A Heart for Excellence: Thinking Biblically about Skill in Singing

sven-read-4yZGWYCul-w-unsplashSing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
— Psalm 33:3 —

They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. 7 The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288.
— 1 Chronicles 25:6–7 —

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
— 1 Corinthians 10:31 —

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
— 1 Corinthians 12:7 —

Music is a gift from God. And in the church, those gifted in song are given by Christ to build up his body. To that end, those who lead the church in song should serve with true faith, pure hearts, and skilled hands. For various reasons, the combination of head, heart, and hands is not always easy. But it is something we should pray for and work towards

To that end, I offer the following eight points on the place of skill in song. These eight points summarize a larger article on the biblical necessity of excellence in music. (You can read that article here: True Worship Includes a Heart for Excellence.) Let me know what you think of these eight points, and/or what you would add or improve.

  1. Spirit-filled worship is a matter of the heart. But a heart for worship does not deny the importance of gifted hands and voices (Psalm 33:3).
  2. All that we do with our lives, including song, should glorify God (1 Cor. 6:19–20; 10:31).
  3. In the Old Testament, God gave men like Bezalel and Hiram gifts of artistry, wisdom, skill, ability, and craftsmanship in order to build and beautify the tabernacle and temple (see Exod. 31:1–6; 35:30; 36:1–2; 1 Kings 7:13–14).
  4. In the New Testament, God gifts men and women with spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ (1 Cor.12:7). Because song is an essential part of worship, we believe God continues to gift members of Christ’s body with gifts of artistry, wisdom, skill, ability, and musicianship.
  5. In the Old Testament, David appointed a specific number of gifted musicians to lead song in the temple (1 Chronicles 22–26). These musicians played songs, a few wrote songs, and all took turns leading the congregation in musical worship.
  6. In the New Testament, the greater David (Jesus) gives spiritual gifts to the church (Eph. 4:7–11). These gifts include ministers of the gospel and musicians skilled in to play instruments and sing songs.
  7. The church should recognize, equip, and appoint gifted musicians to the lead the congregation in song. Not everyone who wants to lead music can or should.
  8. Musicians who desire to build up the body of Christ with music should seek (1) to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God and (2) to hone their instrumental and/or vocal skills.

In the end, skilled musicianship is not the zenith of our praise, but if the glory of God is the chief end of our worship, then playing skillfully, preparing faithfully, living honestly, and working collectively is what a musician and a team of musicians will do. For more on this idea, you can read this paper here.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash