What’s The Purpose Of A Song?

In preparation for the December 2, 2012 launch of our fourth worship gathering — this one all in SpanishSammy Gonzalez and I visited another Latino service in our area.

We wanted to see what this particular Spanish-speaking congregation does well, where it could be improved, and how they meet the needs of our Latino friends in the area. 

I also saw it as an opportunity to practice my own espanol, which I can speak much better than I can understand. 

The worship service took place on Friday evening and I knew in advance that the congregation was Pentecostal in its outlook and expression.  If you follow this blog at all, you know I am usually comfortable in that world, believing as I do in the practice of speaking in tongues and the power of healing prayer.

Yet what struck me about the Friday-in-an-all-Spanish-all-Pentecostal service was the role of music in worship.

For example, the first praise song began at about 7:15.  And ended at 7:45.  One song. 

See, in that particular worship culture, songs are not merely for singing.  As a matter of fact, the words were not projected anywhere and we didn’t have song books. 

Instead, the role of a song was to set up and surround ministry.  So we’d sing for awhile (and my level of Spanish non-comprehension met my underwhelming expectations) and then the song leader would pray.  Then we’d sing some more and a different person would pray.  Then we’d sing some more and some other folks would wave banners.  Then we’d sing some more and the pastor would do a small bit of preaching.  Then we’d sing some more. 

One song.  Thirty minutes.  Ministry throughout.

Now: it’s not my preference.  I was antsy and impatient.  (And though I left early, the service continued until well after 10:00 p.m.) I would much prefer to sing one song, enjoy it, and then move to the next one.

But I need to be careful not confuse my preference with God’s principle. 

It’s a principle that we use music to offer praise to God.  We see that throughout the book of Psalms and the letters of Paul.

But whether that music is long or short, modern or ancient, acoustic or electric … those are all preferences

So what will I draw from my Friday night experience?

1.  I need more work on understanding Spanish at the level I can speak it.

2.  Preferences and principles are not the same thing.

3. Yet perhaps there is a way we can do more connecting music with ministry in our worship gatherings.  Stay tuned.  Literally.