A report of the Choirs’ Seminar by Bro. Cornelius Koshy
The Gethsemane Church Choir, Youth Choir and Children’s Choir give thanks to God for blessing us in the Gethsemane Choirs’ Seminar held at City Beach Resort on Monday, 28 October 2019. Pastor Koshy instructed 112 adult, youth and older children participants on the biblical understanding of the music ministry of the church. Concurrently, 10 younger children were separately taught on the same topic by Mrs Carolyn Koshy. This report serves as a brief summary of the key lessons learnt from the two sessions of learning, so that the choirs may reaffirm these biblical principles, and others may be reminded of God’s guidelines for music in the church.
More than an accompaniment of God’s Word, music is a carrier of God’s Word! In worship, music should not be for the mere pleasure of the ears, but for the declaration of God’s Truth (cf. Deuteronomy 31:19; Colossians 3:16). Therefore, singing should be prioritised over mere music without lyrics because the lyrics invoke our understanding. “Sing praises to God, … sing ye praises with understanding” (Psalm 47:6-7, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15). With this as starting point, worshipful singing must fulfil the following three purposes:
Firstly, music must be God-glorifying (Psalm 92:1). Moses declares, “The LORD is my strength and song” (Exodus 15:2), and Isaiah joins in: “the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song” (Isaiah 12:2). Secondly, music must be used for teaching (Colossians 3:16), with lyrics which are rich with the wisdom of the word of Christ. Finally, music must affirm the congregation in God’s Goodness and Righteousness. Music helps the children of God retain the things which He has done for them or which they have learnt, so that “they shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).
Anything contrary to these purposes is a perversion of music in the worship of God. So, great caution must be exercised in the choice of music in the worship. While some argue that music by itself is amoral (i.e. ‘not concerned with morality’), the way it is arranged and articulated can represent worldly, heathen backgrounds and associations (cf. Daniel 3:7). Moreover, when music is carelessly expressed, it will promote misconceived spiritual assurance (cf. Amos 5:23; 6:1, 5; Isaiah 5:12).
Having laid down the principles for worshipful music, Pastor went on to delineate the prerequisites for singing in the choir ministry:
- A singer in the choir ministry must be a saved person. The worship ministry is exclusively for believers: “Sing …his praise in the congregation of saints” (Psalm 149:1; cf. Psalms 22:22, 25; 68:26; 89:5; 111:1; 116:18; Hebrews 2:12). The believers must be baptised (or at least in the midst of being prepared through catechism for baptism). God does not want the wicked to take His Word in their mouth (cf. Psalm 50:16).
- The singer must be filled with the Spirit, and have a commitment to gain understanding of God’s Word (cf. Ephesians 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 14:15).
- Finally, the singer must be skilled in singing (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:22).
Concerning the singer’s attitude in the choir ministry, the singer must:
- be ready to be musically trained (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:22);
- be spiritually prepared (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:12, 14);
- be completely devoted in the ministry of music – to the extent that those who are called to serve full-time in the ministry of music should be supported by the church (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:33; Ezra 7:24; Nehemiah 11:23);
- have a commitment to serve patiently and pastorally – as manifested by the choir which David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD: “they ministered … with singing … and then they waited on their office according to their order” (1 Chronicles 6:31-32). The choir is called to minister in song and patiently serve (“waited on their office”) in their appointed times. While pastors and preachers, as ministers of the Word, proclaim the Word, singers minister the Word in song.
Indeed, the calling of a singer in the worship of God is a high calling, which requires strict spiritual and choral discipline. It is the sincere prayer of the choir leader and choir members that we will press on to be biblical, beautiful-sounding, and the best singers for our King! Where we have not been up to scratch as singers, we are grateful to God for the gentle correction we received from His Word and the opportunity to sanctify our lives for an acceptable service to Him. May the choirs be obedient to His Word in their personal lives, choir-practices, and presentations of praise unto God!
With regard to administrative matters, the choir leader gives thanks to God for the sacrificial service of many who have rendered help in planning and preparing for the seminar. From the booking of the function room and logistical / transport arrangements to the food contributions and assistance with the children’s programme, God has greatly blessed us with edifying fellowship around His Word and His people. All glory be to God!