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1. What is your experience with "special music"?

"Special music" has always been a part of my experience with the church.
Normally, "special music" takes place after (or during) the passing of the offering
plate and right before the sermon. It is usually comprised of one to four singers
who are accompanied by either a piano or an instrumental track. Once the song
starts, it's obvious that the nature of the situation is a performanceone in which
the congregation only participates by listening. This is because the song was not
written with the intention for an entire congregation to sing along. However, the
song is usually known by the the congregation, whether its a popular new song
played on the radio, or a popular old song that everybody grew up listening to.
After the song is complete, the singer(s) remove themselves from the stage while
timid applause is provided by the congregation. Traditionally, after the service
ends, people from the congregation encourage the performers in a job well done.
Phrases like, "That song really touched me," or "Your voice fits that song so well,"
are commonly used.
2. Historically, what role has "special music" played in the local church?
In the local church, I have seen "special music" used for two reasons: 1) A
chance to let a church member exercise their gift/skill/talent, and 2) because it
has always been done that way. I have a problem with both of these reasons.
First, I agree that members of the church should exercise their gifts, skills, and
talents. However, these gifts, skills, and talents should NOT be exercised simply
for the purpose of exercising them. The end goal of exercising the gifts is so that
the church is edified. The end goal is not to just exercise the gifts. Second, there
is value in tradition, but it is lost when the initial purpose of the tradition is
forgotten. If someone asked, "Why do we partake of communion?" and the
answer provided was, "Its something we've always done," the church would be in
trouble. The purpose of communion is to remember Christ! This then begs the
question: What is the purpose of "special music"?
3. Biblically, what role should "special music" play in the local church?
"What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a
psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let
all things be done for edification." [I Corinthians 14:26]
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another
in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness
in your hearts to God. [Colossians 3:16]
"...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody with your heart to the Lord..." [Ephesians 5:19]
I believe "special music" should be practiced with the intention of edifying the
church through teaching, admonishing, encouraging, etc. I think it is fine if it is
practiced traditionally (every week), as long as its purpose is not squandered by

4. What role should "special music" play at a university?

I don't believe special music should be used consistently in chapel at a university.
However, I do believe it should be used intentionally and when necessary. I say,
"when necessary" because I wholeheartedly believe "special music" is necessary
at times. Not all the timecertain times. Maybe to enhance a message brought
from scripture. Maybe to prepare our hearts to respond to God in congregational
worship. Maybe to address a situation that impacts the entire student body.
5. What dangers are presented when "special music" is practiced?
Obviously, "special music" is a performance. And where there's a performance,
there's always a threat of pride. However, this can be said about any practice in
the church (and at the university). A Christian can quote scripture pridefully. A
Christian can pray pridefully. A Christian can preach pridefully. A Christian can
lead congregational worship pridefully. Pride is always a threat this side of glory.
But should this keep us from practicing our faith with one another? I think not. It
should keep us careful, but careful while practicing, not careful resulting in no
6. What dangers are presented when "special music" is NOT practiced?
Not practicing "special music" is a danger to (1) musical members of the Church
and (2) congregational worship as a whole. Congregational worship songs hinder
the full use of musical ability and expressivity because they are written with the
layman in mind. In order for a large congregation to participate in a song
together, many boundaries must be set in place. The melody has to be
comfortable for anyone to sing along to (referring to both range and difficulty of
phrases). The form has to be easy to follow. The lyrics (1) have to be more literal,
as to refrain from misunderstanding, and (2) have to be more vague, as to apply
to every Christian.
If musical worship leaders are restricted to the outlet of congregational worship
songs alone, a problem occurs: they bring their overwhelming desire to express
into the congregational worship setting. This is damaging because the songs
become less welcoming to congregational participation. Musical worship leaders
must be provided with an adequate outlet for complex expressivity as to refrain
from harming congregational worship.**
7. Is "special music" a traditional practice of the church, or is it a biblical
8. Is there a better name that could be used to describe noncongregational, edifying music than "special music"?
I have been using quotation marks around the term "special music" because I
despise it. It doesn't express what the music is intended for, like "worship song"
does in terms of congregational music. Any suggestions?