THE GOSPEL IN MUSIC
Compared to other religions and worldviews, the Christian worldview is very famous for its incorporation and acceptance of music in their gatherings. No matter the size and time allocated for the gathering, there is always a time set aside for singing. Hymnal songs, chants and songs of worship and praise are commonly used during Christian meetings.
We can also find Christians singing while offering collection is going on, during prayers, thanksgiving, and other religious rites and rituals. It is almost impossible to separate a typical Christian liturgical worship from singing and/or playing music.
In the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, there are several scriptural evidence that the ancient worshippers of Yahweh (the God of the Bible and the Christian God) used songs and music in their temples and synagogues, during religious activities. The singing activities are primarily the duty of the Levites. (The Levites were the descendants of the Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob who constituted the early Kingdom of Israel [1 chronicles 23:1-5].)
In the New Testament, the responsibility of singing is not solely reliant on one specific tribe like it was in the Old Testament. In his writings (Ephesians 5:18-19), Paul admonishes the church to sing hymns and spiritual songs when they gather for fellowship and communion. Christ and His disciples also sang hymns when they “broke bread” together (Matthew 26:30).
There have been lots of controversies about the right title to call Christians that specialized in the art of music. Some go by the name of minstrels or ministers, others psalmists, even worshippers, gospel artists, etc.
Need I clarify this, in the New Testament the Holy Spirit gave different gifts to the believers, like the gift of healing, miraculous signs, prophecies, speaking in tongues, teaching, etc. But there is no clear-cut verse that mentions singing as part of the gifts the Holy Spirit gave to the church. And in this line, we can deduce that singing is a thing of all the believers.
Does the word “music” have a different meaning than “gospel music”? No, it does not. Music is music regardless of religion or worldview.
According to Wikipedia.com, “The word ‘music’ is derived from ancient Greek μουσική (mousiké) ‘(art) of the Muses’. In Greek mythology, the nine Muses were the goddesses who inspired literature, science, and the arts, and who were the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, song-lyrics, and myths in the Greek culture.”
Some say, “Music is organized sound, with a beat.” Others say, “Sounds that have rhythm, melody and harmony.”
According to Merriam Webster’s mobile dictionary, music is “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.”
There are numerous definitions out there. I suggest you find the one that resonates with you. Music is music. It is what it is: the art and science of sound vibrations.
Depending on one’s geographical location, upbringing, and cultural heritage, the definition of music, musical taste, musical interpretation, musical acceptance and uses vary. But one thing remains constant: music is a performance.
Music is performance art. It means that music is performed. I reckon that this assertion may not augur well with some Christians, but that does not change the fact that music is performed.
There are two sides to any piece of music:
- The listener’s side
- The musician’s side.
Regardless of the side, one is coming from, music is still music. The difference is that the latter group are more critical about musical perception and application than the earlier group, who would rather enjoy it.
Music communicates its true essence when performed. We all love it. Somehow, our souls feed on these vibrations caused by musical sounds.
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
“The gospel” is one of the most used words in Christianity today, yet grossly misunderstood by many. These days, singing in Christianity is gaining more popularity than preaching; especially among the youths. Hence the term ‘gospel’ in the common title “gospel music” or “gospel musician” is erroneously associated with music.
The word “gospel” has its roots in the Greek word “euangelion”, which literally means “good message”, or “good story”, or “good news”, or “good announcement”. In Anglo-Saxon, the word is translated as “god-spell”, meaning “good news”.
The word gospel is common vocabulary. People use it in their day to day lives to express exciting messages like childbirth, good fortune, etc. By implication, there is quite a good number of “gospels” out there.
To be a little specific here, we are not talking about just any other kind of gospels here. We are talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. So, what is the gospel of Jesus Christ? Simply put, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the story of the immaculate birth, the life and ministry, the suffering and death, the burial and the glorious/bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Would you still tag any song or music that does not proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as “gospel music”? I think the answer is glaring now.
I find it more comfortable to classify most Christians’ songs as “Christian music”, rather than gospel music. My reason is obvious: the gospel of Jesus Christ is exclusive.
Not all Christian musicians sing gospel songs all the time. Most times, the songs we tag as gospel songs are very far from the original meaning and interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t think the word ‘gospel’ should have a special or separate meaning other than the original meaning, even in musical terms.
Although the clear understanding according to the New Testament is for all believers to sing together, we cannot ignore the exceptional singing abilities and God-given musical talents of some Christian brethren. But before music, is Christ. Except the first thing in your life is music (which is not the ideal), as Christians, Christ should be first above all things.
Christ is the gospel.