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July 30, 2002
Updated: August 5, 2002

Return to: Q/A's
Q/A Topics on "Worship"
Church choirs Scriptural?

READER QUESTION:
I have been burdened with much thought on whether a church choir is scriptural. The small church I attend is trying to interest people in starting a choir. Please know that I love to sing; especially to the Lord, Jesus Christ, and I have no problem singing while sitting or standing among the others in the congregation. I was asked to join, even. However, I am very uncomfortable with the idea of standing in front of a church congregation and singing. [Edited: Not about stage fright] It is obvious to me that singing and making melody to the Lord is part of being a Christian. Praise to Him by singing is very important to me. So, certainly, singing with the congregation is not my question. It's just that the whole idea of a church choir singing to the Lord makes me wonder if the very fact that a choir is visibly up in front actually confers that they are singing to the audience instead of in true praise to the Lord. Oftentimes, choirs sing and the congregation listens. So certainly, singing to the audience instead of to the Lord is a possibility. I don't like to make a mountain out of a molehill but I can't find anywhere in the Bible where the Lord indicates a choir is a good thing. If anything, I can see how Satan can use it to his advantage by appealing to the desires of the flesh (being the choir is in the spotlight).

I know you were heavily involved in music and church programs in the past. Where did the notion of choirs come from? Are choirs biblical?

VW ANSWER:
"Then David spoke to the rulers of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, lutes, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy." (1Ch15:16) And at the dedication of the temple, as the instruments and singers "were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking Jehovah, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised Jehovah, saying: For He is good, For His mercy is eternal" (2Ch5:13) that God's glory filled the temple. During Nehemiah's time we also see it mentioned that they received "financial support". (Neh11:23) Of course, originally before the exile to Babylon, being Levites, they would have been supported by the (income tax) tithe system.

I think we get a picture of this from Hezekiah's time: "The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah commanded them to offer the burnt offering on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of Jehovah also began, with the trumpets and with the instruments of David king of Israel. So all the assembly bowed down, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had finished offering, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and prostrated themselves. Moreover King Hezekiah and the rulers commanded the Levites to sing praise to Jehovah with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and prostrated themselves." (2Ch29:26-30)

Now, if the people are all bowed down while the sacrifice and singing is going on simultaneously, it seems obvious that the "choir" is not 'performing' -for- the people's entertainment. The typical words and purpose of their music, as repeated over and over in the O.T. is "Oh, give thanks to Jehovah, for He is good! For His mercy is eternal." (1Ch16:34) And also, not everybody is bowing down at the same time, either. The priests are tending the sacrifice, the singers are singing, the instrumentalists are playing, the people are bowing. And once the sacrifice is done, it seems like, then, everybody else who had been ministering, also bow down. (What?? No applause??)

I really hesitate to say this next little bit, but... if we can learn something about bowing from Islam, perhaps we can make an observation about choirs from Rome, or other liturgically-based groups; keeping in mind distinctly that they are pagan in doctrines, rituals and worship; and we have no fellowship with their "unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph5:11). But they typically would station their choirs up in a 'loft' -behind- the congregants, sitting around the organ console which was also up in the loft -behind- the congregation; since, quite often, the organist was also the choir-master. What the congregation would see was their altar and objects of worship, as they focused on their rituals. I've watched the Vatican TV broadcasts the past few years for what they call X-mass eve "midnight mass", and I have noticed that the St.Peter's choir, unlike our typical choirs that have all the "spotlight" (as you say), were over in their corner. Their function, along with the organ, is to "lead" the congregation in singing and the responsorials. And then, just like the passage above, when the various liturgical acts were being performed, the choir was over there singing during it all.

The -CONCEPT- of a "church choir" is -very- "Scriptural". The problem is in what choirs do, their perceived function, and how they do it.

If the Lord were to lead me to some group, where they actually proclaimed God's Word, and the group was actually comprised of Christians, and I was supposed to lead the music (since I have this musical past), I don't right now rightly know -what- I would do, nor -how-. Like the commentary said about 'bowing', that some 'time' is required to digest everything. When explaining to a friend the topic of the commentary (while I was working on it), he was looking forward to it, hoping it would help provide some "how-to" answers as his group (he is a pastor) is seeking the Lord regarding directions to go in worship for their group. The commentary is not giving those answers. Perhaps, as the True Believers are coming out of the unregenerate congregations and find themselves 'alone', our answers will come when we shortly see our Savior face-to-face, and participate in Heavenly worship in His glorious presence. Perhaps, for now, we must 'wait' for that day? Soon! Perhaps this illumination we are presently considering is for the purpose that, when we who are saved arrive in His presence soon, we will know how to comport ourselves appropriately?

READER QUESTION:
Also, I believe you stated before that apostasy often seeps in through the choir. Can you please share with me your knowledge about this?

VW ANSWER:
This comes about when the unsaved are solicited to join the choir. Notice that the singers in the O.T. were "Levites". Levi was the tribe of 'ministry' to Israel. (See the very first verse quoted above) Some comments from last week's Q/A have been expanded into a Portion "Gifts" (for future mailing. It's at the website now.) where this is addressed a bit.

True worship of God includes so many different things. So many different ways that we acknowledge and proclaim His "worth". They include bowing, singing, praying, service, sacrifice, etc. If a congregation has been blessed with musicians and has a choir, or even if they don't... typically, music seems to play a major role in worship. Now, if unbelievers are leading in this by being in the choir, being an organist, etc., that is one-and-the-same as if Israel were to have taken prophets of Baal and had them offering the sacrifices; or if they had taken pagan images and placed them in the temple complex, and offered sacrifices to them. Oh, that's right...THEY DID! And God judged! That's why they were dispersed out of the land for all those years!

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Worship not through song?

READER QUESTION:
p.s. I find it very interesting that during this time you wrote an article about "worship". Somehow, my question and your article seem to be related since you are remarking how worship is not really through song (and churches use music as a ministry of worship and evangelizing ..so they claim). I can't piece it all together yet but am hoping you can help clarify this bit about choirs for me.

VW ANSWER:
To clarify a bit...

And even though you have obviously seen the "worship" commentary at the website before it is getting mailed to the subscribers, this question is a good follow-up to it. The commentary is not condemning the -verb- form of the word "worship". If you noticed the comment in the middle of it somewhere, condemning the "worship" (verb) -when- there is a lack of understanding of its original "nominative" meaning/definition. To the world, the verb "worship" includes all sorts of pagan ritual, devotion and adoration... and can also include everything that has evolved into charismania.

However, there is legitimacy to the concept of worship when it is properly understood. Ascribing "worth" unto God. Truly, are not the Psalms -full- of expressions of worth and thanksgiving to God. By definition, "worship". Ascribing worth to the Most High can be expressed in many ways: bowing, singing, praying, serving, living faithful lives before the Lord obediently, etc. But it begins with the heart.

God says, "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; for I will not hear the melody of your lutes (precursor to the modern guitar!)." (Am5:23) Confusion about worship has resulted since guitars were allowed into the services, rejecting the hymns that truly do lend the singer to worship: not that guitars are intrinsically evil (they are made of wood and metal, and depending on the playing style in the hands of a musician can be a most beautiful instrument), but the 'spirit' of those who whined and manipulated until they were allowed was a spirit of 'rebellion' (That was 'my' generation that did it! I was there when it happened, and saw it all!). They did not like the solid hymns of worship because they were too full of God's Word and 'doctrine'. The rebellion did not want to be obedient to God; but neither did they want to 'appear' to be rebellious; they wanted to remain 'in' the "church" because they were claiming to be "christians". But God's Word is much too uncomfortable because it is so "judgmental" and condemns those sins I really wish to do. God's "fear" (Gen20:11) does not fit with the rebellion of the age. It does not "feel good". So, they were allowed to come in with their 'twanky-twanky-twanky' strums and hippy feel-good doctrines of "love" and all-inclusivity; which is the opposite of God's purity and holiness (set-apartness, and exclusivity). Once the acoustic guitars had gained entrance, the bass and drums were an easy shoe-in; and from there, the wails of the amplified electric guitars, with satan's distorted sounds of rebellion, immoral lascivious stage behavior; and out-and-out spitting in God's face with false doctrine.

THOUGHT/QUESTION to PONDER: What are the chances that anybody would be inclined to "bow down" and "prostrate" themselves, with their faces to the gound before the Holy Most High God in the presence of the screaming of electric guitars, and the throbbing thumpity-thumps of the demonic drum-beats and bass, that induce people to wiggle and girate with sensuous pre-fertility overtures? Keep in mind that all the heathen gods Israel was condemned (and exiled into dispersion) for whoring after, were gods and goddesses of 'fertility', and much of their worship included sexual orgies. God -judged- Israel for participating in it! So, how does anybody conceive in their minds that He is 'pleased' with the same thing today? He is not! If God judged Israel, "Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy..." those of today?? (Heb10:29)

CURRENT EVENTS OBSERVATION: As this is being compiled, the pope is making travels, and the youth are -FLOCKING- to see him. Why, in some news clips they show some youth saying some things about the awesomeness and grandeur of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to even get just-a-glimpse of him, if even only from a distance. I didn't notice that the pope was in the Vatican's 'rock-band'. Or did I miss that??!! And yet, the youth are flocking IN DROVES to see him. Well... So much for the -excuse-, that the "only way to draw the young people" is with rock bands! That's all it is... an "excuse". They have their rock bands because that is what -they- 'want'! It fulfills their -own- lusts!

But, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." (Ps51:17) "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Rom12:1-2)

OK...back on track here...

The commentary is not suggesting that singing is not a legitimate form of worship; BUT, that every place the word "worship" appears, the texts actually say, 'bow down". The commentary is not saying that we do not worship the Most High; but rather, let us know what the Scriptures are saying. If the Scriptures say, "bow down", it means "bow down". If it says, "sing", it means "sing". If it says, "give thanks", it means "give thanks". And if it says, "bow down", while worship may -sometimes- be included in that activity of bowing, it does not -mean- "worship". In some cases bowing is part of the process of repentance and confession; and thus, "worship" would not be totally appropriate. Much of the time singing is for praise and worship. At other times, if we are "speaking to one another" with psalms and hymns, while we might be "making melody..to the Lord" (Eph5:19), there might be the aspect of "exhortation" that happens "to one another". Strictly speaking, such singing would not be "worship" of God...except, inasmuch as anything we do "in word or deed" is done "in the name of the Lord Jesus.." (Col3:17)

No...singing -is- not worship; although in many instances it may involve it and be a conduit for it. Bowing down -is- not worship; although, again, in many cases it may be what's in the heart at that moment. Again, we are only trying to understand and realize exactly -what- the Scriptures are saying, and being faithful to God's Word. Yes, we can worship when bowing down, we can worship when singing; but these activities, in-and-of themselves -are- not "worship".

But, if a Believer is understanding the word "worship" properly, in its original nominative sense, "worth-ship", there is nothing wrong with changing the noun into a verb, if the same purpose is understood: acknowledging and ascribing "worth" to the Most High. Worship is NOT about how I 'feel', although I may be "rejoicing" and "happy" while ascribing God's worth. Worship is about -GOD-, and -His- position. Some worship (verb) may be from a happy heart. Other will be from a repentant humble heart. And some worship will come from the deepest despair of the soul, full of sorrow and emptiness, when also understanding God's love and care for the person in the midst of that deep sorrow...and such worship will be with tears. I mention this last one because I understand it...I've been there! And it is out of -such- "worship" that one then also comes to truly understand the psalmist when he says, "He restores my soul." (Ps23:3)

'Hope this helps...

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Worship Teams in non-charismatic/fundamental churches?

VW EDITOR:
These reader comments contained too much personal detail, and would be too complex to try to edit for the public, so won't include it. But, the person comes from a CBA (Conservative Baptist Association) background, and for the first time experienced "worship teams" at a conference that was attended...but when the service was done, and people were discussing amongst themselves what they has just experienced, they all felt in their spirits that "something was wrong" with it.

VW ANSWER:
This is what I say periodically. Charismania has pretty much infiltrated 'all' the denominations. They may not speak "in tonges", but they use charismania's "worship" music. There are groups even more conservative than CBA where this is going on, too. Even the old die-hards like GARBC and the Independent baptist groups are now also having their drums and everything that goes with it. I don't know that there is -any- official denominationally-based group that has not been infected to greater or lesser degree by it. This is merely the "symptom" of what is in the hearts. This is why I have "come out of her", and why many I correspond with have, also.

I should think the whole "worship -team-" concept started to get its toe-hold into the most conservative/fundamental of the non-charismatic groups something like 10 years ago. It would get its start with little 'add-in' times, tucked into regular worship times. The groups would have their hymns, Scriptures, prayers...and then, also a little "worship" time with the guitars. The -hymns- weren't "worship"?? And that pretty much tells the story about what this new so-called "worship" -really- is. I don't know that anybody ever said it in so many words, in places where I was...but there was a certain unspoken undercurrent that the guitars would help people "relax". Well, we already noted in the commentary how "fear and trembling" go hand-in-hand with bowing down, the sort of worship that says, "God is Holy, and I am nothing". So, if people are -purposely- being helped to "relax" around God, is that not contradictory and contrary to Scriptural "fear and trembling"! It is not true Scriptural worship. It is something else. And when we observe the full-blown charismatic development of it, the "relax" is part of "emptying the mind" to allow the demons to "spirit-fill" those thus-relaxed.

Thus, as I repeated above, and will again... There does not appear to be -any- denominationally oriented group that has not been tainted by at least SOME ASPECT OF charismania. They may not speak in tongues... but they are "relaxing" before God, and learning to "feel-good". That's where full-blown charismania began, too; and see where they are now!!

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Lesser 'blessing' the Greater?

READER QUESTION:
In light of Hebrew 7:7, "And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.", is it possible for a Christian to bless God with praise?

VW ANSWER:
Well, the word "bless" includes several aspects to it. The Greek word is "eulogeo", which I would assume is what our "eulogize" or "eulogy" comes from, which means "to praise" or "commend"; which is what they do at typical funerals where they praise all the good memories of the dearly departed. The Greek word originates from a compound word, one meaning "to speak", and the other "well off, prosper"; thus, to speak well of, to speak on behalf of someone's prosperity, etc. And so, Eulogeo includes definitions of: praising, and celebrating; as well as to invoke, pronounce, bestow favor and prosperity upon a person.

Thus, if one is praising, that is easily done from a lesser unto a greater. But also, the greater can -bestow- favor and prosperity upon the lesser. It seems to be a word that can go both directions, depending upon which definition is in mind at the moment.

After all, the Scriptures are full of praise being worded such as "-bless- Jehovah, oh my soul.." etc (Deu8:10, 1Ch29:20, Ps103:1, etc) That would obviously have to be the "praise" variety, since it is obvious that we cannot bestow favor or prosperity upon God, since He "gives to all life, breath, and all things". (Acts17:25)

But here again... (and sorry to be sounding like a broken record... for you younger ones who have not experienced a broken/cracked record because all you have known is CD's, cassettes and MP3, when the needle would hit the crack, it would often jump 'back' a groove or two, thus, on each revolution, would keep playing that one groove over and over and over) ...the problem with many who engage in modern so-called "worship": Many of them presume that they are "bestowing" favor and prosperity -upon- God, just by their very presence in merely existing (because they possess so much "worth" to God), and so by engaging in their activities, they think they are "giving" God something, that He would somehow be without, unless they gave it to Him! That sort of "bless" is blaspheme. It is the same mentality that says God's ability to do things is limited by whether or not people so-called "pray", and utilize their "power of prayer"; thus, limiting God's power by how much man's prayer "releases" God's power to do what -they- pray for. Again... what utter blaspheme! God is the Creator...and we are but "dust". (Ps103:14)

"For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Rom11:34-36)

Solomon prayed: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the Heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (1Ki8:27) Paul says: "..for in Him we live and move and exist.." (Acts17:28)

True worship begins like Isaiah, seeing God's holiness, bewailing in fear and trembling, "Woe is me...!" I am nothing. Thus, acknowledging God's awesomeness and my total inability for anything apart from Him. And then God sends the seraph with the coal off the altar to touch the lips and cleanse. (Is6:1-7)

Isn't it interesting how -everything- must have a 'definition of terms' continually, these days! We can no longer hear/use terms like Christian, salvation, worship, bless, faith, etc., or even "God", and automatically assume everybody knows what we are talking about. That's why we keep playing that record over and over and over. (Tick, tick, tick..!)

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Jazz Dance?

VW EDITOR:
Again, too much personal stuff. But, a family that homeschools: They have an association where the homeschooled kids get together periodically for special seminar-type days, to study special things in a one-time conference-type setting, with special teachers...in a church building. Of all things, one of the courses offered, "Jazz Dance", and the daughter wants to take it. Parent wondering, "Should she be allowed to take it?" The claim, that the class is nothing more than "gymnastics", and the father wondering 'why', then, don't they call it that? Also referencing "dance" in the O.T. Hopefully my answer will fill-in-the-blanks.

VW ANSWER:
Well...I would suggest that on an occasion before you sign your daughter up, go and observe the class, and see if the movements they make (and what they wear) is something you want your daughter to be doing. Personally, if I had a daughter who was under my roof, under my authority, she would not take so-called "gymnastics" either. Have you seen some of the things they do? I'd be embarrassed for any daughter of mine (if I had one) to expose herself the way they do. Certainly, they -wear- 'something', but when they strike certain poses they do, they might just as well be naked! Certainly, it is "athletic". But the world has also put sensuality into it, as well. It progresses from 1) gymnastics, to 2) jazzercize/jazz dance ...and next thing you know, keep progressing in that direction, and your daughter will be 3) another Brittany Spears or Mariah Kerry. (sp?) I am with you... wondering why they would call 'gymnastics', "jazz dance". The two are decidedly -NOT- the same!

When one gets to the basics, it is all a celebration of the human 'body'. Now, while God's creation might be considered beautiful, down through history the celebration of its fertility aspects is always accentuated. When Israel went whoring after the pagan gods around them, the worship of these deities always also included aspects related to fertility. And if you think of what the world considers to be the ultimate in sports, the Olympics; the Olympic games is "worship". Worship of the gods, through the prowess of the human body. It's all one big package deal. Certainly, much sports is purely competitive and athletic. But some events seem, by their very nature, to glorify the body and sensuality.

Dance in the O.T. Bible was nothing at all resembling jazz dance (Since the course your daughter is interested in is called "jazz dance", I'm going to assume for this discussion that it is, actually, jazz dance, and not gymnastics). It's kinda like the "bowing" in the current "worship" discussions. What they did was an "eastern" sort of dance. Men danced together, and women danced together...but men-and-women did not dance together. And it was not the sensuous wiggle/slither the body, 'come-to-my-bed' dancing (Sorry to be so verbally graphic, but this is what the world flings in our faces...so we must address it!) Nor was it the feminist "I'm in control of myself" sensual (I'm going to flaunt it in front of your face, but you can't have any of it, and you better not try to take it!) militance. For the women it was more of a gentle 'bouncing' of the body up and down, as the feet had their movements, perhaps some hand/arm motions...totally "pure". And if you think of David "leaping and whirling before Jehovah" (2Sam6:16), something we might be more familiar with to compare it to, might be the sort of dancing we think of with the Russian Cossacks... where it is "purely" macho athletic... with -nothing- 'sensual' to it.

If you notice in the Scripture, dance is either an O.T. "eastern" activity (Mt10:17 Lk7:32,15:25 are still within the "eastern" cultural context) and spoken of favorably; or if it is "western" (Mt14:6) it is in the context of seductive dancing where Herodias' daughter "pleased" Herod.

Otherwise, dance is not a N.T. "Christian" phenomenon in the Scriptures. No, we have not addressed "dance" in the past, directly; but have made many sideways mentions while passing by other topics. You can find them at the website by typing "dance" into the (right) Word Search option of the TopicSearch.

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Sanctuary Reverence

READER COMMENTS:
I grew up in a Catholic Church and while I have been out of the that church for 20+ years, I often wondered why the Protestants gathered and talked in the sanctuary like meeting each other out on the streets. I often wanted to kneel and pray before a service and felt everyone would think it strange. I was a new Christian at the time and radically saved out of the whole "70's" lifestyle. The reverance was not there that I had in my heart. The years have gone by and when I was in various churches I just didn't think about it much anymore. I am grateful for the scriptural teaching on this and believe my heart and thinking has changed as solid scripture is being taught.

VW ANSWER:
While you speak of the Scriptural teaching, these things here are matters of putting the Scripture we already know, into practice...and how we go about doing that...

First of all, in terms of your catholic background and reverence...I must "amen" you on this; and I don't have such a background, but actually grew up within the so-called "protestant" mill-around-the-sanctuary mentality of which you speak. I was learning to live as an 'adult', going to college, during the early 70s.

The churches I was involved in, little by little, accepted more and more of the "hang loose" mentality. It used to make me really irate when my fellow-collegians behaved with disrespect in the sanctuary. And I used to really get angry with parents and youth leaders who allowed children to run around in the sanctuary, playing tag, hide-n-seek, throw paper airplanes, run up to the pulpit area and pretend "mock" ministry. There were the children I have yelled at, to "stop running", or whatever the case might have been... I guess, in whatever limited way the society of that day allowed me to be, I shared a bit in the "zeal for [God's] house" that characterized Jesus. (Jn2:17) I never overturned money tables...but I was as militant as I dared to be.

But with my music background, I also found myself in the buildings of the catholics, lutherans, and episcopals, etc. (Being a choral musician, many performances were in these grand cathedrals, especially in Montreal, CA) Some of them had these 'kneelers' built into the backs of the pews...and I remember being irritated at them, how they were "in-the-way" of easily walking through.

But the year that made my eyes pop out a bit was the school season I drove down to this little country (catholic) school in southern N.Dakota a couple times a week to direct their high school choir, and teach private piano lessons to some of the kids. Being a catholic school, it was all part of the "church" complex, and the principal and teachers were all nuns. I never participated in their masses, but I would observe things through the doors. These kids who otherwise would have preferred listening to KFYR (Bismarck) and their country music, and be out helping their dads drive tractor... than to be doing the 'boring' classical music, and could sometimes be a handful in class... when they went into that sanctuary, they were all-seriousness. Respectful of the 'god' they worshipped. Reverent. They would go in, kneeling, crossing themselves. They would kneel on the pew kneelers. I don't recall ever once seeing in that sanctuary anything remotely resembling the likes of what I would see in the so-called protestant places, with a general state of hubbub and commotion, with hardly even a scant recognition (or realization?) of the symbolism of God's sanctuary.

During that year, I thought to myself, wondering why Christians, who truly know the Lord, did not show the same respect to God that the catholics did to their deities. I somewhat thought to myself that, in that they kneeled and did those things, they had the "right idea" at least in the "respect" department.

The reasons (excuses) given in the protestant churches were that, the "Church" is "different", because the building no longer represents God's presence, because -we- ARE the "temple of the Holy Spirit". Thus, the building, room and location "don't matter". And yet, in my own heart (and conscience), if that room was a place where we corporately sang, prayed, worshiped, learned from God's Word...it was a "sanctuary"; by definition, a "holy place". I still remember the one place I directed the church choir, going to the building during the middle of the week to do things in the music library, practice on the organ, etc. when nobody else was around. Just being in the place (while I now realize the congregation were mostly unbelievers, even though the pastor taught the Word faithfully), walking around in it in the 'quiet' ("..Jehovah is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him" -Hab2:20), I realized in my heart the reality of the psalmist's heart, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of Jehovah." (Ps122:1) and, "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Ps84:10) If there is one thing I miss about having "come out of her, my people" (Rev18:4), it is the physical "sanctuary" of that special holy place. I don't miss the fellowship with the other people as much as I miss the "sanctuary" of the special set-apart (holy) place...the -place- symbolically representing God's presence.

But...soon...we who know the Lord will be in His real presence! Jesus promised, "..that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn14:3) Amen!

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Music/Organs?

READER QUESTION:
Athough I do have one question. I was listening to an 80+ year old retired Pastor speak one Sunday about the instruments in worship. He told a story about being a young boy in Florida and the church his parents were in was in the middle of a similar battle. This would bring us to the somewhere around 1930's!?! He said the debate at that time, in that church was that organs were for saloons and drinking establishments and as you can probably tell he related it to todays debates. I'd appreciate any feedback on organs and are they scriptural. I remember (vaguely) you did a commentary/study on pure music/worship/instruments a little while back. It was really technical and over my head [Editor: probably "God is: My Song" ??] a bit but do we need to have only instruments used in scripture in the Church.

VW ANSWER:
If we look at things very simplistically, there were basically two kinds of organ; the cathedral organ and the theater organ. Nobody else could afford such a costly custom-built instrument with hundreds/thousands of precision-built-tuned pipes. As people moved out to the frontier west of America, the saloons had these out-of-tune pianos. Churches might have a piano...but they also typically had the harmonium...the wheezy-sounding keyboard instrument which a person would pedal the air-bellows, and play the keys like a piano.

As the "protestants" -protested- against all-things-catholic, it seems that they also protested against its music. I don't suppose in the 30s the electronic organs had yet come into being, so this pastor you speak of must have been referring to the churches that could afford a pipe organ... protestant churches tended to get the Wurlitzers and such that were designed the way theater organs were. Theaters of course had all sorts of contraptions connected to the organ, like a remote piano, symbals, drums, bells/chimes and whatnot...and depending on the stops the organist pulled, he could play all those add-ons along with the organ. When churches had them, they didn't have all the contraptions, but the sounds (of the pipes) available were the same.

Without getting all technical, the more classically-oriented cathedral organs tended to have more 'pure' sounding stops (sets of pipes with their unique sound quality, activated by the "stop/switch" on the keyboard console), whereas the theater organs leaned more in the direction of 'fuzzy' sounds, and combinations of stops that could produce quite a raunchy ruckus of sound. Similar to the discussion you thought was too "technical" where we discussed the "overtone" characteristics to sound...and how rock guitars purposely 'distort' the sounds, that otherwise could be clean/pure. It was the organ specifically designed for theater, dance and the world's raunchiness that was more predominantly brought into the protestant churches; not as much, the ones with the purer tones. The 'world' was brought into the church.

A good theater organist could make the organ into the sound of an entire orchestra, and thump away with dance music. It had the deep throbbing bass (today's bass guitars and subwoofers are nothing new in the bass department...they can't hold a candle to the bass of a good pipe organ in a large hall), along with just about any combination of sounds imaginable. They were great for skate dancing in the roller rinks.

So, these organs came into the church, and church music began to make use of that 'bass', which the organ was so-well suited to. They would not thumpity-thump like in the dance halls, but there is a subtle way to thump the bass in church to give it just that little bit of 'sensuality'. I know what I'm talking about...I was also an organist. This was never something that I remember hearing anybody 'talk' about. But the organists who were well-liked for their playing... did it. And when you hear it enough, you learn how to do it, even though nobody teaches you lessons on how-to do it... and I did it, too. You sort-of abandon proper 'classical' pedal technique, leave the right foot on the swell pedal to continuously adjust the dynamics, and thump that left foot around, picking it up, and plopping it down...subtle shadings, you see. And with the -lively- "singspiration" meetings, singing the 'gospel songs' (not hymns), that organ cranked up could, along with Gershwinesque piano playing that accompanied it, could really crank up the emotions...and people thought they were singing "spiritually". But it was the flesh, and "feel-good". But not very many people understood it for being of the flesh, and not of the spirit.

Just to give credit where credit is due... not all organists did this sort of thing. Don Hustad was known for his 'good' organ playing. And Lorin Whitney, even though he built an entire studio around one of those theater organs he purchased for the purpose, any of his recordings I've heard were also, always 'good'. Just because it was a theater organ, didn't mean it 'had-to-sound' raucous. But the theater organ was designed to lend itself to dance music, whereas, a typical classical cathedral type organ is pretty hard to do the same things with. It doesn't lend itself to such.

Of course, when the Hammond came out, pretty much -any- church congregation could afford to have an organ...and it became somewhat the standard for pop music organ playing. If you hear a black "church" service where the organist is continually doodling around, accenting the pastor's preaching...those used to usually be Hammonds. Even though it is such old technology, there are some bands that still prefer the Hammond today, because of its sonic adjustment capabilities. With those draw-bars, one can make subtle adjustments to every timbre of the sound, to suit the purpose of their playing, and the -MOOD- they are seeking to establish.

But the problem back in the 30s was not -just- the organs. The 30s followed the "roaring 20s" which came after WW1. The same thing happened after WW2. I don't know the singing of the 30s, as it was (obviously) before my time, and I don't know that there are any recordings of church congregational music from those days. But I grew up during the 50s, which followed the war years of the 40s. When I grew up the popular things were ladies' trios and male quartets...or mixed groups with a couple gals, and several guys. The so-called "christian" groups would call themselves things like, the "All-tones" or "Melodaires", etc. They would perform all sparkly, bouncy and bubbly. Pianists would -dazzle- the congregations by playing all over the keyboard at once (can you say "George Gershwin"?). These singing groups would sing with what was called "close harmony" (blue chords, added 6ths, etc.). Now, I grew up listening to this, hearing the introductions to the groups as the announcer/pastor would give a pumped-up get-everybody-excited introduction. They would come bouncing out, and perform. I used to be wowed by the pianists, and would try to emulate them...although, I could never quite get the hang of how/what they did. As I got old enough to play trumpet duets with my dad, there was always this effort to play things "fancy". Put little trills here, little running scales there, little added triplets someplace else...you know...greatly toned down version of what jazz musicians do when they are doing a solo.

Razzle, dazzle...PERFORMANCE. Show biz!

It has only been in the past dozen years, since I have no longer been an active musician, that I have learned where all that came from. I lived through the transition from those days to today's so-called "worship" music, which I speak about periodically; but never before saw 'where' the music I grew up with had come from. Public TV often shows things, or complete broadcasts of performances of the 40s and 50s. (I saw another one of them just the other day, so this is fresh in my mind here (their singing group was called the "Harmonaires"), and marvelled at the timing, as the Worship commentary was being worked on) What the churches were doing in the 40s and 50s came from the dance floors of the 40s war years. Churches didn't have the dance "band", but they had everything else. The ladies' trios, the swanky (barber shop) quartet, the mixed groups doing close (jazz) harmony. As I have watched the old footage from those dance floors/programs of the war years of the 40s, I am reminded of -exactly- what was going on in the churches. Only thing missing in the churches was the dancing and the dance orchestra. Everything else was there...albeit, slowed down to "slow dance" speed. And the "orchestra" was taken up by the organ. Now...in todays so-called "church", they also dance along with their dance bands! (They call them "worship bands"...but adjust for the changes in decades and musical styles...put today's worship bands next to the dance orchestras of the 40s and 50s...and there is no difference!)

Now...getting back to the matter of "conscience"...while my youthfulness was wowed by those pianists that could 'wail' on the keyboard and I would try to be like them, I was somehow never 'quite' able to do like they did. I also 'now' realize why...because my 'heart' (spirit) wasn't into it. While I don't remember every detail of my conversion at age 5, I truly was saved then. God's Holy Spirit came in to reside. And so, while I was urged on by my father to be the sort of "church" musician that characterized the day, in the inner recesses of my heart, looking back on the memories of my thoughts from back then, deep down, my spirit actually 'loathed' it, because it was of the world and didn't belong in church....even though at the time I didn't know it was of the world. I knew nothing of dance orchestras or dancing...and yet, my young 'conscience' knew something was not right what was going on in the church. I hadn't actually formulated the thought that anything was "wrong" with it...but deep down, my spirit was obviously loathing it. (Please don't get me wrong, as a purely musical art form, as a musician, I love certain kinds of jazz, and that close harmony; and my stereo has a bi-amped subwoofer to take full advantage of the organ records to the extent the recording equipment was able to record it. So the question is not a matter of likes and dislikes...but of what is 'appropriate', or not.) When my dad and I would do our trumpet duets (which pleased people so much), I did the "fancy" stuff, because I was required to...and if I balked, I would be in trouble for being "rebellious". What I understand now as having been a personal "loathing" of it all back then, due to the mentality of the day, would have been considered by others to be "unspiritual" and, in my case as a child under the sort my father was, "rebellious".

See? Things are no different today. Today's phenomenon is really no worse than it was then. Just, that the corruption has progressed a bit farther into the gutter. The older people today who condemn the current mutations were really no different in their day. They wanted the same 'fleshliness' today's rockers want. It merely came in a different package back then. But there is one difference. Back then, at least, they were still singing the hymns and had a certain 'sense' of respect for the Most High. Today, all that has been thrown out the window.

So...what -is- right? One begins to appreciate those who are of a no-instrument a-cappella belief. While they will appreciate musical instruments for listening to secular non-christian music...for their worship, they sing a-cappella. (without instruments)

From Scripture, I believe it is clear that a-cappella is not taught. All one has to do is read many of the Psalms, and read of David's worship setup with the temple service. The a-cappellists try to persuade a person that a-cappella is a N.T. teaching. And yet, I have seen nothing one way or the other on the subject. The N.T. doesn't really address "instruments" one way or the other. It speaks of singing...but there is never any command to stop doing as was done in the O.T. regarding music. But neither does it say -to- use instruments. It simply doesn't address the subject. So, in faithfulness to the Scriptures, I cannot say Yes or No in the matter; to do so would be to add to or subtract from God's Word.

One thing is clear from everything we read in the Scriptures about God's holiness, and His command for us to be holy, set-apart... that Christian music should be 'distinct' from the world's music. If somebody is walking by a building where Believers are singing, and the windows are open so he can hear, the person of the world should -not- recognize it as being what he is used to off the radio and at his favorite watering hole. If the trend of the day is girl's trios, to entertain (excite) the guys in uniform; the congregations should not be snatching up the concept to 'allure' the world. The world does not need allure...they need to "repent" of their sin. Allure is part of the very sins of which they are guilty. They lust after the girls at the USO shows, and so the church would use girls to entice them into the so-called "church" building so they...would lust after the girl's trio standing up at the pulpit dedicated to proclaiming the holiness of God's Word! Then, perhaps the young man would put the moves on one of the girls, they'd get married, and the so-called "christian" girl would then bewail later when she woke up one day and realized she was married to a non-christian. That was the 40s and 50s. Today, it's...well...we know enough about today!

So, how should we use music in worship? Like I said in the other mailing...were I to be leading church music again today...I don't rightly know 'what' I would do, or "how". I don't think we throw the piano and organ out. (If you've got drums and guitars, definitely throw them out!)

But, on the other hand...things have gotten sooo corrupt, perhaps that is a necessary first step to getting squared away back to the way God wants us to be? When Israel had sinned regarding the golden calf, God told Israel to "..take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you..." (Ex33:5) God was not proclaiming that it was wrong to -ever- wear ornaments...but for that moment, while they were waist-deep in doo-doo with God (so-to-speak), to forsake the light and frivolous...as Jacob says, "Lament, mourn and weep!" (Jac4:9) For soooo many years people have been urged to put on a cheerful countenance and "smile" while worshiping...perhaps, as when one bends a piece of metal, it must be bent a bit 'beyond' the final resting shape, so that it can spring back to where it needs to be...perhaps, true Believing Christians, for a time, need to put off their "ornaments" of the instruments. Get back to the 'basics' of the voices God gave us...? Stop entertaining ourselves, and engage in TRUE WORSHIP of the Most High God... ??

Whatever the case, whether anybody else sees it or not, it is apparent to me that a major overhaul is needed! ...the overhaul that begins in individual hearts...

Amen!

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