As we reflect on the purpose of music in worship, we realize that all music performed in worship is to bring glory to God alone. It is an offering, a sacrifice of praise to God from a grateful people who have received the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives. When thinking about music being offered to the Glory of God, I remember one of the greatest church music composers, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). He was very open about the purpose of his church music compositions. In The Bach Reader (eds. Hans David, Arthur Mendel, Norton, ISBN 0-393-00259-4), a collection of letters and documents written by Bach or those who knew him, we see evidence of Bach’s goal in writing and performing music in the church. Allow me to quote a section from the book:
Bach’s “church music was designed to deepen the worship of God and to embellish His service… Bach expressed his attitude clearly enough by regularly inscribing his scores of sacred music with the letters J.J. (Jesu, Juva: Jesus Help) at the beginning, and S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria: to God alone the glory) at the end. Even in an unpretentious little volume of pieces for the musical instruction of his first-born son, the Clavier Buchlein, he opened the first page of music with the letters I.N.J. (In Nomine Jesu: in the Name of Jesus). He did not shed his religion when he composed for instruction or other secular purposes.” (32)
Bach also stated “the aim and final reason, as of all music . . . should be none else but the Glory of God and the recreation of the mind. Where this is not observed, there will be no real music but only a devilish hubbub.” (33)
Worship Leaders and musicians assisting in worship, this should also be our philosophy when it comes to music in the church. We should offer our music for the Glory of God and strive to make sure this attitude prevails in every aspect of our music whether worship songs, instrumental preludes, choral anthems, or solos.
Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone be the Glory!