Vol. 3, No. 7
The phrase "special music" is used to describe choirs, quartets, trios, duets and solos in worship services. Webster says that the opposite of "special" is "ordinary." However, it was a divine order that started what is ordinary, congregational singing, and we find no divine order modifying or supplementing congregational singing.
According to the divine order, all of the singers are also the listeners ("yourselves," "one another"), which fact eliminates special music:
speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and plucking the strings of your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19), . . . teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
The divine order is stated again in the book of Hebrews, but it does not say: "By him therefore let a choir or a quartet or a trio or a duet or a soloist offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips, confessing his name," but the divine order is an exhortation to a whole congregation, or to individual Christians everywhere, omitting not one, "us":
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips, confessing his name (Hebrews 13:15).
Special music changes worshipers into two classes, performers and spectators. Special music changes the auditorium into a theater. According to a professor of music in Westmont College, Dr. Gerald Bouma, special music is three things:
1. A congregation of worshipers is changed into an audience. 2. The music is reduced to entertainment offered to the congregation, not by it, and the singers become performers, and the audience is moved to clap their hands. 3. When the pressure to have such music is from people, not from God (apud. Charles Hodge, KEYNOTER, 9-1-1994, p. 3).
Special music introduces a very real danger. In a small Pennsylvania town, handbills were distributed inviting people to a protracted meeting at the Church of Christ. A lady telephoned the local preacher, saying she was a soloist at the Lutheran Church, and that she would be glad to sing for the "revival" at the Church of Christ. The preacher told her that only congregational singing was practiced, but that she would be welcome to be part of the audience. She never attended. Did she want to worship or to show off her beautiful voice?
From one standpoint, the divine order makes the entire congregation of worshipers a choir, a choir that includes the spiritual presence of Jesus' singing both to his fellow choir members ("I will proclaim your name to my brothers") and to God ("I will sing hymns of praise to you in the midst of the congregation" (Hebrews 2:12).
Jesus, spiritually present in every worship service, singing both to his brothers (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:12) and to the Father (Hebrews 2:12), conforms to the divine order given to all Christians to "speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" and to sing "to the Lord . . . plucking the strings of your heart" (Ephesians 5:19), and "teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16).
Thrilling is the thought that when Christians teach "one another, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," that Jesus is spiritually present doing the same thing, and when Christians sing "with grace in their hearts to God," Jesus is spiritually present doing the same thing!