Music: Emotionalism or Real Power?

A recent guest minister at our church was giving an altar call. In his appeal he stated that there would be no “musical hype” as in many churches: “I don’t want emotionalism to affect your decision.” What do you think about this?

In saying this, the minister seemed to miss some fundamental principles regarding music and worship. Throughout Scripture God repeatedly shows the importance of music and its effect on people. Far more than just “hype,” music is a powerful force that can have dramatic impact on people. If we can grasp a few of these valuable scriptural principles we will be better able to utilize music to its fullest potential.

First, the Lord often manifests His presence in a more tangible way through music and praise. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. We hear a lot about this concept today. This idea almost seems overused. But remember that even overuse does not negate the truth of it. God really does inhabit our praises and when He “shows up” anything can happen in people’s lives. We ought not take His presence “enthroned on our praises” for granted.

Further, music played by someone whose heart is turned toward the Lord can have strong spiritual impact. Just as David’s harp music impacted King Saul (1 Samuel 16:23), so our music can today. The evil spirit tormenting King Saul fled as David played. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). What happened through David can happen through us. Oppressive spirits causing physical ailments and/or mental anguish will flee as our music and worship flow from pure hearts. This obviously goes well beyond the stage of musical hype.

Also, music and praise seem somehow to release the miracle-working power of God. Remember Paul and Silas in jail? (Acts 16:22-30). As they prayed and sang the earth shook and the doors of the jail were opened. In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat sent “men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army…As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against [their enemies]” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22). Today, through our music and praise, we too can see spiritual strongholds brought down. This would certainly not be classified as emotionalism.

As a practical/technical note, music seems to help focus people’s attention toward the matter at hand. In photography this is known as the focal point. You may focus on one element in the picture, but all the surrounding elements are included. In a similar way, music helps achieve a focal point for the congregation. It is not hype but a vehicle or tool that God has given us to aid the building of His kingdom and draw people to look to Him.

Finally we must also understand, affirm and accept the role of those who lead in music and worship. There is much Scriptural precedent for receiving a person in their given office. (Matthew 10:40-42, for example) We should not quench their ministry by seeing them as those who provide only background music and emotionalism. A music leader who truly understands his role before God and the people will add much power and life to the ministry.

Having said all of this, it should be noted that there is a fine line between using music for honest, godly purposes and using it to manipulate people. The real issue is in the motivation of your heart. Are you endeavoring to give people a setting whereby they can connect with God? Or are you trying to manipulate a spiritual experience? Honestly answering these questions is very important because God is always more interested in our hearts than our actions.

God has placed tremendous potential within music. When used incorrectly it has the ability to mislead and deceive. But when used according to God’s plan, music has real spiritual power to be a vehicle to help transform lives.