Christians in North America are often unaware of one of the largest and most devoted segments of the Christian church, the Orthodox churches. During the first few centuries A.D., the church remained largely unified. But eventually, a variety of doctrinal and political disputes led to the separation of the church into roughly two main divisions, East and West.
From the beginning of the New Testament experience, the believer’s response to Jesus Christ has included song. Most of the New Testament songs or hymns have found their way into the enduring liturgy of the church, including the Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Gloria, and the Nunc Dimittis. New Testament music in worship included psalmody, hymns composed in the church, and spiritual songs—alleluias and songs of jubilation or ecstatic nature. Further, many of the elements characteristic of later liturgical practice are rooted in New Testament actions and elements of worship.
Music was an important element of both temple and synagogue worship. Undoubtedly this music and its forms influenced the form and use of music in the early Christian church. Both Jews and Christians revere a transcendent God and both give honor to Scripture. For these reasons and others, Jewish synagogue worship and modern Christian services are similar in content and spirit.
Many congregations today consist of people from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Music in worship is one means by which this rich cultural diversity can be expressed. This article challenges congregations to sing the music of many cultures in worship.
Effective worship leading requires much more than just nailing down its technical aspects. As important as or more important than technical skills are the worship leader’s relationship with God and with others, his or her spiritual walk, knowledge of Scripture, attitudes, lifestyle, self-discipline, and understanding of music.
The twentieth century has seen a significant recovery of the arts in both secular and religious culture. The following essay delineates some of the areas in which the arts have emerged within the church and discusses the contribution that the arts make to the worship of God.
The philosophy of music in the New Testament is broadly conceived. It is shaped particularly by Paul’s worldview, which did not accept the Greek ethos of the arts nor regard them as having intrinsic powers but focused rather on human responsibility. Such a view permitted Paul to encourage the extensive use of music in worship.
References to music occur in New Testament texts that are concerned with the raising of the dead or with the Lord’s return.
Synagogue worship expanded and developed the use of the voice. No musical instruments were used in synagogue worship.
Music in the temple was made for the worship of God. More than 10 percent of the people serving in temple ministries were musicians. Their music occupied a central place in the worship of God’s people.