What role should music play in the church worship service? A 1929 Pentecostal Evangel article affirmed the value of music, while warning against the tendency to make the worship service into a form of entertainment.
The article observed that, in many quarters, “much of the worship offered to God is governed by what the people want rather than by the divine plan." What is the “divine plan”? According to the article's author, Canadian Pentecostal pioneer George A. Chambers, a worship service should include prayer, music, preaching of the Word, and an experience of the "real presence of God."
Chambers was not opposed to the contemporary worship music of his day. He affirmed the joyful singing accompanied by numerous musical instruments for which early Pentecostals were known. He was concerned that, in some quarters, a certain professionalism was creeping into the church, which emphasized performance over the presence and power of God. He cautioned that musical performances sometimes overshadowed the other elements of the worship service.
According to Chambers, various musical numbers — including solos, duets, and orchestral selections — sometimes receive so much attention “that the Word of God is often relegated to 20 or 30 minutes’ time, and if its discussion is protracted beyond that the people show their disapproval by retiring from the service." He noted that music often attracts people to church, but added, "Crowds are not always a sign of blessing and of God's presence."
Chambers' concern for the church in 1929 seems quite applicable 88 years later. Noting that the earliest Pentecostals were known for their deeply spiritual services, he encouraged readers to rediscover the deep spirituality that birthed the movement. He lamented the tendency to replace a reliance upon the Holy Spirit with a reliance upon modern methods and advertising, quipping, “It used to be 'follow the cloud!' Now in many places it is more or less 'follow the crowd.'"
Chambers encouraged readers to read 1 Chronicles 13-15, which documented how Israel learned the importance of worshiping according to God's plan. The church, he believed, could benefit from the lessons provided by Israel’s example. While there are many ways to organize a worship service, Chambers’ article reminds Pentecostals to rely on the Holy Spirit and to keep the necessary elements in balance.
Read Chambers' article, "Doing a Right Thing in a Wrong Way," in the June 1, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel:
Also featured in this issue:
* "Diamond Cut Diamond," by Harry Steil
* "Scriptural Warnings," by P. C. Nelson
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
IMAGE - The Orchestra at Bethany Temple in Everett, Washington, circa 1928-32 featured musicians such as Myrtle Peterson Robeck on piano (left) and Levi Larson on trombone (right).