build up a reputation. They have an ambition to be liked; but a per son is liked because of how he makes others feel individually. This brings us back to the all-important thing the individual. Anything that smacks of selfishness in a song leader will have a negative influence, regardless of how good the music may be.
The singing has a slightly different goal in a purely evangelistic service from that during the hour of worship. Individuals have come to the evangelistic meeting for many and varied reasons, and those who come to the worship usually do so because they wish to attend this particular service. In the evangelistic meeting the song leader's task is to open the hearts of those in attendance so they will be ready for the message. Therefore, his song service should be progressive. The song leader can carefully select songs that will gradually lead the minds of the individuals in the audience toward the subject for the evening.
The individuals come from every stratum of life. Familiar fellowship songs will have a tendency to make the individual who is not accustomed to attending a religious service feel at home, because a feeling of fellowship is awakened when there is audience-participation activity. This is particularly true of singing.
The song leader can begin with familiar gospel songs. Later in the service he can weave in some of the beloved old hymns. Certainly the song just before prayer should anticipate the spirit of prayer.
Evangelistic audiences love the old familiar hymns, when they are directed with understanding. Choruses are effective if the words and music are not cheap. Particularly good choruses are those that have Scriptural words. They are an excellent means of stamping Scripture on the hearts of the audience. The Spirit of prophecy says that the commandments should be set to music. Here is a task for some musician. Such a setting, if simple enough for congregational singing, could be a great blessing.
One of the main goals of an evangelistic song service is to bring the individuals of the congregation into sympathy with the message to be presented. If this is accomplished, a spirit of oneness comes into the meeting.
Let us illustrate what can happen. A man comes into the meeting place, but he is not interested. He may have come with the spirit of "I dare you to interest me." He may be curious only, or perhaps his favorite aunt has prevailed upon him to attend while he has been visiting her for a short time. Nevertheless, he is there. It is now up to the song leader to prepare him for the preaching. The song service goes along with enthusiasm, if the song leader knows where he is going. The visitor hears others singing and is tempted to sing, but doesn't want to give in. Finally comes an old hymn which he remembers from years ago. Unconsciously he joins the singing. Soon he is looking on the book and singing with abandon. He is enjoying it, having forgot ten his indifference and even his belligerence. To him the meeting is no longer something to be endured. It is not a bad meeting after all, he thinks. It now does not belong just to the preacher and the song leader, but he has un consciously decided that "this is my meeting." Why? He has invested his energy in singing. Where a man's investment is, his heart will be. When he came he may have been tired, but he has caught a new spirit and soon feels rested. "The Spirit giveth life." He is more courageous than when he came. He has dropped his prejudice. He has been integrated (by participation in the congregational singing) into the spirit of: oneness.
When this happens to the individuals of a congregation, they are ready for the preacher to deliver his message. Soul-warming music has prepared the way.
[End of series]