The Worship Quote of the Week for (10/11/2005):

Major and Minor Keys
Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is from a brand new book, THE DELIBERATE CHURCH, by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. This selection comes from a chapter with practical suggestions for the use of music in the corporate gathering.

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to major key songs! The Psalms reveal that much of the Christian life might be spent in a minor key, and it’s time that the church became honest about this reality as well. The church needs to be able to lament together, and minor key songs help us do that. They help us to be honest about the trials and emotions that we encounter on our pilgrimage to heaven. They help give expression to our sorrowful thoughts and feelings in ways that honor God and encourage us to persevere. We neglect them to our own impoverishment.

—Mark Dever and Paul Alexander in THE DELIERATE CHURCH: BUILDING YOUR MINISTRY ON THE GOSPEL. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005, p. 123. ISBN 1-58134-738-3.

[What hymns or songs in minor keys does your church use on a regularly basis? I can’t think of many that are a part of our regular repertoire of congregational song. If you were writing music for the book of Psalms, which passages would you put in minor keys? Of course, the idea that “major is happy and minor is sad” is not a universal standard. Hebrew folk music and other non-Western traditions offer a wider range of emotions associated with various musical ideas. If you do a web search for “doctrine of the affections,” you will learn how European composers (especially at the end of the Renaissance and during the Baroque period) worked very hard to match the musical notes with the mood or the emotion of the text. There is a wonderful example of a 19th-century hymn tune that goes from “major to minor” (from “mournful longing to hopeful resolve”) in the course of each stanza. Listen to “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” ( and see if you agree that the composer has provided music that helps to depict the emotional journey of the text itself.]

Have a great week,

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

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