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Pentecostal Music and the Pastor

As we prepare to reap the last-day harvest, it would serve us well to gain greater insights into the dynamics and role of music in the Pentecostal church.

By Charles T. Crabtree

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of music in the life of the church. By its nature, music impacts the soul. It carries an inherent, powerful influence for good or evil. The Scriptures reveal music as an instrument of worship and praise to God; however, this wonderful gift can be misused and perverted as one of Satan’s devices. In other words, it is a spiritual force that must be spiritually discerned and spiritually led.

At this moment in time the Church is beginning to experience the greatest spiritual awakening in history. As we prepare to reap the last-day harvest, it would serve us well to gain greater insights into the dynamics and role of music in the Pentecostal church.

MUSIC CONVEYS BOTH VERBAL AND NONVERBAL MESSAGES

The words of a song are vital because people memorize them over a period of time. They will not only continue to be repeated, but will continue to influence spiritual life as long as the song is sung. Great theology and marvelous truth can be taught through inspired hymns and choruses. But false doctrine and compromise can also be communicated through bad religious music.

The pastor constantly needs to ask, "Beyond the words, what are the musicians communicating to my people?" The words might be true, but the body language or the spirit might be misleading. Musicians send the wrong message when: The performance becomes a thing in itself rather than a means to glorify God; they have no anointing of the Spirit and have failed to prepare their hearts for ministry; and those who are leading the congregation are apathetic and ill prepared.

As the senior pastor, you are the executive worship leader and minister of music. You must take your responsibility in music seriously. Above all, you need to know what is right for your people and the spiritual direction music needs to take in the timing of God.

How are you supposed to take the leadership role in music; what guidelines should you follow to protect the church, while still allowing musicians to express themselves with joy and freedom?

FOUR KEYS IN MAINTAINING AN EFFECTIVE MUSIC MINISTRY

Culture

Sometimes successful pastors move to a new congregation and experience trouble almost from the first day. They do not fit. In the same way, others accept a new pastorate and begin to make wholesale changes that result in chaos and division. Most of the people involved are sincere and capable, but they fail to understand the soul or the culture of the church.

The word "culture" means the total pattern of human behavior embodied in thought, speech, and music. It is the distinct tradition and customary beliefs and traits peculiar to a specific group.

The New Testament church was sensitive to the diverse cultures within the church. In matters of salvation, the apostles were unbending. But when it came to standardized characteristics that were not in conflict with the Word of God, they showed amazing latitude and flexibility.

When circumcision became a matter affecting salvation (Acts 15), Paul was adamant. He refused to bow to the pressure of Jewish leaders. He would not allow a tradition to change the message of grace.

When circumcision was not a matter touching salvation but was only cultural (Acts 16), Paul asked Timothy to be circumcised so the preaching of the gospel would not be hindered. Within that context, Paul did not compromise the gospel but did accommodate the culture to remove a barrier to the gospel.

Every church has its own unique culture. Those who fail to be sensitive to this are often the catalysts for disunity. Most of the time when music offends, it is not a matter of right or wrong, spiritual or unspiritual; it is a matter of being insensitive to the congregation.

Balance

It is acceptable to introduce new music or new presentations of old music into the spiritual life of the church. After all, the Scripture encourages us to "sing unto the Lord a new song" (Psalm 96:1). However, it does not say, "Sing no old songs unto the Lord." The Book of Psalms is a type of hymnal to be used over and over. The key is balance.

The Bible says a wise person who is well instructed in the kingdom of heaven "is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Matthew 13:52). The application of this Bible truth is rather obvious. A wise musician in charge of music in the church will see both old and new music as a treasure to be brought forth with just the right blend.

Music should not appeal to only a certain segment or group in the church. Spiritual music has many expressions. The wise pastor will make certain there is a balance of anointed music—some fast, slow, traditional, contemporary, majestic, and some informal. God is a God of variety, and He receives praise through a variety of expressions.

Anointing

Music plays a vital role in revival. This last-day revival is no exception. Because God is pouring out His Spirit, the only music that will be effective will have the anointing of God on it.

Many choirs and individual musicians who do not have the Holy Spirit’s anointing would do well to cancel rehearsals for a month and gather for fasting and prayer. A choir singing "Blessed Assurance" in unison under the anointing of the Spirit will be much more effective than a dazzling, complex arrangement sung in human ability of the flesh with a spirit of pride.

The pastor has the responsibility to model a Pentecostal ministry. He or she must flow with sensitivity and obedience to the move of the Spirit and focus on building spiritual people through music. The goal is not entertainment or the opportunity to display musical ability. The goal is to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth.

We can have both the anointing and excellence, but the priority must be the anointing of God. There is a tendency among talented people to depend on their ability to do what only God can do. Preachers, teachers, administrators, and communicators are easily caught in the same snare, but the proof is unassailable—without the Lord’s power, we can do nothing that will last or be of any spiritual value.

Excellence

Excellence does not conflict with the anointing. The Spirit of God demands excellence. We are to study diligently and strive for mastery. We are commanded to play skillfully before the Lord. God seeks disciplined tools to use. Beyond technical ability and musical talent, those who lead in Pentecostal music must be excellent in spirit and become excellent in learning to flow in the Spirit.

The need for excellence cannot be overemphasized. Music is a medium that reveals attitude and spirit almost immediately. The pastor and musicians must be in harmony spiritually, or no amount of skill and practice will be able to keep discord from surfacing. There is great joy and freedom when everyone in leadership is of one spirit.

In Pentecostal worship, when the Spirit of God begins to minister through a hymn or a chorus, the wise leader will realize the touch of God and continue to use that song to edify the Body and exalt the Lord. At those moments, the leader needs to set aside the planned music and allow God’s Spirit to use a particular song or songs with the same theme or key. Unless a person is working with the finest musicians, it is very difficult to make key changes and maintain the flow of the Spirit. Both the pastor and song leader should be comfortable in responding to the moving of the Spirit outside the planned program. A Spirit-filled music director will sense faith for salvation or healing and call for a response.

Excellence in preparation and practice is an absolute necessity for music to be a consistent source of edification and blessing. Musicians need to know the music well so they can lead with authority. Nothing quenches the Spirit like an unprepared song leader who does not know the song, or an unrehearsed choir that does not know the arrangement, or a soloist who is floundering. The Holy Spirit does not choose to anoint laziness or lack of preparation.

When teaching a new song or chorus, the leader should not only know the music well, but also make sure the accompanists and all the musicians are familiar with it. A new song should be rehearsed so the congregation can enter into the spirit of the song more readily. Care should be taken to choose new songs which are not only excellent lyrically, but excellent musically. Some songs carry a great message but do not fit a melody. They should not be sung but spoken.

All music presented to God should be prepared and presented as skillfully as possible. The purpose of music is to minister to the Lord, the church, and the world in the power of the Spirit.

Charles T. Crabtree

Charles T. Crabtree is assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri.

 

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