Monday, February 8, 2010

A "Special" Post

Forgive the pun. I believe every Baptist church I have ever been in has a schedule that in some way resembles the following:
1. Congregational Song
2. Welcome and Announcements
3. Congregational Song
4. Offering
5. Congregational Song
6. Special Singer
7. Preaching
8. Invitation
Obviously much variation with a few extra specials or instrumentals involved, but regardless, pretty much the same. My question to ponder is this: When did special singing begin in the church? I truly desire counsel and information from readers regarding this week's question. Please comment with your name (I figure if you are not sure enough about it to comment with a name, then it probably isn't that trustworthy). Again, I do not seek a debate, but a healthy God honoring conversation regarding our issue.
When did Church specials begin?

Now first, let us state what I believe to be true and factual from God's Word. The first mention of music in the Bible is Jubal in Genesis 4. He was the Great (x5) grandson of Cain, part of a line of descendants that were not known for their love for God, but rather of the world and their works. He is described as "the father of all such that handle the harp and the organ." Of course, we know that before him was Lucifer, who when created by God was created with "the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created." (Ez. 28). In Exodus, Moses led Israel and Miriam sang with some ladies glorifying God for their deliverance at the Red Sea. Then we know David sang, Deborah sang, all Israel sang, there were designated singers in the Temple for worship, etc. While I believe that many principles of worship can be found in the Old Testament, we are not to take the Temple as the model for the N.T. church. This would be foolish and of great ignorance as the Lord made some serious distinctions between the two. But, none the less, a little Biblical history of music in the Old Testament.
As we approach the New Testament, there are Scripture in regards to singing:
Matthew 26:30, "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
Acts 16:25 "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
1 Cor. 14:15 "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
Heb. 2:12 "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee"
James 5:13 "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms."
Rev. 15:3 "And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."
Eph. 5:19 "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"
Col. 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

In the New Testament we see music's place in the church in that: Jesus sang with the apostles (the first church), in the midst of them (Matt. 26:30, Heb. 2:12). We see that Paul and Silas sang together in prison bringing comfort to themselves and teaching those around them (Acts 16:25) We should sing in the church with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). We should sing in the church when we are merry (James 5:13). They will sing in Heaven in eternity (Rev. 15:3) That leaves Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 where we read that the saint should use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to make melody in our hearts to the Lord and teach and admonish one another.
The question is not is singing wrong, but are specials Biblical?
The Lord sang in the midst of the church with the disciples. The singing in Ephesians and Colossians was to be done speaking to yourself and teaching one another. The language in these verses involves a plurality of individuals. The imperatives "be filled, let dwell, speaking, singing, making melody, teaching" seem to indicate the activity of the church as a whole, rather than an individual action or a small part of the church (choir). If we interpret these as being for the individual church member and not the entity as a whole, then does not everyone in the church have to individually sing a solo?
I understand that a silence in the Word of God regarding a subject does not condemn the subject, but it does demand a study of principle in the Word of God. In the early church in Acts when the 120 gathered, do we really believe that Mary Magdalen would have stood in front of the men and sang a special to them?
If music in the church is for teaching and admonishing, isn't a woman not supposed to teach a man or usurp authority over the man? When the woman singing the special is finished, do not men in the church "AMEN" her message?
Aren't women supposed to keep silent in the church? Does not a special singer possess the attention of the entire church? I've heard say (and said) that while they are up there singing, the pastor is still the authority and can have her be quiet at anytime...then could a woman pray in a service if the pastor asked her? Or, "She is not singing to the congregation, but to the Lord"...wouldn't she be praying to the Lord and not the congregation? If she shouldn't sing for these reasons, should she testify in church? Doesn't special solos, duets, etc, tend to become man centered? Do not folks think of the performance more than the worship? Have you ever noticed how many "music stars" started out singing specials in their church on Sundays when they were kids?
Much debate could begin in these matters, or then again, if the only singing in the church was done in unity as a church, would there not be less confusion? When did specials first begin anyways?
For the record, at our church, ladies do sing specials, ladies do sing in choirs, do sing in duets, do testify from the floor when the pastor calls on them....but should we continue?
I know, this is a "Special" post, but at least were thinking!


Grammy Blick said...

Hmmm. A great deal of thought, and I can only come up with Deborah and Barak's duet:

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, (Judges 5:1 KJV)

In others, the singers were separate from the congregation:

And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. (2 Chronicles 29:28 KJV)

And Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. (Nehemiah 12:42 KJV)

Would they qualify as specials?

Travis Burke said...

Thank you for your comments. Deborah did sing with Barak, there were singers separate from the congregation, and you are correct in your reference to Nehemiah; but my only thought to add is that those are all Old Testament accounts.
While we would agree there are many principles in the Old Testament that most definitely are applicable to our life today and doctrines we believe in; I hesitate in using the Temple as a principle for the New Testament church.
To do so would lead to some great dangers. When the New Testament church was organized, it was organized as a new institution. There was no church before it and the model given in the New Testament is our guideline for today.
But, as I said, I'm still in the thinking stage and appreciate your comments.

BJ said...

What about piano players and any other instruments that you may use at your church? Are they male or female? If female, what is the difference between them playing a special or singing a special? They both get amened at the end.

Travis Burke said...

How ya doing BJ? Great to hear from you. Like I said, I have not yet changed a thing at church, just thinking...but if we did go this direction I would have to say specials played by ladies either...but that would be just one of many changes that would be demanded should we go that way. Just a lot to think about...thanks for your thought.

Kent Brandenburg said...

These are good things to think about. I believe as you work your way through the psalms you see congregational and special music. I think that there does need to be some skilled music according to certain texts, that is, music people work on. The psalms are still legitimate as a pattern for the music of a church.