Worship Music Doesn’t Just Set the Table

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Setting the table in baseball jargon is when a utility hitter walks or gets a base hit so the power hitter that follows him in the line-up can potentially bring everyone home.

Setting the table for a meal is when eating utensils are put in place so everyone will be ready to eat when the food is served.

So setting the table means laying the groundwork for something more substantial to follow.

Some believe the purpose of our worship service music is just to set the table. But the goal of our service music isn’t just to prepare our hearts for something else. It’s not the undercard before the main event. It isn’t the warm-up band before the headliner. So it doesn’t just set the table for the sermon.

Paul exhorted the saints at Colossae to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly by teaching and admonishing each other through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. It doesn’t sound like Paul thought its only purpose was as the supporting cast.

Teaching proclaims or makes something known by precept, example and experience. It exhorts, instructs, exposits and applies. And it communicates to us and through us.

Admonition urges us not just to hear but do. It reproves, advises and counsels in order to correct our thinking. It encourages us to right what is wrong in order to redirect our attitudes and motives.

The worship songs we sing encourage us to reflect and respond to biblical text; they speak the gospel; they are sung with theological integrity; they encourage us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; they challenge us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and they exhort us to action. So the theology we are singing can’t be seen an appetizer before the main course if it’s supposed to teach and admonish us to be doers and not just hearers.

Our worship songs won’t be seen as just table setters as long as they continue to quicken the conscience through the holiness of God, feed the mind with the truth of God, purge the imagination by the beauty of God, open the heart to the love of God and devote the will to the purpose of God.[1]

 

[1] Adapted from a quote by William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44.

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