Levites, Worship Leaders, and Musicians…
I was reading a post not to long ago on FredMckinnon.com and have really been pondering it. I wanted to respond to it there on his website, but as I collected my thoughts, I realized this was a deep answer that was too long to really be a comment. So instead I have been thinking about it for a few days and am putting my thoughts here. If you click the link above, you will see the original post, and a melee of opinions and answers. There are quite a few differing thoughts on the topic.
Here was the original Question he asked. “Should Secular Songs Be Used in Church?” As you read this, you probably had strong opinions and answers rise up inside of you. However, I hope that you will take some time to really think about it before you decide for yourself. With that let me answer the question with my thoughts.
The short answer from me is No, but this is a complex thing and no short answer will suffice. The question was raised in Fred’s discussion, what counts as “In Church” Yesterday, we had a baby shower in our church and the couple who were having the baby played secular songs in the games and such. However, for the purposes of my discussion, I am going to define “In Church” as songs used in the Church Service.
Back in the days of King Solomon and The First temple, the Bible records an occurrence in 2nd Chronicles 5. The Levites were bringing the Ark of The Covenant into its resting place within the Temple. This place is commonly known as “The Holy of Holies” This passage, which you can read for yourself, describes the process of bringing it in, denotes a time of bringing offerings before the Lord, and describes a time of purification. After these, The passae tells us about the first worship Service in the Temple. Every priest had been in the Holy of Holies and sanctified, the offerings had been brought, and all the elders of Israel were present.
When the worship commenced they simply reminded Themselves, and the Lord of His Goodness and Mercy. With trumpets, stringed instruments, cymbols, and voices. As they worshiped, they continued until The Lord’s presence met them. Not with goosebumps or happy thoughts, but with a thick dark cloud. So thick, and So dark that The Bible tells us they had to stop ministering.
I imagine this was because the Cloud of his Presence was so thick that they could no longer see their instruments or each other, or anything besides the presence of the Lord. Now the Bible doesn’t go into this much detail, but it does specify that the cloud came and the priests could not stand to minister. Now most of the people I know would call this a good worship service. Then after the cloud came, King Solomon got up and preached of The Lord. So we see worship and the Preaching, which is the model most churches follow today.
In the Psalms, David who was one of if not the most prolific worship writer in the History of mankind continually taught us to praise the Lord. Psalm 96 gives us some of David’s views on worship. In reading this passage, it seems to me that Christian worship should be focused upon the Exaltation of the Lord, His nature, character, and his salvation.
In those days, The Temple and the Tabernacle were Holy places and there was a requirement of Holiness and Righteousness, and a strong dose of the Fear of the Lord if you were going anywhere near the Altar of The Lord. It is for this reason that I feel worship should be done with a deep reverance, and the music we do should be music that was written with the purpose of exalting the Lord.
I love U2, and “Where The Streets Have no Name” is one of my favourite songs, but it is not worship. Bono did not write it to be worship. If you disagree, here is a quote from the man himself.
Bono (from Propaganda 5, 1987): “Where the Streets Have No Name is more like the U2 of old than any of the other songs on the LP, because it’s a sketch – I was just trying to sketch a location, maybe a spiritual location, maybe a romantic location. I was trying to sketch a feeling. I often feel very claustrophobic in a city, a feeling of wanting to break out of that city and a feeling of wanting to go somewhere where the values of the city and the values of our society don’t hold you down. An interesting story that someone told me once is that in Belfast, by what street someone lives on you can tell not only their religion but tell how much money they’re making – literally by which side of the road they live on, because the further up the hill the more expensive the houses become. That said something to me, and so I started writing about a place where the streets have no name.” (thanks, Bertrand – Paris, France)
God desires pure worship, in spirit and in truth. The Ark of The Covenant was kept seperate for areason. The one time it was mixed with a pagan or ‘secular’ altar, it utterly destroyed it. (see 1 Samuel 5) So when we sing songs that are not written with the purpose of worship, with our christian worship, we create a mixture. We are taking Bitter water and sweet water and trying to put them in the same Jar. God is not up for that. He has a way he desires to be worship, and has a habit of letting you know when he is not happy with your worship. Just ask Cain.
[[ Amendment 1: I would like to add, You should always follow the direction of your pastor, as was the case for Fred. His pastor requested that he sing “When a Man Loves a Woman” Thus, he was obedient to his leaders, and I respect that greatly. This post was not to challenge that at all, just in case anyone got that idea. I love you fred, you are an awesome worship leader and Levite in the house of God. I pray he continues to bless you and your church richly.]]
Well, that seems like enough for now. What are your thoughts on the matter. I know this is a discussion that brings out many opinions and emotions, what are yours? Feel free to share stories and personal experiences, just keep it civil.