The Worship Quote of the Week for (09/24/2002):

Musical Taste
So what can we to say about musical taste in the context of Christian
worship? Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is a fourth from the same new volume, WORSHIP
BY THE BOOK. This excerpt is from Mark Ashton, vicar (pastor) of the Round
Church at St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge, England.

Wisdom will be needed to encourage a congregation to be united over the music
it uses. One result of the power of music is that people become deeply wedded
to their personal preferences and find it difficult to recognize that the
STYLE of music is almost always a matter of no intrinsic theological
importance. Training the congregation to recognize the difference between
what is theological and what is cultural, and between where the Bible speaks
clearly and where it does not, is an important part of training the
congregation to be balanced in their biblical understanding. It has been
wisely pointed out that many tussles over words and books are basically
disputes about power in the life of a local church. Selfishness loves to
dress itself in cultural clothes. Musical taste seems a lot more godly than
self-interest, but all too often that is all a preference for one style of
music over another amounts to!

— Mark Ashton, "Following in Cranmer’s Footsteps," chapter two of WORSHIP BY
THE BOOK, edited by D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, p. 91. ISBN
0-310-21625-7. Other chapters in this book are by D. A. Carson, Kent Hughes,
and Timothy Keller. Very highly recommended!

[Here’s one more great paragraph from the same section. Of course, when the
author cites Cranmer, he is referring to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the
important figure in the English Reformation of the sixteenth century and
author of the Church of England’s BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.]
The music services must be controlled by the three Cranmer tests (biblical,
accessible, and balanced). Because we are serious about what we are doing at
our services, we can never take lightly the words we sing. In THE BARBER OF
SEVILLE, Figaro sings, "If a thing is too silly to be said, it can always be
sung." As we know, some Christian songs merit that verdict. But John Wesley
wrote (back in 1761), "Above all, sing spiritually; have an eye to God in
every word you sing" (page 90).

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky