“The worship of God is the most serious business a man can be about. Why then do many churches treat it as entertainment? They are, in the most dreadful sense, amusing themselves to death.”
The following are various resources for corporate worship, specifically (but not limited to) resources on church music and congregational song. This only reflects resources I myself have used and can attest to their helpfulness. They are grouped into four general categories – books, articles, lectures, and websites. Within each section I have ordered them as to their helpfulness, beginning with the most helpful.
Congregational Singing by Paul Munson and Joshua Drake.
I cannot recommend this book enough – if you don’t read/listen to anything else in this document, read this! Differing from other arguments for singing hymns (e.g. we’ve always sang them, old songs are better, etc.), Munson and Drake present a case for hymn singing based firmly on the Scriptural purpose of congregational singing as given in Colossians 3:16 (and elsewhere). It is often the case that too little thought is given to church music, but that is not the case here. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone interested or involved in ministry. It can be accessed free at their website congsing.org under the “Biblical Model” page.
Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal by T. David Gordon
In this book, T. David Gordon laments and describes the current state of evangelical hymn singing and attempts to describe its causes. Each chapter of his book is a nail firmly driven into the casket of banal and meaningless church music and is full of weighty insights.
Worship in Song by Scott Aniol
This book by an author educated in both musicology and theology explains the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and how it applies to all areas of life, including our musical choices.
Art and Music: A Student’s Guide by Dr. Paul Munson and Dr. Joshua Drake
While this book is not about church music specifically, it addresses the topic of aesthetic relativism and the nature of music in general. Munson and Drake offer a robust defense of the historic Christian aesthetic against both the classical and postmodern views of aesthetics.
Worship by the Book ed. by Don Carson
This book provides a thoughtful biblical theology of worship along with how three different traditions have strove to align their worship with Scripture. The chapters by Don Carson and Kent Hughes are worth the price of the book alone. The chapter by Tim Kelly can be skipped almost entirely.
Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon
In this book, T. David Gordon laments the current state of evangelical preaching and attempts to describe its causes. He argues that the reason Johnny can’t preach is because Johnny can’t write, and Johnny can’t write because he can’t read. A passionate plea for a return to biblical preaching, this book is a must read for everyone who desires to preach the word of God.
Christ-Centered Worship by Brian Chapell
In part one of this book, Bryan Chapell argues that churches liturgies (and every church has a liturgy) should reflect gospel patterns, and studies the outworking of this gospel pattern in the liturgies of Rome, Luther, Calvin, Westminster, and Robert Rayburn. Part 2 is simply a collection of gospel worship resources and is invaluable to anyone designing a worship service.
Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense by John Frame
John Frame is probably the most able defender of contemporary worship music. Yet, a careful reading of his book will reveal that the practice he is defending is far from the practice of most churches that utilize contemporary worship music, and in fact he is only defending a “limited” use of it.
“Selecting Hymns” by T. David Gordon.
In his essay, Dr. T. David Gordon explores the various criteria to be used in selecting hymns for corporate worship. Short and sweet, this essay is very helpful for anyone involved in deciding what songs to use on in corporate worship.
Church Music and Colossians 3:16 – by David F. Detwiler.
This article appeared in the journal Bibliotheca Sacra Volume, BSAC 158:631 (Jul 2001). Detwiler provides a thorough exegesis and application of the verse to the subject of church music. I can send a copy of this article if you wish to read it.
A helpful article examining Colossians 3:16 and dealing with some of the translational and interpretative difficulties and correctly emphasizing the importance of church music. This is an especially good essay for those for whom the Detwiler essay is too technical.
Aesthetics and Worship by James S. Spiegel
This helpful article deals specifically with how a Christian aesthetic should affect worship. While the article uses “worship” in its broader sense to refer to everything Christians do to glorify God, it is also applicable to corporate worship.
“Harmony in Cacophony: How to Select Biblical Songs for Corporate Worship” by Taylor Drummond
In this essay I summarize Gordon’s criteria for selecting hymns, add one of my own, as well as discuss the role of associations in worship music selection. If you want this framed as a list of questions so you can evaluate songs in a more Socratic manner, see: 25 Questions to Ask When Selecting Songs for Corporate Worship
“Does the Bible Talk About Church Music? Yes.” by Taylor Drummond
This essay is my interpretation and reflection on Colossians 3:16 and how it applies to worship music.
“The Regulative Principle of Worship” by Taylor Drummond
In this essay, I look give a brief biblical defense of the Regulative Principle of Worship.
“Meaningful Song and Singing with Meaning” by Taylor Drummond
Jumping off my essay on church music, here I discuss the importance of singing meaningful songs so that the congregation can know and affirm what they are singing.
“Edification and Worship: How To Tell if a Song Has Meaning” by Taylor Drummond
In this essay, I explore Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 and how they apply to congregational singing. I then apply this teaching to various songs.
“Why You Shouldn’t Sing Most Worship Songs” by Taylor Drummond
In this essay, I argue scripturally and historically for selectivity in worship.
This article is simply the questions posed by Ken Myers in his lecture for the Edwards Institute 2011 conference on apologetics and the arts. It is no longer available online, but I have the files downloaded so contact me if you want them.
“Pop! Goes the Music: How Gospel Hymns Changed Church Music” by Taylor Drummond
In this essay, I argue that the gospel hymns of the Moody-Sankey revivals in the late 1800’s were a turning point in the history of church music.
In this insightful interview, John Piper tackles this question that is closely tied to a philosophy for corporate worship in general. See also this article written by John and Noel Piper: The Family: Together in God’s Presence.
David Murray argues for serious preaching. Sermon audio found here.
While Ken Myers does not focus on the subject of corporate worship in these lectures, he address many issues related to music and the church and is very helpful for anyone wanting to think about music and its place in worship. His third lecture, “Form, Meaning, and Listening” is especially good, so if you only have time to listen to one, listen to that one. Two other related lectures series from Ken Myers are also pertinent, his lectures at the 2013 Arts Week at Dallas Theological Seminary and his lectures on the true and the beautiful at the Edwards Institute 2011 Conference on Apologetics and the Arts.
In his 2005 William R. Rice Lecture Series, Dr. Makujina addresses the necessity of a strong theological foundation in order to adequately address the issue of musical choices for individual believers and the corporate worship of the church. Special emphasis was placed on examining the historical and philosophical foundation of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and its impact upon the church today. He also held an open Q&A forum for all the students and the area pastors and alumni who were visiting.
Reformation Worship: Why We Do What We Do in Church, by Jonathan Gibson
This lecture is a helpful introduction to those interested in corporate worship. Dr. Gibson shows how theology affects everything about church, from the architecture to the order of worship.
A discussion about the vital role of theology in worship music between Keith Getty, Don Carson, and Matt Boswell.
This website contains many invaluable resources for congregational singing by Dr. Paul Munson and Dr. Joshua Drake including a full, Biblical, well-written defense of traditional hymnody as the best tool for corporate singing, and numerous hymn studies invaluable for anyone wanting to study hymnody. Differing from other arguments for singing hymns (e.g. we’ve always sang them, old songs are better, etc.), Munson and Drake present a case for hymn singing based firmly on the Scriptural purpose of congregational singing as given in Colossians 3:16 (and elsewhere). It is often the case that too little thought is given to church music, but that is not the case here. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone interested or involved in ministry. Their argument is free under the “Biblical Model” section of the website, and a paperback version can be purchased here.
This is the webpage for Dr. T. David Gordon, professor of Religion and Humanities at Grove City College. Dr. Gordon is a very thoughtful New Testament scholar and Media Ecologist, and has put much thought into topics that many people don’t give a second thought to. The page “Ecclesiology: Worship, Polity, Discipline” contains many helpful essays.
This annual conference exists to encourage the church to remember her Reformation heritage, particularly as it concerns Biblical, God-Centered worship. The annual conference will seek to draw gifted scholars and pastors who are able to lead pastors, elders, seminarians, music directors/musicians, and congregants to a fuller understanding of the theology and practice of Reformed Worship. All of the lectures/seminars are online for free at sermonaudio.com. These lectures/seminars as an invaluable resource for those wishing to learn how Reformed theology intersects with corporate worship.
This website contains many resources for the thoughtful Christian on all topics related to worship (and more). Dr. Scott Aniol is an Assistant Professor of Church Music at Southwestern’s School for Church Music. Dr. Aniol has written two papers that briefly explain and defend his view on Christian hymnody: The Hymnody of the Church: Form and Function, and The Hymnody of the Church: Two Roads Diverged. A more in depth presentation of Dr. Aniol’s view can be found in his Worship in Song Sermon Series.
The Artistic Theologian is a relatively new evangelical theological journal published by the School of Church Music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It focuses on issues of worship and culture for Christian musicians, pastors, church music students, and worship leaders. A few examples articles related to church music are, “Why Pastors Should Be Learned in Worship and Music” Kevin T. Bauder and Finding Beauty Where God Finds Beauty: A Biblical Foundation of Aesthetics” by T. David Gordon, both in volume 1.
Second Nature is an online journal for critical thinking about technology and new media in light of the Christian tradition. I recommend the articles: The Problem with Praise Teams, and The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons.
This website of Douglas Bond offers some interesting resources regarding hymnody, as well as provides an example of someone striving to write new hymns for the church.
This website provides many resources from a variety of perspectives on worship that are accessible to the layman.
Below are two hymns whose topic (at least in part) is congregational singing:
James Montgomery: Songs of Praise the Angels Sang
Songs of praise the angels sang,
heaven with alleluias rang,
when creation was begun,
when God spake and it was done.
Songs of praise awoke the morn
when the Prince of peace was born;
songs of praise arose when he
captive led captivity.
Heaven and earth must pass away;
songs of praise shall crown that day:
God will make new heavens and earth;
songs of praise shall hail their birth.
And shall we alone be dumb
till that glorious kingdom come?
No, the church delights to raise
psalms and hymns and songs of praise.
Saints below, with heart and voice,
still in songs of praise rejoice;
learning here, by faith and love,
songs of praise to sing above.
Hymns of glory, songs of praise,
Father, unto thee we raise,
Jesu, glory unto thee,
with the Spirit, ever be.
Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne.
Let those refuse to sing
That never knew our God;
But children of the heav’nly King
May speak their joys abroad.
The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
From faith and hope may grow.
The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets,
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.
Then let our songs abound,
And ev’ry tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.