(Adapted and Edited from The Doctrine and Administration of the Church by Paul R. Jackson)

Dear Readers,

While I was doing some research in the library, I came across an article entitled “Music in the Church” written by Paul R. Jackson in his book The Doctrine and Administration of the Church. The book was a manual written for Bible-believing and conservative pastors and church leaders. I disagree with some of the doctrinal stands and practices found in the book. Nevertheless, this chapter on music is Biblical and clearly presented. I hereby submit this chapter with some editing and adaptation for the learning of all readers.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew


The Christian Faith is a singing faith in a unique sense. Christ puts into our hearts a joy that overflows beyond words and actions into melody (c.f. Colossians 3:16). Well may we sing, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.” Music should be a vital part of every Christian gathering. It should constitute a real portion of our testimony, our praise, and our worship. It should exercise a major impact on the spiritual life and ministry of the church.

The “music” that is borrowed from the world should be banished from the church. Many songs in common use today have within them the beat of the jungle and the dance floor. They stimulate the flesh, not the spiritual life. Words of many songs are light, frivolous, meaningless – utterly unscriptural and unworthy of a place in a Christian service. Pastors and mu-sic committees will do well to guard carefully against the pollution of services with such impure music.

A Spiritual Ministry

Music in the church service is a spiritual ministry. Those who play and sing should be spiritual people, even as those who preach. Church music should glorify God. This cannot be done by the unsaved, or by carnal Christians who are walking in the world, no matter how much musical talent they have. We should never choose our preachers that way, and we ought not thus to select our musicians.

The leadership, organisation, and personnel in the music department are vital elements. Choir leaders, organists, and pianists who pray about and plan their music with a desire to glorify our Lord are a real asset to the pastor and to the total ministry of the church. They are to be preferred over the most talented whose chief concern is the impression they make on the audience.

It is sometimes said that the choir is the war department of the church. This need never be so. Trouble in the choir is sometimes caused by some needless errors and is not necessarily a part of a musical ministry. When such strife develops, it is the result of the carnality of some or all of those involved. The strife will come eventually if carnality is tolerated, whether in the leadership or among the members.

Suggestions for Music Ministry

I am under no delusion that the following suggestions are comprehensive or infallible. However, they are principles that are spiritually sound. They will help a church develop a blessed and spiritual music ministry.

1. Members of the choir should be spiritual members of the church. There is no place for the unsaved or the stranger.

2. The choir should be an organised group with a definite membership. Members may be selected by a capable choir director or music committee under the oversight of the Session. Choice should be based upon spiritual and musical qualifications. The candidate must have the gift of music. High standards should be maintained in attendance, attention and conduct. It should be an honour to serve the Lord in the musical ministry. There should be no room for disinterest and carelessness.

3. The choir director is a vital key to the spiritual progress of the group.The leader should be a member of the church, and not an employed musician from the outside. Essential qualities of a good director are a knowledge of music, genuine spirituality, patience, firm discipline, humility, happy cooperation with the pastor and music committee, and a clear recognition that the central aspect of the church service is the preaching of God’s Word.

Sometimes, it is proper for the pastor and someone in his family to direct the choir. However, this should never be done unless it is the result of a lack of other leadership, or is the enthusiastic desire of the choir and church. It is good to spread responsibility as widely as possible without sacrificing spiritual and capable leadership.

4. It is desirable that the ministry of the choir supplement the pastor’s ministry as much as possible. The director may well consult the pastor for advice and observe topics announced in advance. The choir may also attend vigil services by presenting hymns which minister comfort unto the bereaved.

Good music with a Biblical message is essential. Diction must be good enough so that the congregation understands the words clearly. A good hymn, well sung, may be very helpful even if it is well known to the congregation. It is wise to avoid music too involved for the ability of the choir, or for such nature as to appear to be a mere display of talent rather than a spiritual ministry.

5. The pastor should seek to challenge the choir, both personally and publicly, as to the vital importance of its ministry. A good choir deserves encouragement, and a poor one needs it!

6. The choir will profit from time spent in prayer before practice. It may be helpful for the pastor to join in these prayer times now and then.

7. Special musical events will give helpful incentive to a choir to work faithfully. These events can be times of great spiritual blessing if the music is Christ honouring and is presented capably.Obviously, some of these principles can be attained only a step at a time, but progress in the right direction is needed. Some suggestions may be hard to implement where those with the requisite gift is limited. In such situations, much prayer and patience is needed. In addition, we must always give our very best to the Lord without any taint of jealousy or carnal ambition. Such attitudes are sinful and should be judged if they seek to control us.